"Amplify your voice for justice": Roger Waters and prominent artists call for boycott of Israel in new video

Artists support boycotting Israel to pressure it to comply with international law and respect Palestinian rights

Published November 24, 2015 1:24PM (EST)

Roger Waters     (AP/Vadim Ghirda)
Roger Waters (AP/Vadim Ghirda)

"How can I perform in Israel when millions of Palestinians cannot attend?" asks renowned musician Roger Waters in a new video.

The video, released by Adalah-N.Y.: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel, features influential New York City-based artists calling on other cultural workers to pledge their support for the boycott of Israel, in protest of the country's illegal 48-year occupation of the Palestinian territories and constant human rights abuses against indigenous Palestinians.

"How can I play in Israel knowing that the government will use my show to whitewash its crimes?" inquires musician Kyp Malone, of the band TV on the Radio.

Waters and Malone are joined by other prominent artists, including Kathleen Chalfant, a Tony-nominated stage and television actress; Molly Crabapple, an artist and writer; Tunde Adebimpe, singer of TV on the Radio; Kool A.D., a rapper formerly of the group Das Racist; Tamar-kali, a rock musician; and Swoon, a visual artist.

"Cultural boycott is an ethical rights-based tactic with historical precedent," explains Swoon in the video. Such a boycott played an important role in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. Anti-apartheid leader Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote in a 2010 letter, "Just as we said during apartheid that it was inappropriate for international artists to perform in South Africa in a society founded on discriminatory laws and racial exclusivity, so it would be wrong for Cape Town Opera to perform in Israel."

Just two days after it was released, the video had been viewed more than 100,000 times. You can watch it below:

The cultural boycott is part of the larger Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, a peaceful global human rights movement called for by Palestinian civil society that seeks to use nonviolent economic means to pressure the Israeli government to end its illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories, grant equal rights to Palestinian citizens, and allow Palestinians who were violently expelled from their ancestral lands to return — as is required by international law.

Roger Waters has led the cultural boycott movement globally. The Pink Floyd co-founder has published several open letters exclusively in Salon in the past two years, calling on fellow prominent artists, including Jon Bon Jovi and the Rolling Stones, to boycott Israel.

Renowned musician and producer Brian Eno and Israeli artist Ohal Grietzer followed the Adalah video with an article in VICE, in which they call on fellow musicians to "boycott Israel until Palestinians are free." The artists cite another quote from Archbishop Tutu, who said the Israeli oppression of Palestinians he witnessed is "worse than what we experienced," adding "Israel has created an apartheid reality within its borders and through its occupation."

Kathleen Chalfant explained in a statement that she supported BDS because the "Israeli government and army restrict the freedom of Palestinian cultural workers almost daily."

"A growing movement for the cultural boycott of Israel helps to amplify the voices of Palestinian artists who are struggling under occupation, and will help to pressure Israel to respect the rights of Palestinian artists, and of all Palestinians," Chalfant added.

"With Israel heightening its repression of the Palestinian people in the last weeks, we hope that our speaking out will help encourage others to support the boycott by refusing to perform in Israel, and refusing to participate in activities funded by the Israeli government or supported by institutions complicit in Israeli human rights abuses," stated Tunde Adebimpe, singer of TV on the Radio.

Many prominent artists have refused to perform in Israel in honor of the boycott, including Lauryn Hill, Elvis Costello, Santana, Talib Kweli, Gil Scott-Heron, Alice Walker, and more.

Approximately 180 New York City cultural workers and groups have signed a pledge to support the cultural boycott. More broadly, more than 400 cultural workers from across the U.S. have endorsed a U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) statement supporting the cultural boycott.

More than 700 artists from around the world announced their support for BDS in an open letter published in The Guardian in February. "Israel's wars are fought on the cultural front too," they wrote. "Its army targets Palestinian cultural institutions for attack, and prevents the free movement of cultural workers." The hundreds of artists pledge to honor the boycott until the Israeli government "respects international law and ends its colonial oppression of the Palestinians."

By Ben Norton

Ben Norton is a politics reporter and staff writer at AlterNet. You can find him on Twitter at @BenjaminNorton.

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Israel Music Palestine Roger Waters