Sir, – We are veterans of the Irish movement against South African apartheid. We wish to congratulate Sarah McTernan on her selection as Ireland’s entry for this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. However, we also want to ask to her reconsider her decision to take part in the competition.
Israel is an extremely repressive state that oppresses and discriminates against the millions of Palestinians who live under its control, and which forces millions more Palestinian refugees to live in involuntary exile. It is a state that we believe practices apartheid against the Palestinian people.
We are not alone in this belief, and many South African veterans of the anti-apartheid liberation struggle have long shared this view – people such as Ismail Coovadia, Kader Asmal, Farid Esack, Sunny Singh, Sidumo Dlamini, two of Nelson Mandela’s former cellmates, Achmad Cassiem and Ahmad Kathrada, as well as the African National Congress (ANC) itself have all made the comparison.
Some ANC veterans, like former South African president Kgalema Motlanthe, speaker of the South African parliament Baleka Mbete, and former head of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) Willie Madisha, say Israeli apartheid is worse than that experienced in South Africa.
For example, former South African minister Ronnie Kasrils has said that: “This is much worse than apartheid. The Israeli measures, the brutality, make apartheid look like a picnic. We never had jets attacking our townships. We never had sieges that lasted month after month. We never had tanks destroying houses.”
South African Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu has said that Israeli apartheid is a more brutal form than its South African counterpart, noting that Palestinians are “being oppressed more than the apartheid ideologues could ever dream about in South Africa”.
Noted South African legal expert and jurist Prof John Dugard just this month wrote that, “Apartheid is alive and well and thriving in occupied Palestine.”
When we were active in the South African solidarity movement, we supported and promoted an international boycott of that apartheid regime. It was a campaign that is widely recognised as having played a significant role in the ultimate defeat of that regime and the end of racial discrimination in the country.
Today, Palestinians have called for a similar campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) to help them to overcome their oppressors. We fully support this campaign, including its call for a cultural boycott of Israel.
Israel is a state that openly boasts of its use of culture and art to whitewash its disturbing record of brutal oppression, military occupation, war crimes, and human rights violations.
As with apartheid South Africa’s promotion of the “Sun City” resort as an entertainment venue, it is simply not possible to view the Eurovision being held in Tel Aviv as merely an apolitical cultural event.
We ask Sarah McTernan to listen to the call from the Palestinian people to do no harm, to not cross their picket line.
We urge her to reconsider her decision to take part in the Eurovision, and we hope that she will be remembered as an artist who took a brave and principled stance against oppression.
There is still time to make the moral choice and to stand on the right side of history. – Yours, etc,
CATHAL Mac LIAM,
Sir, – The Israeli ambassador Ophir Kariv proclaims that "There is a very thin line between being pro-Palestinian ... and being anti-Israel" ("Israeli ambassador says calls for Eurovision boycott cross a line", News, May 9th).
There is no such line, because it is the state of Israel that is violating international law and international humanitarian law in its persecution of the Palestinian people.
In the same article we read that, “Hamas – the militant movement that controls Gaza – and Islamic Jihad fired almost 700 rockets and mortars at Israeli from the Gaza Strip, killing at least four Israelis. Retaliatory strikes carried out by the Israelis killed at least 25 Palestinians.”
Why do we never read about (for example), “Likud – the militant movement that controls Israel”? And why is it that Israeli strikes are always “retaliatory”, unlike the Palestinian rockets which, it has been claimed, were themselves retaliation for the prior killing of unarmed Palestinian demonstrators?
There is a very thin line, it seems, between reporting the facts and recycling Israeli propaganda. – Yours, etc,