Boycott From Within is taking credit for the recent cancellation of French pop star Vanessa Paradis’s visit to Israel. The group, made up of Israeli citizens who advocate the Palestinian call for international boycott, divestment and sanction (BDS) of Israel, believes that their efforts helped persuade Paradis to cancel her March performance in Tel Aviv. Officially, her concert was canceled for ‘professional reasons’ but those close to singer believe that she was motivated by calls for boycott.
Boycott From Within sent Paradis the following letter as well as individual letters urging her to cancel her visit:
We are Israeli citizens. It has come to our attention that Ms. Paradis is planning on performing in Israel in March 2011, and that you are both expected to meet Israeli President Shimon Peres. You may not be aware, but there is an ongoing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, due to its policies of apartheid and occupation. We, as Israeli citizens endorse this boycott, and we are urging you to take this opportunity to take a stand on an issue crucial to human rights and as such, to human lives as well.
You may be asking yourself what all this means and what it has to do with you. Indeed, you may feel you are being thrust into a situation which you had no interest in entering in the first place. However, we hope that we can help the both of you overcome your feelings of disconnect, outline the realities of the grim world you have entered, and give you the opportunity to choose to make a difference. Make no mistake; Because of your celebrity status, the choice you make will have an instant effect on the lives of millions of children, women and men.
Palestinians are living under a brutal military regime which practices policies of apartheid in what is known as Israel and the Occupied Territories. The army that controls everyday Palestinian life, at the barrel of a gun, is Israel’s army. This means that Palestinians depend on the mercy of this army, controlled by the Israeli government, which for over 60 years, has been murdering, maiming, arresting civilians, all the while stealing their lands by extreme and brutal force. While illegal Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian Territories flourish, under the guise of “natural growth“, Palestinian land is being robbed, homes are being demolished, whole communities left homeless, in the occupied territories as well as inside Israel.
There is no way your presence here can escape being interpreted as a political act. It will therefore not be about the sheer joy of your music and films. Instead, it will have the effect of contributing to Israel’s image of normality, to its government as well as to the rest of the world. We, therefore, ask you to reconsider. Please do not allow the state of Israel to use your reputation to whitewash its crimes!
Boycott From Within is now targeting British Telecom for its business dealings with the Israeli telecommunications company Bezeq. According to the open letter to BT, “by partnering with Bezeq, BT is supporting the infrastructure which enables illegal Israeli settlements, built in violation of international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, to exist.”
The existence of an Israeli group calling for BDS reflects a new strategy in the radical left in Israel. Frustrated with an Israeli public that is unwilling to listen, those few citizens who are fighting for an end to the occupation are now focusing on the international community to bring about change on the ground. While the numbers are small, Boycott From Within is having a major impact on the ability of Israel to maintain an illegal occupation while being accepted as a member of the international community. However, politicians in Knesset are aware of the danger that BDS poses to the maintenance of the occupation and parliamentary bills are currently being designed to punish Israelis openly engaged in any BDS activity. Should a democracy allow its citizens the freedom to openly call for a boycott of the country in order to end illegal practices of the government? Whatever the answer, BDS is a new force confronting Israel’s occupation which is gaining momentum throughout the world and inside Israel.