Dear Red Hot Chili Peppers,
We, Punks Against Apartheid, are writing you to urge that you cancel your show in Tel Aviv in September. We do so as artists, activists, musicians, and people who place themselves in the strong anti-racist tradition that formed punk and which keeps it relevant today.
This is a legacy you yourselves should be completely aware of. When you first formed in Los Angeles in the ’80s, it was the experimental, fluid moment that the punk scene was going through at the time that gave you the space you needed to take on a new sound, mixing elements of funk and other styles into your music. This was a scene noted for being uniquely multiracial, the scene that gave rise to Fishbone and Suicidal Tendencies; not to mention Fear, so important to the early formation of hardcore punk, a band that you, Flea, played the bass for! You even had Gang of Four’s Andy Gill produce one of your albums, and DH Peligro–originally of Dead Kennedys fame–ended up replacing Jack Irons on the drums.
So what’s the rub? Well, while some in the mainstream may have forgotten this history–scratching their heads at why a bunch of no-good punks would bother with a band as commercial as RHCP–we have not, and we intend to remind you and your fans of these roots. Because your proximity to punk as a band should have put you in touch with the best tendencies of rebel music, of music as a form of resistant community–and that is something to be cherished, not to be rejected by playing in Israel. By doing so, you would be, in the words of the Israeli group Boycott from Within, serving “the government’s agenda of whitewashing its war crimes and creating an image of Israel as a “modern state”.
It is for this reason that we were saddened and disappointed to hear of your announced show in Israel. We would have thought that RHCP would be aware of the pressing issues of racism and war in today’s world, something no one–especially punks–could miss. We would have thought that your experience in the scene that catapulted you to fame, a scene known for its strong principles and solidarity with struggles worldwide, would have been aware that Israel’s intention in making such a big deal about your gig is part of a cool, calculating game to cover up its crimes against Palestinians.1
We would have thought that you would have done your homework, and found out that, after their forced removal from the majority of Palestine in 1948, Palestinians have been living under occupation by the Israeli military for over 40 years now. We would have thought that you would have wanted to learn, before playing right into the Israeli state’s hands, that Palestinians live in segregated spaces all across the West Bank and in the open-air prison of the Gaza Strip, and that the apartheid-like laws of the Israeli state make it so that even a Palestinian fan who *wanted* to come to your show would be almost guaranteed to be turned down, as some were very recently on their way to Madonna’s concert in Ramat Gan. We would have expected you to be appalled and disgusted, as artists but more importantly as human beings, by the shallow exploitation of art and entertainment such as yours to somehow justify some of the most despicable acts of inhumanity against a people in resistance for their basic civil rights and for liberation.
Maybe you never had the same political leanings as your fellow punks–but make no mistake, your decision to play is political, just as much as your decision not to play would be. We are asking you to honor the global boycott launched by Palestinian civil society in 2005 as a non-violent means to achieve their basic human rights. Refuse to play in Israel, like many other musicians from Roger Waters, to Devendra Banhart, Macy Gray, and Elvis Costello (to name a few), and join a growing movement of artists who, like in the era of South African apartheid, say “I Ain’t Gonna Play!”. It will show whether you wish to stand on the right side of history and refuse to be used to put a “good face” on ethnic cleansing, apartheid, and occupation, or if you wish to be shills for a political circus much larger than any one of us.
It will remain to be seen whether or not the fame and commercialization RHCP has goten over the years has completely wiped out any integrity you ever had, or if there are still punks beneath the flashy lacquer.
We ask you this as fellow punks, from a scene that, rather than being dead, is becoming a threat again! Maybe not on the national scene, but in our small communities we are building–and what is more true to punk’s origins than local, vibrant DIY-scenes, everywhere from Chicago to Indonesia? Take a second to honor these scenes and the grassroots, political resistance they represent and say no to playing in September.
Red Hot Chili Peppers: join us!
No support for criminal occupation, ethnic cleansing, and racial apartheid!
Vive le Palestina! Vive le punk!
Up the punx,
Punks Against Apartheid
- Indeed, as BfW has pointed out in the same letter, the production company hosting your performance, Shuki Weiss Promotion and Production LTD., has close ties to the Israeli government and absolutely intends to use your act as a shallow political theater to distract from the oppression of Palestinians. [↩]