Sunday, November 9, 2008

At the University of Michigan:

A call to "comprehensively and consistently boycott all Israeli academic and cultural institutions"

Letter to Ken Fischer Asking Him to Cancel the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra Concert and the Bathsheva Dance Company Recital

Received via e-mail:

The full letter is on the Web at:

November 5, 2008

Ken Fischer,
President, University Musical Society

"Dear Mr. Fischer:

"I am writing to ask you to please cancel the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra concert and the Batsheva Dance Company recital, hosted by the University Musical Society (UMS) on November 16, 2008, and February 14-15, 2009, respectively. My request to you does not come on my own behalf or initiative but is a response to several calls by Palestinian civil society organizations.

"In 2004, there was the Call for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, which said, in part: "We, Palestinian academics and intellectuals, call upon our colleagues in the international community to comprehensively and consistently boycott all Israeli academic and cultural institutions as a contribution to the struggle to end Israel's occupation, colonization and system of apartheid, by ... Refrain[ing] from participation in any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli institutions" (emphasis in original).

"In 2005, 171 Palestinian civil society organizations issued another call which reads, in part: "We, representatives of Palestinian civil society, call upon international civil society organizations and people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era." Late last month, the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) specifically called for organizations which, like the UMS, are hosting the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra "to rescind their invitations to the Orchestra" and "to support the Palestinian civil society's call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, including the boycott of Israeli cultural institutions".

"In hosting these two Israeli cultural institutions (both Israeli government-sponsored)--the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra and the Batsheva Dance Company--the UMS is clearly flouting the will of Palestinian people as expressed in the three boycott calls detailed above. I hope you will seriously consider what you can do for justice and peace in Palestine-Israel. It behooves those of us who want to see an end to the conflict to not blithely dismiss the nonviolent efforts of Palestinians.

"You may recall that Archbishop Desmond Tutu spoke in Ann Arbor recently. As Archbishop Tutu has indicated, international boycotts and divestment against the South African apartheid state were two tools that South African people asked us living here in the US to apply. I am old enough to have been part of that movement and remember spending hours in a shanty town set up on the University of Hawaii campus to support divestment and educate people about the plight of Black South Africans. There were very few of us and the effort often seemed futile but together with like-minded people across the world and, most importantly, along with the crucial efforts of South African people themselves we made a difference and apartheid was ended in South Africa.

"I believe that Israeli apartheid can be ended, too, but it is up to every person of conscience to do what they can to help Palestinians to nonviolently end Israeli apartheid. Without our support for justice and peace the dying and suffering will be needlessly prolonged. To put some numbers to it, in 2008 alone, according to the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem, Israelis had killed 434 Palestinians, 86 of whom were minors, as of October 21st. The respective figures for Israelis killed by Palestinians was 30 and 4. For these sixty years now, violent and other deaths of Palestinians at the hands of Israelis have far exceeded Israeli deaths. This has been made possible by the crucial diplomatic, military, and economic support of the United States..."