Palestine: ‘Boycott Israel’ — letter from Gaza

The following open letter to US folk singer Peter Seeger was released on September 15 by the Palestinians Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel and 16 other organisations based in Gaza. It urges Seeger, a long-time supporter of social justice causes, to not break the global boycott, sanctions and divestment campaign by performing at an Israeli-organised “virtual rally”. It is reprinted from the website of the US Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel,

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Dear Mr Seeger,

We, the isolated and evidently still forgotten Palestinians from the Gaza bantustan, are astonished and upset to learn that someone who in the past has shown solidarity with our millions who lost their houses to Israeli ethnic cleansing, now plans to join an initiative from a group that has facilitated these enormous injustices against us.

You plan to perform at the “With Earth and Each Other: Virtual Rally for a Better Middle East”. This is “doublespeak” for an initiative whose only outcome will be to compound the misery of so many Palestinian mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers who are the direct victims of the organisations with which you will be involved.

You have worked to ban nuclear weapons, been a tireless civil rights campaigner, an advocate for environmental responsibility, and a steadfast opponent of South African apartheid.

You used your unique and inspiring music to give hope to those who were worse off than you.

It is for this that we ask you not to turn your back on us, the besieged and grieving Palestinians of the Gaza Strip, the cantonised and colonised Palestinians of the West Bank and the millions more made refugees around the world, still violently deprived of their right to return home.

You might be unaware of the harm committed by the very groups you plan to perform for, but as Palestinians we have to be aware. It is only by looking at the root causes that we can see from where originate the decades of injustice and imprisonment.

This “Virtual Rally for a Better Middle East” is backed by the “Jewish National Fund” (JNF), which more accurately would be called the “Expel the Local Palestinian Population to Expand Israel Fund”.

The key activity of the Jewish National Fund has been the illegal and racist cleansing of an undesirable ethnic group (ie. us) from their land.

In the 1948 Nakba, the Jewish National Fund provided political, financial and intelligence support for the Zionist forces as they massacred and expropriated Palestinian village after village.

It actively participated in the physical destruction of many of the erased 531 Palestinian villages, the ruins of which are still in the hearts and minds of the vast majority of the Gazan population.

Most of us registered refugees from these areas.

The United Nations Resolution 194 calling for our right to return does not seem to count when these enormous crimes that made us refugees were carried out by Israel. Erasing our heritage and ties to the land continued thereafter.

The Jewish National Fund’s Canada Park, for example, was built over the ruins of the Palestinian villages Imwas, Yalu, and Beit Nuba, from whence the Israeli army forcibly removed the inhabitants and bulldozed the houses during the 1967 war.

Today the JNF controls over 2500 square kilometres of Palestinian land that it leases to Jews only. This covers vast properties belonging to millions of Palestinians.

It has created more than 100 parks on Palestinian land.

The Arava Institute, its partner organisation involved in the “virtual rally” you plan to attend, has said nothing about these atrocious actions and discriminatory policies. Most recently you will have been informed of its expulsions of entire villages in the Negev, obscured under the guise of “forestation”.

As part of the 2005 Palestinian Civil Society Call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS), and inspired by the boycott of apartheid South Africa, our request to join the boycott of Israel has been responded to by international artists such as Elvis Costello, Gil Scott-Heron, the Pixies, Carlos Santana, many writers, universities and companies.

Just as the global BDS movement made way for the collapse of apartheid in South Africa, we demand boycotts of Israel until it complies with international law, and until justice and accountability are reached.

Participation in “With Earth and Each Other” occurs in violation of BDS guidelines and the Palestinian civil society consensus behind them.

Pete, we are writing to you from under the four year-long brutal and medieval siege imposed on us, a unique savagery the Israeli academic Ilan Pappe described as “slow motion genocide”.

We lost more than 430 of our children in Israel’s three-week air and ground attack over the New Year of 2009 that killed more 1430 of our citizens already living in the world’s largest open-air prison.

When valiant defenders of human rights tried to reach us and break the siege by sea in May, nine of them were shot dead.

According to the Geneva Conventions, United Nations Resolutions and the UN Goldstone report, all of these acts constitute crimes against humanity, as does the continuous and violent expulsion of Palestinians from their homes and land.

Anti-apartheid heroes Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Ronnie Kassrils have all described Israel’s system of racial oppression as apartheid. There was no negotiating with such race-based oppression — there was only one word, BOYCOTT.

We now urge you to join the countless other artists and musicians making the biggest statement about the Israeli regime’s brutal and racist policies here in Gaza, the West Bank and against the Palestinian-Israeli citizens.

Many times you have taken a stand with the colonised, the jailed and the racially discriminated throughout your long life of noble and worthy endeavours. Please do not turn your back on us now by agreeing to perform at the “With Earth and Each Other: Virtual Rally for a Better Middle East”.