Pulitzer Prize-winning author and activist Alice Walker, a prominent American supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, asked pop star Alicia Keys on Wednesday to cancel her upcoming Tel Aviv concert appearance, scheduled for July 4.
In an open letter posted online, Walker wrote that Keys was putting herself in “soul danger” by performing in “an apartheid country that is being boycotted by many global conscious artists. You were not born when we, your elders who love you, boycotted institutions in the US South to end an American apartheid less lethal than Israel’s against the Palestinian people.”
Walker urged Keys to educate herself on the issue and compared the BDS movement to the civil rights activists who staged the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955, which “fundamentally changed” America.
“A cultural boycott of Israel and Israeli institutions (not individuals) is the only option left to artists who cannot bear the unconscionable harm Israel inflicts every day on the people of Palestine, whose major ‘crime’ is that they exist in their own land, land that Israel wants to control as its own,” Walker wrote, adding that the Israeli system is “cruel, unjust, and unbelievably evil” and is the cause of “much of the affliction in our suffering world.”
Walker last year refused to authorize a new Hebrew translation of her acclaimed novel “The Color Purple.” She is actively involved with the BDS movement on the UC Berkeley campus in California, where in April the student union passed a resolution calling for the university to divest from companies that have contracts with Israel’s military.
Waters, who in March convinced Stevie Wonder to cancel an appearance at an IDF event in Los Angeles, invited Keys to “join the rising tide of resistance” and noted that “nothing has changed since the bad old days of apartheid South Africa and Segregated America. We must stand united with all our brothers and sisters against racism, colonialism, segregation and apartheid.”
The debate over Keys’s appearance in Israel has branched out to social media, with Israel supporters launching multiple Facebook pages in support of her arrival, only to be countered by pro-BDS campaigns.
Keys’s official Facebook page on Wednesday, in the wake of the additional publicity generated by Walker and Rogers, featured multiple extended debates on her Tel Aviv concert, with fans sounding off both for and against in comments underneath unrelated pictures from Keys’s world tour. She is currently in England.
Keys, 32, is one of the most successful pop and soul singers of the past decade, with sales of over 35 million copies of her albums and 14 Grammy Awards to her name.
“I’m excited to go to new places on this tour, among them Tel Aviv. I plan on bringing with me a show full of emotion and inspiration,” Keys said when the concert was announced.
Over the past few years, while enjoying a wealth of performances by first-tier stars (Madonna, Paul McCartney, Red Hot Chili Peppers), Israelis have also faced multiple let-downs, as prominent recording artists announced their arrival and then canceled — often following pressure from BDS activists.
Earlier this year, the massive Lollapalooza music festival removed Israel from its list of venues for summer 2013, citing budgetary and logistical issues.