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August 14, 2016 6:04 am

Popular Senegalese Musician Baaba Maal Pressured by BDS-ers to Cancel Israel Concert

avatar by Lea Speyer

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Popular Senegalese musician Baaba Maal. Photo: Skoll World Forum.

Popular Senegalese musician Baaba Maal. Photo: Skoll World Forum.

An organization aligned with the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is pressuring a popular Senegalese musician not to perform in Israel next month.

Artists for Palestine UK (APUK) — a self-described “network of artists, cultural workers and activists” which accuses the Jewish state of orchestrating a “campaign to exploit culture as a diplomatic weapon” — is calling on Babba Maal to cancel his concert in Jerusalem in September.

As part of an organized move against Maal, APUK handed out leaflets on July 30 to British concertgoers attending a music festival featuring Maal. On the flier, APUK compared Israel to “South African apartheid.”

The move came several days after APUK — which says it is working with other BDS activists in France, Senegal and Israel — issued an open letter to Maal, which stated in part:

Dear Baaba Maal,

People who love and respect your work are finding it hard to understand that you have agreed to perform in the Old City of Jerusalem — which is under Israeli military occupation — in September this year…

You will know that the millions of Palestinians who live as refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and elsewhere cannot fly to their homeland. Israel denies their rights as the indigenous inhabitants of the land and will not let them in, even for a brief visit. For these people, Jerusalem — where you will sing — exists in prayer and aspiration only: the city is closed to them. And it’s mostly closed to the nearly five million Palestinians who live under occupation and siege in the West Bank and Gaza; Israel does not generally allow them to enter either…

By agreeing to appear in a city which is under illegal occupation, whose indigenous inhabitants continue to be under pressure to leave, you are giving consolation to the state responsible for the dispersal and the Occupation, and its international supporters…

Your presence on the bill for September is being widely used to promote the festival. We think you’re lending your credibility as a musician and a human rights activist to a sophisticated public relations exercise aimed at making an occupied city appear to be a haven of multiculturalism. Do you really want to do that?

APUK’s pressure is a common tactic employed by the BDS movement. Artists such as Alicia Keys, Scarlett Johansson and Carlos Santana have been targeted by the movement for their support of Israel.

One of the most outspoken supporters of the BDS movement — and who actively pressures other artists not to perform in Israel, which he has called an “apartheid regime” —  is former Pink Floyd bassist Roger Waters. Waters also openly criticizes musicians — such as Matisyahu, Jon Bon Jovi and the Rolling Stones — and takes credit for the cancellation of a performance by Stevie Wonder at a 2012 Friends of the IDF gala.

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