Washington University Hip-Hop Program Revokes Invitation to Israeli Cultural Ambassador
The St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee (STL-PSC) welcomes the decision by program organizers to disinvite Israeli hip-hop artist Marvin Casey from Universal Beatz, a week of performances at Washington University in St. Louis by Middle Eastern rappers and dancers, due to begin on Monday, April 11, 2011. Casey’s dance troupe, Tribe 13, is sponsored by the Jewish Agency for Israel, a Zionist organization that facilitates the immigration of Jews from around the world to Israel while denying the right of Palestinian refugees exiled from their homes and lands from returning. Today, the Jewish Agency for Israel continues to deny Palestinians the use of land in Israel and is connected to the initiative, “Brand Israel,” which seeks to divert worldwide focus away from Israel’s occupation and apartheid policies and towards its scientific and cultural institutions.
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) advocates a boycott of Israeli official cultural and academic institutions that are complicit in the system of oppression that has denied Palestinians their basic rights guaranteed by international law. This is not a boycott of Israeli individuals. Casey is a cultural ambassador for the Jewish Agency in their efforts to promote Israel while whitewashing its violations of Palestinian human rights and international law through cultural activities that perpetuate a false sense of Israeli liberalism and normalcy.
STL-PSC member and Palestinian-American, Sandra Tamari, who had been slated to present, explained: “We have no problem working with Israeli individuals who are committed to justice, but we will not cooperate with Israeli institutions perpetuating Israel’s policies of discrimination.”
The decision to exclude Casey followed pressure from STL-PSC and both local and international artists threatening to boycott this event if Casey’s invitation was not revoked. Artists included Malikah, Sharif “the Truth,” BiRD, and Excentrik. Explained the latter:
The whole point of the ‘Brand Israel’ campaign is to further normalize the general public’s view of Israel, to soften it in the eyes of the next generation. They utilize artists like Casey to display a fantastical dream world of tolerance, peace, democracy and diversity that is simply an illusion. The reality of apartheid, systematic displacement, ethnic cleansing, war crimes, house demolitions and illegal occupation are simply washed over if we, as artists and public activists, do not honor the BDS movement.
These artists join the growing number of international performers, such as Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, Elvis Costello, Carlos Santana, Gil Scott Heron, and the Pixies, who maintain that there can be no “business as usual” with institutions complicit in apartheid.
Organizers of Universal Beatz have also disinvited members of STL-PSC from participating. The stated reason for revoking both Casey’s and STL-PSC’s invitations is to de-politicize Universal Beatz. STL-PSC rejects the notion that art can ever transcend politics in the context of gross injustice, but we whole-heartedly agree that welcoming any official Israeli cultural institution that is complicit with Israel’s discriminatory state policies is in itself a highly political act and should be recognized as such.
STL-PSC celebrates this cultural boycott victory as part of the growing global movement in solidarity with the 2005 Palestinian civil society call for broad boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it fulfills its obligation to comply with international law and respect the human rights and self-determination of the Palestinian people.