The following statement is from local community members and others with ties to this area.
On Sunday, June 13, the Yemeni-Israeli group Yemen Blues is scheduled to take the stage at the Putney Inn as part of the Next Stage summer concert series. This bucolic, multicultural scene seems about as far from the death and destruction of the bombed-out Gaza Strip as one can get.
Except that it’s not.
Co-sponsored by the Israeli Consulate of New England, this Yemen Blues concert is part of an intentional Israeli cultural offensive that aims to whitewash the atrocities of Israel’s violent occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and its continued disenfranchisement of millions of Palestinians who constitute one of the largest refugee/diaspora populations in the world.
In recent months, both Human Rights Watch and the Israeli human rights organization B’tselem have labeled Israel’s systemic oppression of Palestinians exactly what is it: apartheid.
The US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) — a collective of Palestinian academics, artists and cultural workers — urges the boycott of cultural events as part of a global nonviolent campaign of resistance. The boycott is modeled on the South African campaign in which anti-apartheid activists called on international artists, writers and cultural institutions to culturally boycott South Africa — an effort that helped speed the dismantling of the apartheid government in that country.
The PACBI campaign is part of the larger nonviolent BDS movement, which is anchored in precepts of international law and universal human rights. The cultural boycott is aimed at institutions, not individuals. It does not support boycott based on an artist’s identity (including citizenship, race, gender or religion) or their affiliation with an Israeli cultural institution.
However, when an artist chooses to represent the state of Israel or is commissioned or recruited to participate in an Israeli-sponsored event — as is the case with Yemen Blues’ appearance in Putney — boycott is advocated.
Culture — including art exhibits, films, festivals, plays, music and dance performances — is a powerful tool in the battle for hearts and minds. Refraining from participating in Israeli-funded cultural activities around the world is considered an important expression of support for Palestinian rights and freedom.
During the most recent Israeli bombing of Gaza, hundreds of Palestinians artists, writers and filmmakers signed an open letter calling on activists and their peers in the arts to “exercise their agency to help dismantle the apartheid regime of our time.” Joining this call were dozens of international academic and cultural figures including activist Angela Davis, actors Holly Hunter and Thandiwe Newton, director Alejandro Iñárritu, artists Julie Mehretu and Nan Goldin, writer Ta-Nehisi Coates and others.
In a separate letter, more than 600 musicians including rappers like The Roots, Noname, Vic Mensa, and Yassin Bey demand “justice, dignity and the right to self-determination for the Palestinian people and all who are fighting colonial dispossession and violence across the planet.”
The musicians call on their peers in the music industry to publicly assert their solidarity with the Palestinian people because “complicity with Israeli war crimes is found in silence, and today silence is not an option.”
A small event in a corner of Vermont may seem an insignificant factor in the fight for rights and justice in Palestine and Israel and the global struggle toward decolonization. But these systems are sustained by our silence; it is our collective responsibility to reject them.
Samia Abbass, Bellows Falls
Michelle Alexoff, Putney
Meg Audette, Burlington
Bob Bady, Brattleboro
Veronica Bagundes, Big Pine Key, Fla.
Nancy Braus, Putney
Kathryn Casa, Brattleboro
Javed Chaudri, Brattleboro
Yasmeen Chaudri, Brattleboro
Juliet Cuming, Dummerston
Andy Davis, Brattleboro
Dan DeWalt, Newfane
N. Dumser, Northport, NY
Gina Faro, Brattleboro
Marcia Hylan, Newfane
Shela Linton, The Root Social Justice Center, Brattleboro
Ellen Kaye, Barre
Ralph Meima, Brattleboro
Michel Moushabeck, Interlink Publishing, Northampton, Mass.
Clifford Ohrnberger, member, Windham County NAACP, Amityville, NY
Bert Picard, Newfane
Becca Polk, Brattleboro Solidarity, Brattleboro
Curtiss Reed, Jr., Brattleboro
Elizabeth Julia Staumen, Guilford
Beth Stickney, mentor, We Are Not Numbers, Bellows Falls
Steve West, Brattleboro
Matthew Cunningham-Cook, Brattleboro
Anna Mullany, Brattleboro Solidarity, Brattleboro
Grace Rountree, Brattleboro
Vanessa Vadim, Putney
Viva Vadim, Putney