Artists and writers appeal to Aruna Sairam to not lend her voice to Apartheid

We are writing to you as artists who are anguished to discover that you are scheduled to perform in the Jerusalem Oud Festival on November 13th, and we beseech you to reconsider this decision. We speak from a long history of artistic commitment to the Palestinian freedom and to struggles of justice and peace everywhere in world. Your voice has mesmerized us for decades as it invokes beauty and humanity, and it would be preposterous for your own legacy to be appropriated by a regime of oppression and apartheid.

A long and growing list of artists have respected the Palestinian call for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel including Zakir Hussain, Jean-Luc Godard, Bjork, Lauryn Hill, Lorde and many more, and have cancelled their performances in Israel. Artists across the world support the Palestinian call for cultural boycott of Israel including Mira Nair, Ken Loach, Roger Waters and Arundhati Roy. This call comes in the light of Israeli whitewashing of its relentless and egregious human rights violations by cynically using art and culture.

Israeli citizens who support Palestinian human rights have called upon artists to cancel their performance at the Jerusalem Oud Festival, and have elucidated just how morally compromised this platform is:

We find it grotesquely ironic that the Ministry of Culture, that’s hard at work shutting down indigenous Palestinian culture [3], is the sponsor of a festival so central to traditional Palestinian culture, while never addressing the indigenous Palestinian identity.

We also find it grotesque that in the invitation for the Jerusalem Oud Festival [4], the Mayor of Jerusalem, refers to Jerusalem as Israel’s “eternal capital”, which isn’t only a colonialist erasure of its indigenous Palestinian heritage [5], but also a de-facto annexation of a territory where Israel’s sovereignty is unrecognised internationally [6].

They also point out that the festival is 15 minutes away from Khan al-Ahmar, where Israeli authorities are engaged in forcibly expelling the local Bedouin community, making way for further colonization of Palestinian lands.  Since March this year, Israeli forces have killed over 200 Palestinians in Gaza, including children, peacefully demanding their internationally recognized right to return to their homes.

For the last 70 years, Israel has been maintaining a regime of settler-colonialism, occupation and apartheid against Palestinians. Israel has recently passed the Nation State Law, rendering all non-Jewish citizens second-class and adding on to the severe discrimination already faced by Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel. Israeli occupation in West Bank including East Jerusalem and Gaza continues to crush Palestinians and make everyday life unimaginably difficult. Illegal settlements and the apartheid wall are growing and furthering Israel’s colonization of Palestinian lands.

To cover up for these crimes, Israel uses cultural and artistic events as propaganda tools. While it kills and maims Palestinians, it organizes concerts and cultural events so that the world looks the other way. We have seen this happening at the time of apartheid South Africa. Then, as now, conscientious artists refused to play for apartheid. We urge you to not allow your beautiful voice be appropriated and used for whitewashing the brutal and systematic violation of Palestinian human rights. Respect the Palestinian picket line, and stand with us on the right side of history.

Endorsed By

Vidya Rao, Hindustani Classical Singer

Vivan Sundaram, Artist

Ram Rahman, Photographer and Curator

Navina Sundaram, Documentary Filmmaker and Journalist

Githa Hariharan, Writer

Pushpamala N, Artist

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, University Professor in the Humanities, Columbia University

Gita Jayaraj, Research Scholar, IIT Chennai

Mallika Taneja, Theatre Practitioner

Kumar Shahani, Filmmaker

Rajika Puri, Visual artist / Cinematographer

Neelam Mansingh Chowdhry, Theatre Artist