Alongside the financial, political and military support of western rulers, the cultural support of western artists is a crucial link in the chain of oppression that tightens every passing minute around the neck of Palestine. Artists occupy a position of public privilege. What we think and feel as it is expressed through our art is elevated above ordinary discourse and seriously discussed at events, in classrooms, and in all kinds of media. Both individually within our local networks and communities, and collectively at a national and international level, we can and do have a disproportionate effect on opinion. We are, I think, perhaps the last significant body of people to enjoy large-scale public trust in most parts of the globe. Added together, what we say and do publicly in our art and in our lives as citizens is reflected upon by many people in a much more profound way than the utterances of most politicians. Our deeds and words ring louder then, and wider, and longer, then those of many others. But so do our silences, our non-actions. That is why both the tacit and the enthusiastic support of artists have been worth so much to dictators and criminal systems like apartheid over the centuries, and why we have been so brutally persecuted when we have refused to give it.
All an Israeli major has to do to unwind after a day directing the bulldozing of ancestral Palestinian homesteads is to change into her casuals and head out to see a platinum-selling rock group, or to clap along politely like everyone else is doing at the poetry of some prize-glittering western writer. Then she can feel as refined, as hip, and as justified, as any other liberal westerner. The presence of international artists in apartheid Israel normalizes and buttresses the apartheid system, contributing to its self-confidence and smooth functioning.
By performing in Israel, in despite of the clear call of the Palestinian artists and cultural institutions to boycott Israel, an international artist gives -- whether or not they are conscious of it -- a signal of approval to the settler-pirates and to the racially brainwashed conscripts who take pleasure in having themselves photographed beaming with national joy in front of blindfolded and humiliated Palestinians. Approval for these and countless other abuses and injustices is exactly how the appearance of international artists in apartheid Israel is interpreted by its politico-military leadership and, crucially, by its rank-and-file soldiers, boosting the morale of those who must implement the bloody practicality of apartheid on the ground.
The boycott, if it gained momentum, could have just the opposite effect. It could remove the visage of respectability and normality which the leaders of apartheid Israel so desperately crave in order that they can continue with the dirty work of oppressing the Palestinians unperturbed by the moral opinion of the rest of the world. It could undermine the confidence of the military rank and file and cause significant numbers to question and refuse the implementation of apartheid policies. Above all, it could help to inspire the continuing anti-apartheid resistance of the Palestinian people, and contribute -- similarly to how international solidarity with black South Africans did in their case -- to the eventual collapse of the apartheid system. To have played even the tiniest of roles in such an outcome would be a greater honor than any prize, review, or invitation is capable of giving us.