Dear Red Hot Chili Peppers,
It’s me again. After 11 letters from all around the world, a petition with over 6400 signatories that just keeps growing, and a couple groups on Facebook [1,2], it seems like you’re determined to go through the motions of a performance in apartheid Israel. Sure enough, after a long silence from you, we’re seeing the standard Shuki Weiss promotional video, reassuring fans that past cancellations won’t repeat, and that the world still in fact loves Israel. I can reiterate what was written in other letters and statements, but I much rather just respond to one thing you said in the video, which burns with irony: “We love playing for people. Children, middle aged, and old people. So come one come all.”[vimeo https://vimeo.com/44799712 w=400&h=300]
So here goes, the 12th letter asking the Red Hot Chili Peppers to heed the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against the apartheid military regime of Israel.
When you invite one-and-all to Tel-Aviv, I ask myself whether you’re truly aware of the reality of the situation. For over 60 years, the state of Israel has been employing strategies of divide-and-conquer over the indigenous Palestinian population. Some of these methods may sound familiar to you, as history has a nasty tendency to repeat itself.
The Palestinian population has been divided into four groups, who’s realities differ, but all have the commonality of being the result of a constant attempt of ethnic cleansing from their original lands (in no particular order):
- West Bank Palestinians
- Gaza Palestinians
- Inside the 1948 armistice line Palestinians
- Palestinians in the shatat (exile)
West Bank Palestinians
Palestinians are under a permit system, reminiscent of apartheid South Africa, in which the indigenous, who managed to keep their land after the 1948 ethnic cleansing (known as the “Nakba”, the Catastrophe, in which an estimated 700,000-800,000- 50% of the indigenous population was driven out by military massacre) and the 1967 occupation of the West Bank (which created an additional estimated 280,000-350,000 refugees, 120,000-170,000 of them second time refugees), are issued different color ID’s by the State of Israel, which differentiate them from what the state identifies as citizens of Israel.
Citizens get a blue ID card, while “the enemy” gets a green ID card. Make no mistake, the blue card affords you the privilege of theft of land from the indigenous, backed by the most heavily armed army in the region (including nuclear weapons) and the fourth most heavily armed army in the world (courtesy of the United States of America, of course); And the green card affords you collective punishment of arbitrary arrests, torture, night incursions, house demolitions, restriction of movement, the constant company of hostile soldiers, and an unnatural death which the media will always paint as your oppressor’s “right to exist”.
In addition to the ID system, almost a decade ago, Israel began to build a fence, that would gradually become a wall, which would annex more of the survivors’ their lands, and as such their livelihoods and hundreds of years of family heritage.
From the beginning, we rejected the imposition of permits on us; we wanted to pass through the gates using our ID cards. The Israelis waited until the guava harvest season, and then they flooded us with permits. Everyone in Jayyus got one, whether living or dead, young or old. We didn’t know what to do; if we didn’t distribute the permits, the guava would rot. If we distributed them, we give legitimacy to the wall. The permits sat in the municipality for two weeks while the mayor spoke to various Palestinian Authority officials, and finally we were told to distribute the permits.
The Israelis now give permits to whomever they want. Two days ago, I submitted 44 permit applications and got approvals for six. They might give to a farmer’s wife or his daughter but not to the one person in the family who needs it most. Or they give it to the handicapped father but not to the son who does the work. The length of the permits varies, too. It could be a week, a month, or a year. If I submit an application for someone who still has one, they say his permit is still good [and ask, so why are you applying?] Some get permits enabling them to work but if the permit expires before the harvest, there is no guarantee that they will be given another permit to harvest their crops.
So you see, West Bank Palestinians can’t get to your show, let alone afford it, but then again, obviously it’s the least of their problems.
Another part of the indigenous (and aforementioned second time refugee majority) Palestinian population, that will not be able to attend your performance, are the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip. Gaza is a small strip of land, which measures about 25 and a half miles over less than 8 miles at it’s widest point. It’s also one of the most crowded places on earth, home to about 1.7 million people, the majority of which (56%) are children under the age of 18.
The situation in the tiny and over crowded Gaza strip is pretty straight forward: That of a hermetic military siege, and the occasional incursion of mass destruction by Israel’s army. Again, this population isn’t really concerning itself with missing the Red Hot Chili Peppers live in Tel Aviv, but despite the efforts of divide and conquer, Gazan civil society is an inseparable part of the call to BDS. I suppose they’d appreciate you not lending your prestige to Israel’s well-funded image, and that you take a stand supporting their right to life.
Inside the 1948 armistice line Palestinians
There’s a third Palestinian population, which creates an interesting nuance in the situation. This is the artificially created “Arab minority” within the state of Israel. These folks, for circumstances beyond their control were allotted the blue card (and even with this card, their ethnicity is registered in the system). they live within the 1948 armistice line, and Israel loves toting them around as examples of its “pluralism” and “vibrant democracy”. However, when you bother to scratch beyond the surface, you find a growing list of discriminatory laws, from the outlawing of the commemoration of the Nakba to the land policies that serve the over-all aim of ethnic cleansing. Repeating attempts to criminalize, demonize and vote out the Palestinian representation in Israeli parliament, which is already under represented, and economic, educational and social discrimination.
If it makes you feel any better, they will be able to attend your show.
Palestinians in Shatat (Exile)
The fourth Palestinian population, you may find all around the world, including the USA. These are the refugees, from 1948 and onwards. These refugees’ probably deserve deeper examination of their division, but it’s the big picture I want you to see, because a Palestinian in the United States and a Palestinian in Chile and a Palestinian in next-door Jordan all have one thing in common: They and their children are denied their Right of Return by the state of Israel. This is achieved by the state with the combination of not issuing local ID cards to the people it has forcefully expelled, and a series of cynical legal contortions of property law.
What about the Jews?!
All of the above is combined with a constant, massive effort to bring more Jews to the state of Israel, under the pretext of “the only safe haven for Jews”. This effort is mostly done by the Jewish Agency, which is a government funded, tax exempt organization, which is also responsible for some pretty elaborate state propaganda schemes.
Unfortunately, the concept of the only safe heaven for Jews in the state of Israel is simply not true. Not on the physical level, where the state forces conscription on the young able-bodied Jewish portion of the population, and not on the economic level, which the state exploits in order to settle its Jewish population on occupied Palestinian lands. (Are you seeing the circularity of it all?)
Additionally, It’s a little bit hard to trace the exact numbers of people of the Jewish faith around the world, but there are simple statistics that common sense can fathom: There are over 13 million Jews around the world. Almost 6 million are in Israel, with over 6 million safe-havening it physically and economically in the United States, and the other 1-2 million scattered around the world, from Iran to Japan to Europe and Australia.
But really, I digress, because contrary to popular belief, this isn’t about the Jews at all. It’s not about Judaism, not in values and not in practice. It’s about European World War II refugees, whom were unprecedentedly given a state, instead of refugee status (including the right of return, which was granted 60 years after their attempted genocide) and integration into wherever they escaped to, whom with the support of the occupying power of the time (European British folks, very keen on all this colonialism), took over the colonial project and practiced ethnic cleansing of the indigenous population (while bringing in Jewish Arab people- Mizrachim- from neighboring countries, in order to take over the cheap labor).
Red Hot Chili Peppers and Palestinian History
This is the story of the indigenous people of a land formerly known as Falastin (more commonly known to outsiders as Palestine). This is the point in their story where you come in. In their long history of occupation after occupation and the quest for what so many others take for granted, on the 10th of September 2012, an American band, called the Red Hot Chili Peppers, like many others, is scheduled to perform in front of the occupying population. This concert is just one in a long line of acts, that come in, entertain, take their money and leave, without consideration of the plight of those, whom the entertainers refuse to see.
This is the point in the story where you get to choose: Will you be another in a long line of cynical capitalists making money off the blood of the indigenous, which the colonizers will systematically continue to attempt to erase, while using this single performance of yours as proof that the place to find “world class music” (i.e. “culture”, i.e. “civilization”) is exactly that place which erases culture and a civilization? Or will you stand on the right side of history as it’s being made? As a civil society movement grows world-wide, asserting that Palestinians are human beings, too, and that their right to life and dignity is an obvious given, and that the world has an obligation to support this undeniable fact?
At this point it seems that you’ve made a choice, but there’s still time, and I’m optimistic by nature. I’m optimistic that the similarities to your own histories are obvious to you. I’m optimistic that you understand the connections between your concert, your concert producers and the Israeli government, as they’ve been outlined to you, over and over again. I’m optimistic that you can feel the pain emanating from this bitter piece of earth, and that you’re not indifferent to it. I’m optimistic that even though you’re seemingly going through the motions of promotional videos and the likes, you’re deep in thought about this one show, and what it may mean to go through with it. I’m optimistic that- like many activists in the movement- you understand that canceling your performance in Israel is a small gesture of solidarity that, like a drop of water in the sea of collective actions, will empower the indigenous people of Palestine to finally regain control of their livelihoods, dignity and lives.
So what’s it gonna be, guys?
As always sincerely yours,
Some woman who’s sick and tired of wondering which of her friends get to live or die.