6 May 2016
Dear Ninja (Watkin Tudor Jones), Yolandi Visser and DJ Hi-Tek and other members of Die Antwoord,
“The temptation in our situation is to speak in muffled tones about an issue such as the right of the people of Palestine…we can fall into the trap of washing our hands of difficulties that others faces. Yet we would be less than human if we did so. It behoves all South Africans, themselves erstwhile beneficiaries of generous international support, to stand up and be counted among those contributing actively to the cause of freedom and justice…we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.” – Nelson Mandela
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” – Archbishop Desmond Tutu
“I found that what I saw in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, in some ways, worse than apartheid.” Breyten Breytenbach
We are a human rights organisation in South Africa which is a part of the international non-violent boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) of Israel movement.
It has come to our attention and the attention of our Israeli and Palestinian allies that you intend performing in Israel during June 2016. As fellow South Africans we are proud of our artists international success and, in particular, in the case of Die Antwoord, your innovative musical and performance artistry.
As South Africans, you are aware of our conflicted history when for a very long time the majority of people in this country were mercilessly oppressed and discriminated against simply because of the pigment of skin. However, we are fortunate that that worldview ended in 1994. It was because of the brave and determined efforts of people from all sectors of South African society as well as international support and boycotts that we were able to break free from the shackles of structural and institutionalised racism and oppression. A key campaign against the apartheid regime was the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign by the international community against Apartheid South Africa. Sportsmen, artists, businesses, etc. boycotted South Africa in order to support the struggle of South Africans for a free and democratic country. They refused to cross the picket line drawn by our oppressed peoples. A similar picket lines now exists in Palestine-Israel. Today, performing in Israel is to cross that picket line.
Today, Israel occupies a similar position to that of apartheid South Africa. We will not go through the details of the legislation, practices and acts of racism and apartheid that Israel is enforcing against the Palestinians, those are well documented by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and, in fact, our own South African government, in 2009, commissioned our official state research body, the South African Human Sciences Research Council to answer the question whether Israel is guilty of practicing apartheid. The HSRC, in its subsequent 300-page report found Israel to be guilty of the crime of apartheid as well as colonialism.
This position, that Israel practices apartheid and racism against the indigenous Palestinians, was then confirmed by the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, which sat in Cape Town in November 2011. In March 2012 the United Nations Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination made similar findings. Earlier this year, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UN HRC), an official structure of the UN, released a scathing report in Geneva, Switzerland, on the state of human rights in Israel, reporting that there is “institutionalised discrimination” in the occupied Palestinian territory. The UN Special Rapporteur on occupied Palestine, Richard Falk, has maintained that Israeli policies have unacceptable characteristics of colonialism, apartheid and ethnic cleansing.
Palestinians, particularly those living under occupation in East Jerusalem and the West Bank and those living under the Israeli blockage of Gaza, face tremendous violence and discrimination at the hands of the Israeli state and its military apparatus.
In 2005, inspired by the successful boycott and isolation of apartheid South Africa, Palestinians called on the international community to play a decisive role in their struggle for self-determination and an end to Israel’s Apartheid policies. Palestinians called on global civil society, artists and multinational corporations to participate in the nonviolent of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel until it complies with international law in respect of its treatment of Palestinians.
Various churches, businesses and other entities have ended relations with Israel in line with the BDS call. We are urging you to join the growing list of artists and musicians who are choosing to be on the right side of history by boycotting Israel, turning down its invites and cancelling Israeli gigs. This list includes Lauryn Hill who cancelled her Israeli gig last year, author of the well-known book “The Colour Purple” who refused to have her book published in Israel, Roger Waters of the music band Pink Floyd who has been at the forefront of the BDS movement and the world famous physician Professor Stephen Hawking who cancelled his participation in Israel in line with the boycott. Others include Danny Glover, the UK band Faithless, author JM Coetzee, Breyten Breytenbach and various others.
During the dark days of South African apartheid, businesses, artists and individuals who boycotted Apartheid South Africa and companies trading with Apartheid did it as to not be complicit in Apartheid’s crimes and oppression. Their principled and ethical conduct was praised by Archbishop Desmond Tutu who has said that “[t]he withdrawal of trade with South Africa by multinational corporations with a conscience in the 1980s was ultimately one of the key levers that brought the apartheid state – bloodlessly – to its knees. Those corporations understood that by contributing to South Africa’s economy, they were contributing to the retention of an unjust status quo”.
We humbly request you as fellow South Africans to choose to stand on the side of and abide by the boycott called by Palestinian civil society in their struggle for freedom and justice – a boycott that has received increasing support from Israeli peace activists as well.
We trust that you will seriously consider our request not to perform in Israel and that your decision will reflect a commitment to justice, freedom and democratic rights.
Finally, we humbly request a meeting with yourselves to discuss this matter at the earliest convenience.
BOYCOTT, DIVESTMENT AND SANCTIONS IN SOUTH AFRICA (BDS SOUTH AFRICA)
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