Legendary Brazilian artists and political activists Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil are scheduled to perform to an already sold out crowd in Tel Aviv on July 28. Brazilian and international BDS activists have implored the artists to cancel their performance. Roger Waters wrote Veloso with such a request and Veloso wrote Rogers back, explaining “my heart is strongly against the arrogant right position of the Israeli government. I hate the occupation policy, the inhuman decisions that Israel took in what Netanyahu tells us is self-defense. And I think most Israelis who are interested in our music tends to react in a similar way to the politics of his country”, yet refusing to cancel the show.
The following is Waters response.
Thank you for taking the time to reply to my letter. Dialogue is truly important. I will respond to the points you have raised. I fear you may be viewing Israeli politics through rose tinted spectacles. The fact is that for the many decades, since the Nakba, (catastrophe, dispossession of the Palestinian people) in 1948, Israel’s colonialist and racist policies have devastated the lives of millions of Palestinians.
The BDS movement, which I am asking you to join, is a global movement that demands Palestinian freedom, justice, and equality. It is growing rapidly because of increased international awareness of the oppression the Palestinians have had to endure these last 67 years. Netanyahu’s current extreme rightwing regime is just the latest government perpetrating cruel acts of injustice and colonization. But this is not just a right wing problem.
It was, in fact, the leftwing Labor party that founded the illegal settlement program and also failed to end the occupation of Palestinian land and make peace.
In your letter you say that JeanPaul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir believed in Israel before they died. That maybe so, but that was then and, maybe then, they didn’t know about or understand the brutality of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and subjugation of its people. But, I do know this, the wine and coffee splattered floorboards of the Café Flores and Les Deux Magots would today reverberate with the sound of JeanPaul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir turning in their graves to hear their names taken in vain and nailed to the mast of the occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people.
You mention Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, he is among those embracing BDS, as he has observed Israel’s actions and has deep empathy for The Palestinian People. There is, as he noted to you, apartheid in the occupied territories that is just as definite and dehumanizing as it was in apartheid South Africa when the infamous and racist pass laws were in place. As in South Africa, Palestinians and their legal rights are defined by their racial and religious background. Can you imagine such a thing in Brazil or England or the USA or Holland or Chile, or? No. Why not?
Because it is unacceptable, that’s why not.
Caetano, if I may pose a question, why would you not reject complicity with such injustice now, just as surely as you would have rejected white racism against South Africa’s black population back in the eighties? Your letter suggests you believe your upcoming gig in Tel Aviv can help change Israeli policy. I would suggest this is a naïve proposition. Sadly, it is not just the Israeli government that needs a change of heart. Polls indicate that a staggering 95% of the Jewish Israeli public supported the 2014 bombing of Gaza,(561 dead children), 75% do not support a Palestinian state based on the long negotiated ’67 borders, and 47% believe Palestinians citizens of Israel should be stripped of their citizenship.
No, Caetano, playing a gig in Tel Aviv will not move the Israeli government or the majority of the Israeli people one jot, but it will be seen as you giving tacit approval to the status quo. Your presence there will be used as propaganda by the right and will provide cover and moral support for the Israeli government’s outrageously racist and illegal policies.
It is a dilemma I know, but, if you really wish to influence the Israeli government, you will join us on the BDS picket line. We are having a powerful effect, as we can see from their reaction, the bullies coming out in full force to try to crush the voices of dissent and silence us.
We will not be silenced, we are strong, and together we can help free not just the Palestinian people from the yoke of Israeli oppression, but also the Israeli people from the oppression of their own exceptionalism and dogma, which is deadly to both peoples.
I implore you not to proceed with your engagement in Tel Aviv, instead take the opportunity to visit Gaza and the West Bank and see for yourself what Sartre and de Beauvoir never lived to see. I believe your resolve to perform in Tel Aviv will dissolve in a sea of tears and regret.
Caetano, I do not know you, we have never met, but, I believe you mean well and I bear you no ill will. If you go to Tel Aviv in spite of our heartfelt entreaties, and if you visit Gaza or the occupied territories, you may well experience an epiphany. If you do, please reach out to us, all of us, not just in the Palestinian and Jewish communities, but all of us in solidarity in Brazil and elsewhere, all of us in BDS all over the world working for justice and equal rights in the Holy Land We will embrace you.
I thank you again for joining this conversation. Please go and see things for yourself, but without performing there, without crossing the Palestinian boycott picket line. Maybe UNWRA can help, they certainly helped me when I was looking for the reality. Go and see for yourself, you will not have to use your imagination. The reality is devastating beyond anything you could possibly imagine.
Thanks to Ofer Neiman