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PACBI-One World, to Speak One Voice

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Dave Randall | The Star | August 9, 2011

One World, to Speak One Voice


How refreshing it was to see good sense prevail in an area of debate where it is so often trampled under the jackboots of bullies. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) were right last week to throw out every complaint made about the radio advert broadcast on SABC’s 5FM radio station. In the advert I said:

“Twenty years ago I would not have played in apartheid South Africa; today I refuse to play in Israel. Be on the right side of history. Don't entertain apartheid. Join the international boycott of Israel. I support"

The SA Jewish Board of Deputies, in an official complaint to the ASA, challenged the advert claiming, amongst other things, that I cannot term Israel to be an Apartheid State. Israel certainly has different characteristics to the apartheid carried out in the bad old days in South Africa, but it also clearly conforms to definitions laid out by the UN and the International Criminal Court, in which apartheid is defined as “inhumane acts ... committed in the context of an institutionalised regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime”. Figures as diverse as Hendrik Verwoerd, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former US president Jimmy Carter and former Israeli attorney general Michael Ben-Yair have all described Israel as practising apartheid.

If I had longer than the 30 seconds available to me in the SA Artists Against Apartheid advert, I might have gone on to describe some of the aspects of the Israeli regime which differentiates it from apartheid South Africa. For one thing, rather than exploiting the oppressed population, as the apartheid regime did in South Africa, Israel is a colonial settler state that has sought to expel and exclude the Palestinians. One of the founding fathers of Zionism, Theodor Herzl, wrote in 1895 “We shall endeavour to expel the poor population across the border unnoticed, procuring employment for it in transit countries, but denying it any employment in our own country.” In 1941 Ben-Gurion, who would become Israel's first Prime Minister, acknowledged in relation to this, that “It is impossible to imagine general evacuation without compulsion, and brutal compulsion”. It is in this context that we can best understand the bombardment of Gaza in Israel's 'Operation Cast Lead' of December 2008 / January 2009, and the ongoing siege. A UN fact finding mission on the Gaza conflict, headed by the prominent South African judge Richard Goldstone, concluded that Israel had conducted “a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and to provide for itself, and to force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability”.

Behind the official reports are the real life stories. I recently composed music for a film by my friend, Jen Marlowe, a filmmaker from the US (who happens to be Jewish). The film is called 'One family in Gaza' and follows the story of the Awajah family who were one family among thousands subjected to 'Operation Cast Lead'. In the film, Waffa Awajah describes how her son Ibrahim – an unarmed nine-year-old boy - was executed by an Israeli soldier at point-blank range in front of her and his sisters. When Waffa pleaded with the soldier to spare the lives of the other children, the soldier laughed maniacally. Unable to retrieve Ibrahim's body for fear that they might be killed, the family had to hide through the night while Israeli soldiers used Ibrahim's body for target practise.

Such unimaginable cruelty, and the racism on which it feeds, is not unusual in the Israeli
army. The Israeli newspaper, the Ha’aretz, recently published some examples of popular T-shirt designs worn by Israeli soldiers. One “shows a pregnant Palestinian woman, with a bullseye superimposed on her belly, with the slogan in English, '1 shot, 2 kills'.” Another design shows a soldier raping a Palestinian girl, and underneath it says “No virgins, no terror attacks.”

We must avoid being complicit in the normalisation of these horrors. At the moment the US and UK governments are complicit. They consider it to be in their strategic interests to give funding, weapons and political cover to Israel. And, while the progress of the Egyptian revolution will be watched very keenly by Palestinians, for the time being cut price Egyptian gas continues to flow into Israel while the Egyptian leadership pays little more than lip-service to the Palestinian cause. So it's up to us – civil society, activists, trade unionists, musicians, artists and individuals around the world.

In 2005 almost every significant representative body of Palestinian civil society issued a call to the world asking for Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) to be imposed on Israel until it accepts, in the least, its obligations under international law. This non-violent tactic of BDS is having a real impact on Israel. Its leaders are so concerned that they are currently trying to pass a bill through the Knesset making it a criminal offence for anyone living in Israel to advocate BDS. I am proud that Faithless heeded the call from Palestinian civil society and joined the cultural boycott of Israel last year.

And I'm delighted to report that the song 'Freedom for Palestine' by OneWorld – which features musicians from across the globe including members of Faithless, 1GiantLeap and the Durban Gospel Choir - this week hit the top ten of the UK independent chart. Not an inconsiderable achievement when you consider that the song received no commercial or BBC radio airplay.

The good sense of the ASA ruling and the success of the OneWorld song won't change the world on their own. But they do reflect a growing mood that we must defend the right of those who speak out against injustice to be heard.


**This article appeared in the print version of The Star on page 11.

Posted on 18-08-2011

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