Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Israel Apartheid Week

Last week was Israel Apartheid Week. It was the 6th consecutive year that this event has been held in cities and universities throughout the world. The aim of the event is to educate people about the nature of Israel as an apartheid system and to gather support for the growing global BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaigns. This is achieved by a series of lectures, films and events co-ordinated in various cities during the event. Last year official IAW events took place in more than 40 cities across the globe including cities like New York, Adelaide, Brussels, Geneva and all major South African cities as would be expected. Who better than us (South Africans) to identify and rise up against an apartheid regime. The BDS campaign is something that we should be very familiar with considering its similarity to the very effective global campaign that helped bring about an end to Apartheid here in South Africa.

Earlier this year, the British electronic group, “Faithless”, whilst on tour in South Africa and promoting their concerts often took the time to discuss why they refuse to play in Israel. I found this so refreshing because for a change, Israel and their illegal occupation of Palestinian territories, was being criticised by members of the 'in-crowd', not the usual leftist parties or muslim clerics. Guitarist Dave Randall, in an interview with the Mail and Guardian was quoted as saying that cultural boycotts have distinct advantages over economic boycotts because it is rather difficult for an economic boycott to have an impact when the government in question receives $3 billion annually in aid. “The advantage of a cultural boycott is that people are really interested in whether or not Faithless went to Israel – and why.”
 UK Dance Act 'Faithless' (source:

He went on to say that, “ Musicians and artists are afforded a platform where we can talk about our views. When we are granted this platform, we have a responsibility to expose what's going on in the world and suggest ways to change it.” Advice and comments like this must just whizz over the heads of local music stalwarts Ladysmith Black Mambaso who, even after intense criticism from Pro Palistinian activists, the ANC and Cosatu, have agreed to perform at a concert in Tel Aviv in June this year. The ANC should be careful of falling glass as the house crumbles around them. They are known to publicly criticise the Israeli occupation of Palestine but also to welcome members of the Israeli government and trade delegations.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo's founder member, Alfred Mazibuko has said that the group are determined to perform despite the intense criticism. He then went on to say that, “ We went there (Palestine) in 2007 and we sang songs about peace and unity. We will do the same when we go there again.” I think Alfred fails to understand that there is a worldwide campaign calling for a cultural boycott of Israel and that by performing there you are sending the signal that everything is normal and should continue as is. It comes as no surprise that Ladysmith Black Mambazo don't get it (cultural boycotts, that is) because they did not seem to get it in 1986 even when they performed on stage with Paul Simon in his sanctions busting tour of South Africa.

Leaving the shame aside, I must confess that I am extremely proud of our academic institutions and the way they have risen to the challenge of fighting against apartheid. I will continue to support the BDS campaign in any way I can and I urge you to do the same. For more information on Israeli Apartheid Week,  please visit 

Maybe next year I will remind people about Israel Apartheid Week, a week before the event, rather than a week after :)

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