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Refrain Playing Israel | 31 December 2011

2011 Summary of the Cultural Boycott of Israel

The year 2011 was a year full of many successes in the campaign for the cultural boycott of Israel.  This summary will focus on the cultural boycott with emphasis on musical artists and groups.

The fall of South African apartheid was preceded by many musical artists who joined to create a movement. That movement became known popularly as “I’m not gonna play Sun City.”  Israel has not yet seen its Sun City moment fully, but as you’ll see, significant rumblings are beginning.

January, 2011: Jon Bon Jovi was asked not play in Israel.  Thus far, boycott efforts have been successful.  The singer had announced on Larry King Live he would perform in Israel.  After boycott efforts to ask him to refrain, no concert ever happened. [1]

French pop star Vanessa Paradis refuses to perform in Israel.[2] Her partner, American film icon Johnny Depp also cancels his visit to Israel.

February, 2011: Roger Waters (founder of Pink Floyd) comes out in strong support of the cultural boycott when he writes “Artists were right to refuse to play in South Africa's Sun City resort until apartheid fell and whites and blacks enjoyed equal rights.  And we are right to refuse to play in Israel until the day comes -- and it surely will come -- when The Wall of occupation falls and Palestinians live alongside Israelis in the peace, freedom, justice and dignity that they all deserve.” [3]  

German bass-baritone Thomas Quasthoff, scheduled to sing five classical concerts in Israel, withdraws shortly beforehand.   He'd been asked to cancel his concerts by BRICUP, Boycott from Within and others.  He said his withdrawal was on grounds of illness.

Pete Seeger unequivocally supports the cultural boycott, stating “I misunderstood the leaders of the Arava Institute because I didn't realize to what degree the Jewish National Fund was supporting Arava. Now that I know more, I support the BDS movement as much as I can.” [4]

May, 2011: August Burns Red refrained from playing at Tel Aviv’s Barby.  Just over one week prior to their gig sources said “they have no plans to reschedule, they cancelled because they do not want to play in Israel.”  A three month long effort had been launched to ask the band to refrain. [5]

Marc Almond’s cancellation was welcomed by the BDS Movement. [6] Letters, as well as a Facebook page were created to let the “Tainted Love” singer know about the real Israel.  His fans passed out leaflets before a UK concert at the Royal Festival Hall, London.  His welcome response came four days later when he refused to play in Israel.

June, 2011: Although Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is not a musician, the cancellation of his film promotion at the Jerusalem Film Festival brought a whirlwind of attention to the cultural boycott of Israel.  101 organizations signed a letter praising the basketball legend. [7]

Also, in late June, Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine announced that they would refuse to perform in Tel Aviv. [8]  The voice of the Palestinian people was ultimately respected by the vintage punk rocker Jello Biafra.

Punk rock fans unite with punk bands and artists to launch Punks Against Apartheid.

July, 2011: Musicians Dave Randall, Maxi Jazz, and Jamie Catto release the single “Freedom For Palestine”  with the Durban Gospel Choir.  As the video went viral it gained momentum from endorsements by Coldplay, LUSH Cosmetics, Lowkey,  Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Massive Attack, Roger Waters, and many more. [9]  

August, 2011: Tuba Skinny, while in Rome en-route to Israel , received information about the cultural boycott.  Tuba Skinny refused to perform at the Israel Government-sponsored Red Sea Jazz Festival, cancelling their concert only a few days prior to their scheduled gig. [10]  Latin jazz great Eddie Palmieri of Puerto Rico [11]and jazz musician Jason Moran of Houston [12] followed Tuba Skinny, and also cancelled their appearances at the Red Sea Jazz Festival.

September, 2011: Natacha Atlas stuns her Israeli booking agents when she refuses to play her scheduled concert in Israel.  She bravely states on her facebook page:

...after much deliberation I now see that it would be more effective a statement to not go to Israel until this systemised apartheid is abolished once and for all. Therefore I publicly retract my well-intentioned decision to go and perform in Israel and so sincerely hope that this decision represents an effective statement against this regime.”[13]

The cultural boycott came closer to home as the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra went on tour.  Creative protests were seen in many cities in the USA and Europe.  A protest in London during  the BBC’s Prom Live Broadcast of the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra resulted in worldwide press coverage when the BBC decided to halt its live broadcast of the concert.
 
Denise Jannah, was written to just prior to her tour in Israel.  She did perform in Israel, but her experience in Israel caused her to regret her choice, and she came out in support of the cultural boycott.  She stated: “Please let me start by telling you this: of a cultural BDS boycott Ramon and I had NO knowledge, none at all. This is where the problem started, for had I known I would have done things differently: the reasons for this boycott are valid.” [14]

Riverdance set designer Robert Ballagh, in bold support for BDS, called for the cancellation of Riverdance’s tour in Israel, but he was unable to stop it because he does not possess the copyright. However he donated all his royalties from the performance of Riverdance in Israel to the Irish Ship to Gaza campaign.[15]

October, 2011: The Yardbirds were scheduled to play in Israel, and a letter [16] signed by professors in the UK was written to them from BRICUP. They subsequently cancelled their performance.  Humanitarians are asking them not to reschedule in 2012.

Greek singer Martha Frintzila bows out of her performance at the Israel Government-sponsored Jerusalem Oud Festival with a the statement that she: “...will not participate in Oud Festival in Jerusalem for conscientious and political reasons.” [17]

Hosam Hayak, a regular performer at the Jerusalem Oud Festival, chose this year to cancel, making a press release in Arabic on his facebook notes.[18]

In another boost to the cultural boycott,  John Michael McDonagh, director of Golden Globe nominated (director and main actor) film The Guard, announces that, “due to the conflict, [he] declined to attend the Haifa Film Festival 2011.”

November, 2011:  The Jerusalem String Quartet was met with creative protests in both the UK and North America.  Parody programs were received by concert attendees in at least four North American cities.[19]

Macy Gray tweets regarding her February Tel Aviv gig @MacyGraysLife "i had a reality check and I stated that I definitely would not have played there if I had known even the little that I know now."

Punkers Zdob si Zdub of Moldavia were also asked to refrain playing in Israel.  They cancelled their 5 November concert, and the BDS movement is asking them to refrain from playing in 2012, as they are being pressured to “reschedule.”[20]

Mireille Mathieu was asked by BDS France [21] to cancel her concert in Tel Aviv.  The French singer was also the recipient of a letter [22] signed by seventy people in the artistic community in Gaza asking her to respect the boycott.  Mireille Mathieu’s courageous announcement [23] on her website that she has postponed playing in Tel Aviv is a welcome one.  The BDS movement encourages her to stand strong against pressure from both French and Israeli booking agents to “reschedule” her concert in the apartheid state.

Rapper MF Doom was called on by numerous groups and individuals not to “rap in the apartheid state.”  Press reports indicated he cancelled his 26 Nov concert due to illness.  As of this publication, Doom has not rescheduled his concert in Tel Aviv.

In Switzerland, over 150 artists pledge to boycott apartheid Israel.[24]

December, 2011:  Oumou Sangaré becomes the third French artist in 2011 to cancel her planned performance with the Israeli Opera, as BDS makes inroads into the classical music world.  An informative letter from BDS France was followed by letters from DPAI and BDS Italy. [25]  
Joe Lynn Turner’s 16 December concert in Tel Aviv is cancelled.[26]

Joker (UK) refuses to bring his dubstep-bass sounds to Tel Aviv. It appears that his decision might have been influenced by other musicians in the London music scene who asked him to reconsider.

Looking Ahead to 2012:
UK and Irish musicians are taking the lead under the “Freedom for Palestine” banner.  In the USA, expect Lupe Fiasco to continue to vocalize his support for Palestinians.   

Current campaigns for cultural boycott are underway for Bruce Springsteen, Arch Enemy and Red Hot Chili Peppers to alert  them about the reasons to join fellow musicians in refusing to play in the apartheid state. Cultural BDS is growing and volunteers remain busy working in countless creative ways.  

 

NOTES:
[1]See section “Pop Stars urged to Boycott” in http://electronicintifada.net/content/boycott-roundup-us-tear-gas-maker-csi-urged-cancel-israel-sales/9175
[2] Haaretz.com Jan 16, 2011 Did pop star Paradis cancel Israel concert over politics? http://bit.ly/ePtc3T
[3] Roger Waters: My Journey to BDS http://www.alternativenews.org/english/index.php/topics/economy-of-the-occupation/3374-roger-waters-my-journey-to-bds
[4]http://mondoweiss.net/2011/02/pete-seeger-endorses-boycott-of-israel.html
[5] August Burns Red Have Cancelled Their Planned Concert in Israel http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=1612
[6] Marc Almond cancels Israel performance http://www.bdsmovement.net/2011/letter-marc-almond-6933[ ]
[7] Media Release: 101 Organizations Praise Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s Decision Not to Visit Israel  http://www.endtheoccupation.org/article.php?id=3039
[8]http://punksagainstapartheid.com/2011/06/jello-biafra-cancels-tel-aviv-gig/
[9]”From the muddy fields of Glastonbury to the occupied streets of Gaza” http://www.freedomoneworld.com/
[10] http://refrainplayingisrael.posterous.com/tuba-skinny-respects-the-pacbis-call-cancels
[11] http://refrainplayingisrael.posterous.com/latin-jazz-great-eddie-palmieri-thank-you-for
[12] http://refrainplayingisrael.posterous.com/jazz-musician-jason-moran-cancels-concert-in
[13]  http://www.facebook.com/pages/Natacha-Atlas-Official/125501987488351?sk=wall
[14]http://www.kadaitcha.com/2011/09/18/denise-jannah-and-ramon-valles-now-support-bds/
[15] Riverdance should not go to Israel: Two open letters from the IPSC and set designer Robert Ballagh http://www.ipsc.ie/press-releases/riverdance-should-not-go-to-israel-two-open-letters-from-the-ipsc-and-set-designer-robert-ballagh
[16] http://www.bricup.org.uk/documents/cultural/Yardbirds.pdf
[17] http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=1741  Martha Frintzila cancels participation in Jerusalem Oud Festival
[18] Hosam Hayak Press Release http://www.facebook.com/notes/hosam-hayek/%D8%A8%D9%8A%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%B5%D8%AD%D9%81%D9%8A-%D9%87%D8%A7%D9%85/10150341519462611
[19]http://www.usacbi.org/2011/11/jerusalem-quartet-protests/ Jerusalem String Quartet Met By Protests Across North America
[20] http://rebelfrequencies.blogspot.com/2011/11/bds-update-first-delay-then.html
[20] Letter ouverte de la Campagne BDS France a Mireille Matthieu  http://bit.ly/w26Xog
[22] Dear Mireille Mathieu  http://www.odsg.org/co/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2426
[23] “le concert prevu le 22 novembre 2011 en Israel a Tel Aviv est reporte a une date ulterieure” http://www.mireillemathieu.com/#/Nouveautes/Fiche
[24] http://www.bds-info.ch/fr/actualites/Declaration-of-Swiss-Artists
[25] See all three letters at “Victoire: Oumou Sangare annule son concert en Israel” http://www.bdsfrance.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=617%3Avictoire-oumou-sangare-annule-son-concert-en-israel-&catid=9%3Aevenements-bds-france
[26] http://refrainplayingisrael.posterous.com/joe-lynn-turner-refrains-from-playing-in-apar

http://refrainplayingisrael.posterous.com/2011-summary-of-the-cultural-boycott-of-israe

Posted on 02-01-2012


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