Zanele Matebula, COSATU International Relations Deputy Secretary, 16 September 2011
Heeding the recent calls made by human rights groups, civil society organizations and Palestine solidarity activists to boycott the Hilton Arts Festival (due to start today), popular Hip Hop artist, Iain “EWOK” Robinson, announced the cancellation of his scheduled Saturday performance.
COSATU salutes Iain EWOK Robinson.
In his cancellation letter to the Hilton Arts Festival, EWOK says:
“I cannot in good conscience willingly participate in any event that enjoys the support and patronage of the Israeli Government in any form. I believe that this is an endorsement of the criminal acts of oppression and human rights abuses consistently perpetrated by this entity against the Palestinian people. “I feel it is my responsibility as a South African who enjoys the democratic rights that were fought for so valiantly by my parents generation of anti-apartheid activists, to participate in the similar Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions of Apartheid Israel.”
Art and culture is being increasingly used by Israel to ‘brand’ itself and distract from its oppressive policies. The Israeli Foreign Ministry’s involvement in this year’s Hilton Arts Festival is no exception.
Israel utilizes this branding process to whitewash its crimes and to salvage its deteriorating image. The global boycott movement affirms that it should not be “business as usual” with a state that routinely violates international law and basic human rights and calls upon people of conscience around the world not to help Israel whitewash its crimes.
Among those who are actively supporting the cultural boycott of Israel movement are distinguished artists, writers, and anti-racist activists such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu; Pink Floyd front-man, Roger Walters; the legendary, Gil Scott Heron; folk singer, Pete Seeger to name just a few.
Other artists who have also cancelled Israeli performances include: Bono, Megg Ryan, Dustin Hoffman, Snoop Dogg, Elvis Costello, Carlos Santana, and groups such as Faithless, Massive Attack and the Pixies. The progressive Pietermaritzburg based organization, Church Land
Program, was the first group to call for a boycott of the Hilton Arts Festival. Subsequently, similar calls were made by several other groups.
These calls came on the grounds of the Hilton Arts Festival’s hosting ofthree Israeli plays as well as the acceptance of funding and support from the Israeli Embassy in Pretoria and the Israeli Foreign Ministry. Activists argue that this is in contravention of the 2005 Palestinian boycott call.
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