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Why Should I Boycott Israel?

(above, Palestinians are often treated worse than cattle, at racist, segregated checkpoints such as this one.  The “right” people such as those who are foreigners and others are whisked through without effort, while the “wrong” people must endure daily humiliation.)

Why boycott Israel?  Most of us grew up learning that Israel is a wonderful place, our public schools and our media have always reinforced that image.  But now as adults we are free to learn more of the facts.  Israel was established in 1948, as an exclusively Jewish state, and over 750,000 Palestinians were forced to leave their homes. For over 60 years, the Israeli government has used both legal and arbitrary force against the indigenous people that still remained in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, and now comprise almost half (5 million) of the population that Israel controls.  (1)

Israeli Jewish citizens enjoy privileges like the legal protection of a democracy, well funded schools, universal healthcare, modern separate roads and high status in society with full protection of the Israeli Army.  A full 20% of the population (1.2 million) in the unoccupied area of Israel is comprised of Palestinians who carry an Israeli ID card. These people must be content with “Jim Crowe” types of laws that enforce housing restrictions, discrimination, underfunded schools, and restrictive marriage laws.

Approximately 2.4 million Palestinians live in the Israeli-controlled West Bank.  Israel has constructed an intricate system of sectors within this area.  Hundreds of ghettos are isolated from other areas using a system of sniper towers, patrol roads, cement walls, layers of barbed wire, electric fencing and arbitrary and permanent military checkpoints. Man-less drones and frequent night raids inflict fear on a population where approximately half are children.

Israel’s treatment of the 1.5 million people in Gaza has been to bulldoze once-productive farmland and bomb buildings that held preschools and universities.  As the borders have been sealed shut, Gaza has been forced to depend on UN schools, and to subsist on what food supplies Israel decides to let in. Consequently, Gazan’s are kept alive, but with a caloric intake that Israel hopes will create a decrease in the birthrate.

Israel, meanwhile, is using cultural events to create a false image of itself as a progressive, artistic nation with a European flavor.  Israel’s Harp Contest is a part of this larger effort.

The call to boycott was made in 2005, by the majority of Palestinian Civil Society.  The boycott is an urgent call to people of conscious to act to hold Israel accountable for how Israel treats the Palestinian people.  Powerful governments have failed to act, and in fact, have instead enable some of Israel’s most violent aggression.

Part of the boycott is of Israeli cultural institutions such as the Harp Contest. Participating in the Harp Contest is seen as an act of condoning Israel’s apartheid system.  This system closely resembles the now-defunct system of apartheid once seen in South Africa.  The call to boycott asks harpists to refrain from participating.

Boycotts have achieved results in the past.  The California grape boycott in the 1960’s helped win union rights for fruit pickers.  Mahatma Gandhi’s independence moment in British India employed boycotts to great success.  Musicians refused to play “Sun City,” a segregated resort in South Africa, making the world aware that apartheid there must be stopped.

All harpists from all nations are being asked to boycott the International Harp Contest in Israel.  Israeli harpists are also being asked to boycott the contest.

Many other harp competitions exist.  We believe it is not considered an honor to participate or to place in the Israeli contest.  It is an indication that the harpist ignored the call to boycott, and chose to stand instead on the side of the oppressor.  The level of the music may be sublime, and that is all the more reason not to validate Israel’s cruel apartheid government by participating.  Such beautiful music should be used to promote justice, not to enable and legitimize occupation and segregation.

The boycott call began in 2005.  In 2009, the call of the PACBI was only 3 years old.  No major effort was made to call for a boycott of Israel’s harp contest.  The 2009 Harp Contest, however, was such that the first prize award was never granted.  The judges chose not to award it.  Instead of granting it to Ina Zdorovetchi, from the Republic of Moldavia, who was awarded 2nd place, they conceded that none of the finalists exhibited the skills they expected in a first place winner.

Did the Judges in the 2009 Israeli Harp Contest acknowledge that it was the subject of the boycott by not awarding the 1st place prize? 

Although it cannot be verified, there is a strong indication that fine harpists who would have previously entered the competition in 2009, chose not to.  The 2009 competition was held just eleven months after Israel’s brutal attack on the civilian population of Gaza.  Three hundred children were left dead, with a total of 1400 people killed, in the population that Israel was holding captive under military force.  Though media blackouts prevented people in the USA from realizing how extensive the carnage was, many other nations, like Japan for example, allowed the news to reach the people, including interviews with people suffering from Israel’s illegal attacks on people using white phosphorus.

Boycott efforts doubled after Israel’s attack on the Freedom Flotilla in 2010.  As the lead ship, the Mavi Marmara, was changing course and heading away from Israel at high speed, Israeli commandos killed nine volunteers at close-range, execution-style. This tragedy happened in International waters.  Many highly respected musicians cancelled their concerts in Israel, or became outspoken in favor of the boycott.  

(1) Current demographic figures show: 1.2 million Palestinians with Israeli ID; 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza; 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank; 5 million Israelis excluding Palestinians

Harpists of conscience are invited to decline playing for the Harp Contest in Israel.  By boycotting the Harp Contest in Israel, awareness is raised about apartheid in Israel.  The Harp Contest in Israel seeks to camouflage human rights abuses against the indigenous Palestinian people.  Boycott the Harp Contest in Israel.

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