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An open letter from Gaza to Thomas Quasthoff: Do not Forget the Gaza Concentration Camp and “Tell It like It Is!”

Open Letter, Various undersigned

January 2, 2011

Dear Mr. Thomas Quasthoff,

We are a group of artists, singers, academics and students from Gaza, and our only fault is being Palestinians. For that, Mr. Quasthoff, we are imprisoned with our families and loved ones in what even main-stream Human Rights Organizations call the largest open air prison in modern history. It has come to our knowledge that you have plans to perform in Apartheid Israel. The state you are planning to entertain has been committing war crimes and crimes against humanity against us, the indigenous population of Palestine.

We in Gaza have been under a hermetic, medieval siege imposed since 2006 by the state you are planning to entertain. This blockade has cut off the main life-line of goods and people coming into Gaza resulting in severe shortages of food supplies, basic goods and importantly items like cement which is vital to rebuild the 17000+ homes that have been destroyed by Israeli attacks. Injured people are not allowed to travel abroad to receive needed medical care: consequently 400 sick patients have died because they had no solution but to stay in the besieged Gaza Strip where they spent their dying days, to the despair of their families. Do you have plans to sing for them?

In addition to this barbaric siege, in winter 2008-9, Israel attacked Gaza, committing war crimes and human rights violations against a population of which over half, an estimated 800.000, are children. During this merciless 23-day assault, 1,417 people were killed, hundreds more severely injured. The crimes have been recounted in detail in the United Nations Goldstone report. On 2 December, 22 international organizations including Amnesty, Oxfam, Save the Children, Christian Aid. Medical Aid for Palestinians produced a report entitled Dashed Hopes, Continuation of the Gaza Blockade, again another call for a complete end to the siege, outlining its devastating and unrelenting effects on the civilian population and a week ago Human Rights Watch published the Separate and Unequal report that denounced Israeli policies as "apartheid." Yet, still we wait for people to stand up around the world to take action against apartheid policies; mere words have made it easy for Israel to continue its genocidal policy against our people with immunity.

If you decide to act against your conscience and play in Israel, please remember us, remember the suffering survivors, and the voices of the 434 children killed during the 22-day attacks that sometimes linger in the silence of our dark nights. Remember those who cannot read, study or attend school and university as a result of Israel’s medieval siege. Remember those farmers who are shot by trigger-happy Israeli soldiers as they harvest their crops on their land. And remember your fellow singers who have never left Gaza and who are dreaming of cooperating with international artists, such as yourself. We, artists and singers, expect you to show solidarity with us. How do you accept the suppression of our voices? Even musical instruments are banned from being brought into Gaza! Do you know that most of the people in your audience will have served or are serving in the Israeli army?

Israeli forces invaded Gaza's land, air, and sea. Shelling rained in around us, millions of pieces of metal sharp as daggers thudding through our homes, our cars, our roads, our children. Apache helicopters, F16s, F15s, F35s, Merkava tanks, naval gunboats, and illegal white phosphorous were experimented on us. People had no shelter. Many of them left their homes to hide in UNRWA's schools thinking that they would be safe. Sadly, they were proven wrong! Not only were schools shelled with people inside but also mosques, cars, universities, factories, agricultural land and farm animals. It was a vile war, about 1434 civilians including 434 children were killed and around 5,300 injured, some permanently. Many succumbed to their injuries after staying under the rubble for several days, bleeding because Israeli forces didn't allow ambulances to rescue them. In the eyes of Israeli policy makers our being the wrong 'ethnic group' means we should be expelled, humiliated, imprisoned and denied the most explicit and basic human rights. The misery we suffered during those days cannot be expressed in words no matter how much we try to. The singers amongst us have been trying to translate that horror into songs. We thought that you would show sympathy with the victim, not the victimizer!

We are told that you are "a man who has something to say – both as a musician and as a human being. And that [you are] not afraid of saying it." We, musicians of Gaza, are proud of having a fellow singer who speaks out against all forms of oppression. We wonder whether you performed in Sun City during the heydays of Apartheid! How did you feel about the suffering of Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, Abdulla Ibrahim—to mention but a few black South African musicians? Those artists who were killed, imprisoned, or expelled by the ugly apartheid regime?

A host of musicians have already joined the Boycott Divestment and Sanction Call of 2005 by refusing to perform in Israel including Santana, Annie Lennox, Faithless, Elvis Costello, the Pixies, Gil Scott Heron, Massive Attack, Leftfield, Gorillaz Sound System and Devendra Bernhart. We hope that you join these courageous artists. To us, your inspirational latest album, "Tell It Like It Is," is a reminder of what the latest Palestinian intellectual Edward Said called "speaking truth to power"

It is high time to take real action to stop Israel's war crimes against children, women and men; it is time to stand on the right side of history and make a difference by singing songs of freedom and "telling it like it is!"

Besieged Gaza, Occupied Palestine

Signed by:

Bassam Abu Jiab (Singer)

Fadl Lelli (Composer)

Samir Shataly (Chorographer)

Iamial El-Agha (Musician)

Naim Nasr (Composer)

Samir Mousa (Singer)

Ibrahim Zinaty (Musician)

Ibrahim Lulu (Oud Player)

Mohammed Abu Eisha (Musician)

Basem Shakhsa (Conductor)

Sahalah Abu Hamad (Composer)

Wael Yazji (Composer)

Mohammed El Masri (Composer)

Hassan Kharoubi (Musician)

Aklram Hassan (Singer)

Mohammed Bardawil (Oud player)

Rami Okasha (Singer)

Samir Shatali (Choreographer)

Ali Abu Yasin (Director)

Zuhair Balbisi (Actor)

Sami Fatouh (Actor)

Hassan Khatib (Actor)

Inas Saqqa (Actress)

Majeda Taleb (Actress)

Hazem Abu Humaid (Director)

Wael Hajjou (Actor)

Jawad Harrouda (Actor)

Said Eid (Director, Actor)

Hassan Aydi (Director)

Mohammed Abu Sido (Director)

Ahmed Naser (Dramatist)

Mohammed Naser (Dramatist)

Majed Badra (Cartoonist)

University Teacher’s Association in Palestine

Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel (PSCABI)

:: Article nr. 73510 sent on 02-jan-2011 18:51 ECT


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