Just as the sporting boycott of South Africa caused immense shock to the psyche of White South Africans, so a Cultural Boycott, which says that Israel is an illegitimate apartheid state is a shock to Israeli Jews. It undermines their self-confidence and belief in themselves. And most importantly, it makes it clear that you cannot have one law for Arabs and another for Jews. You cannot have a state where Jews can access certain lands, 93% of the total land of Israel, and Arabs are confined to just 2.5% although making up 20% of the population.
It also says you cannot rule over more than 3 million Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. Given that the creation of a separate state, which I have always opposed, is no longer feasible there is only one democratic solution – that Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza be given full political, civil, social and economic rights with Israeli Jews.
Until then artists with a conscience and who identify with the oppressed and the struggle against racism will boycott the land of Avigdor Liebermann and Benjamin Netanyahu, the land of transfer and anti-Arab pogroms.Of course there will always be right-wing, self-centred artists like Paul McCartney and Elton John who will prioritise their own needs over that of the Blacks of the Middle East. After all Elton John played in Sun City, a bantustan in South Africa when the Apartheid Boycott was in full flow. Elton John may be gay, but he is a racist, right-wing gay.
Of course there will always be right-wing, self-obsessed and selfish artists like Paul McCartney and Elton played in Sun City, a bantustan in South Africa when the Apartheid Boycott was in full flow. Elton John may be gay, but he is a racist, right-wing gay. McCartney may be a dope smoker but he is also a Tory. And of course there will always be those like Leonard Cohen, for whom a racist invented ethnic belonging is more important than those suffering under the heel of Israel’s Jewish tyrants.
We salute Elvis Costello, Gil Scott-Heron and all the others who have heeded the call of Boycott. We understand that it was a difficult decision, that many people are still confused about Zionism and the Jews and understandably are influenced by the conflation that Zionism makes between Israel and historic anti-Semitism. But we also understand that more and more people are coming to understand that ‘anti-Semitism’ is a cynical device used by racists to deter solidarity with the oppressed.
One lives in hope that music is more than mere noise, filling up idle time, whether intending to elate or lament.
Then there are occasions when merely having your name added to a concert schedule may be interpreted as a political act that resonates more than anything that might be sung and it may be assumed that one has no mind for the suffering of the innocent.
I must believe that the audience for the coming concerts would have contained many people who question the policies of their government on settlement and deplore conditions that visit intimidation, humiliation or much worse on Palestinian civilians in the name of national security.
I am also keenly aware of the sensitivity of these themes in the wake of so many despicable acts of violence perpetrated in the name of liberation.
Some will regard all of this an unknowable without personal experience but if these subjects are actually too grave and complex to be addressed in a concert, then it is also quite impossible to simply look the other way.
I offer my sincere apologies for any disappointment to the advance ticket holders as well as to the organizers.
My thanks also go to the members of the Israeli media with whom I had most rewarding and illuminating conversations. They may regard these exchanges as a waste of their time but they were of great value and help to me in gaining an appreciation of the cultural scene.
I hope it is possible to understand that I am not taking this decision lightly or so I may stand beneath any banner, nor is it one in which I imagine myself to possess any unique or eternal truth.
It is a matter of instinct and conscience.
It has been necessary to dial out the falsehoods of propaganda, the double game and hysterical language of politics, the vanity and self-righteousness of public communiqués from cranks in order to eventually sift through my own conflicted thoughts.
I have come to the following conclusions.
One must at least consider any rational argument that comes before the appeal of more desperate means.
Sometimes a silence in music is better than adding to the static and so an end to it.
I cannot imagine receiving another invitation to perform in Israel, which is a matter of regret but I can imagine a better time when I would not be writing this.
With the hope for peace and understanding. Elvis Costello
Occupied Ramallah, 18 May 2010 – The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) warmly welcomes Elvis Costello’s cancellation of his scheduled performances in Israel. Costello’s decision is a great victory for the ethical responsibilities of international cultural figures, a key factor in the cultural boycott of Israel. It comes after similar cancellations by Gil Scott-Heron, Carlos Santana and Bono/U2 upon appeals by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) and its international partners, particularly in the UK and U.S.
Referring to Israeli imposed “conditions that visit intimidation, humiliation or much worse on Palestinian civilians in the name of national security,” Costello’s decision not to be complicit in whitewashing these Israeli policies is exceptionally brave and principled. It is deeply appreciated by the Palestinian people and people of conscience everywhere.
US- and UK-based solidarity groups upholding Palestinian rights had urged Costello to cancel his Israel performances in order not to contribute to legitimizing Israel’s occupation and apartheid against the Palestinians.
It is worth noting that, in the last few years, many internationally renowned cultural figures have come out in support of the cultural boycott of Israel. Such a boycott against complicit Israeli institutions is seen as an effective and necessary measure to end its impunity and promote its accountability under international law. A similar cultural boycott against apartheid South Africa is widely credited for isolating it and significantly contributing to the eventual collapse of the racist system there.