UPDATE 05-31-13, 11:54 P.M. EST: Despite protests, petitions and open letters by supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), Alicia Keys is moving forward with her performance in Israel.
Speaking to the New York Times, the 33-year-old singer said, “I look forward to my first visit to Israel. Music is a universal language that is meant to unify audiences in peace and love, and that is the spirit of our show.”
Legendary poet, Pulitzer-prize winning author and activist, Alice Walker, who has also been a longtime advocate for the rights of Palestinians in the face of atrocities forced upon them by the Israeli government, has penned a powerful open letter to musician Alicia Keys urging her not to perform in at an upcoming event in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Read Walker’s letter below:
Dear Alicia Keys,
I have learned today that you are due to perform in Israel very soon. We have never met, though I believe we are mutually respectful of each other’s path and work. It would grieve me to know you are putting yourself in danger (soul danger) by performing in an apartheid country that is being boycotted by many global conscious artists. You were not born when we, your elders who love you, boycotted institutions in the US South to end an American apartheid less lethal than Israel’s against the Palestinian people. Google Montgomery Bus Boycott, if you don’t know about this civil rights history already. We changed our country fundamentally and the various boycotts of Israeli institutions and products will do the same there. It is our only nonviolent option and, as we learned from our own struggle in America, nonviolence is the only path to a peaceful future.
If you go to my website and blog alicewalkersgarden.com you can quickly find many articles I have written over the years that explain why a cultural boycott of Israel and Israeli institutions (not individuals) is the only option left to artists who cannot bear the unconscionable harm Israel inflicts every day on the people of Palestine, whose major “crime” is that they exist in their own land, land that Israel wants to control as its own. Under a campaign named ‘Brand Israel’, Israeli officials have stated specifically their intent to downplay the Palestinian conflict by using culture and arts to showcase Israel as a modern, welcoming place.
This is actually a wonderful opportunity for you to learn about something sorrowful, and amazing: that our government (Obama in particular) supports a system that is cruel, unjust, and unbelievably evil. You can spend months, and years, as I have, pondering this situation. Layer upon layer of lies, misinformation, fear, cowardice and complicity. Greed. It is a vast eye-opener into the causes of much of the affliction in our suffering world.
I have kept you in my awareness as someone of conscience and caring, especially about the children of the world. Please, if you can manage it, go to visit the children in Gaza, and sing to them of our mutual love of all children, and of their right not to be harmed simply because they exist.
With love, younger sister, beloved daughter and friend,
Watch Walker speak on her cultural boycott on Israel and the parallels with South African apartheid below:
Walker is not alone in speaking out against Israel’s tyranny. Activist, scholar and former political prisoner, Angela Davis, likened the degradation and violence towards the Palestinian people to Jim Crow as well, writing in the Mercury News:
“We here in the U.S. should be especially conscious of the similarities between historical Jim Crow practices and contemporary regimes of segregation in Occupied Palestine. If we have learned the most important lesson promulgated by Dr. Martin Luther King — that justice is always indivisible — it should be clear that a mass movement in solidarity with Palestinian freedom is long overdue.”
As I wrote in a previous article titled, “Malcolm X Grassroots Movement Stands In Solidarity With Palestine”:
United States taxpayers fund the vast majority of Israel’s continual assault on Palestinians. In the previous decade, the United States gave Israel $24.1 billion in taxpayer money for military aid. “The United States licensed, paid for and delivered more than 670 million weapons and related equipment (including the Iron Dome) to Israel, including almost 500 categories of weapons.”
CLICK HERE for U.S. Military Aid To Israel: Policy Implications and Options PDF.
But it doesn’t end there.
Israel is violating U.S. law by misusing U.S. weapons and shouldn’t be eligible for additional aid. During the Bush Administration, Israel killed more than 3,000 innocent Palestinians, often with U.S. weapons, in violation of the Arms Export Control Act, which limits the use of U.S. weapons to “internal security” and “legitimate self-defense.” Israel’s illegal occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip is not “internal” and intentionally killing civilians and destroying civilian infrastructure is never “legitimate.” In addition, Israel’s systematic human rights abuses of Palestinians and its apartheid policies toward them place Israel in violation of the Foreign Assistance Act, which prohibits U.S. aid “to the government of any country which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.”
Bolivian president Evo Morales announced that he has cut diplomatic ties with Israel over the horrifying atrocities carried out during the latest attack on Palestine, during which 166 Palestinians — primarily women and children — and 6 Israelis were killed:
“Bolivia had diplomatic relations with Israel. [But] considering these grave attacks against…humanity, Bolivia will stop having diplomatic relations with Israel,” Morales said in a speech before diplomats in the government palace.
Support of Israel has always been a necessary campaigning tool during presidential elections, as was shown during the foreign policy debate between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, both attempting to out-Israel the other. Even in the face of the murder of innocent children, both President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton voiced support for Israel’s right to “defend itself”:
“There’s no country on Earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders,” President Obama said in a press conference in Thailand.
While some close observers have noted the tragic irony inherent in that statement coming from a president who sends unmanned drones into Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somolia and Yemen — when not one rocket has been aimed at the United States — there are those who ignore those the facts and accept the version of events that is broadcast in mainstream media.
As previously reported by NewsOne, Stevie Wonder was scheduled to perform Dec. 6, 2012 for Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, which raises money for Israeli soldiers and their families. After several petitions called on the legendary musician and humanitarian, Wonder cancelled the performance “with a heavy heart” but reaffirmed that “I am and have always been against war, any war, anywhere.”
Pink Floyd’s Roger Water joined Walker in urging Keys not to support the Israeli regime:
“Please, Alicia, do not lend your name to give legitimacy to the Israeli government policies of illegal, apartheid, occupation of the homelands of the indigenous people of Palestine.”
Keys has yet to respond, but hopefully she hears the voices of her elders, fans, peers, activists and scholars urging her — in love — to stand for universal peace and justice.