Palestinians call for boycott of Red Sea Jazz Festival

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) calls on artists to boycott the Red Sea Jazz Festival, just as festivals in apartheid South Africa were boycotted. PACBI is a founding member of the largest coalition in Palestinian society, the BDS National Committee (BNC), which leads the global BDS movement.

The Red Sea Jazz Festival, like all Israeli cultural institutions, directly benefits Israel’s decades-old regime of apartheid, military occupation and colonialism. Since its founding, it has failed to distance itself from this system of oppression against the Palestinian people or to uphold full Palestinian rights under international law.

The party is sponsored by the municipality of Eilat, which is bragging of its close relationship with Israel’s apartheid “security forces”, known for their systemic racist violence against indigenous Palestinians, including the massacres in the neighboring Gaza Strip that have claimed thousands of lives since 2008.

Eilat itself is built on the ruins of Umm al-Rashrash, one of over 500 Palestinian villages, towns and communities systematically ethnically cleansed during the Nakba (catastrophe) beginning in 1947 and continuing beyond the founding of Israel in 1948.

The Red Sea Jazz Festival is in partnership with Israel’s far-right ministries of culture and tourism. These apartheid state agencies aim to whitewash human rights abuses by cynically portraying Israel as a “tourist destination” and “cultural hub,” covering up its brutal military occupation and crimes against humanity.

We thank the American band that was booked to play at the festival this year and canceled after learning privately from the Palestinians about the event’s role in apartheid artwashing. They join many other artists who have refused to perform at Red Sea Jazz in the past.

Artists who have canceled performances at the festival include Stanley Jordan, Eddie Palmieri, Jason Morana, Tuba Skinny, Portico Quartet, Andreas Oberg, Chris “Dad” Dave, Matt Schofield, Terence Blanchard Marcus Strickland and many, many others.

A petition launched by a progressive Israeli Jewish group boycott from within – signed by more than 20,000 people before it closed – said the festival “uses jazz music as a tool to whitewash the military occupation, apartheid and oppression of the Palestinian people”.

Since May 2021, following the massacre by Israeli forces of more than 240 Palestinians including more than 66 children in the besieged Gaza Strip, more than 1,500 artists have joined the inspiring Musicians for Palestine initiative, “refusing to perform in Israel’s complicit cultural institutions”.

The BDS movement has three goals: an end to Israel’s military occupation of all Palestinian (and Syrian) lands, full equality for Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, and the right of return for Palestinian refugees, ethnically cleansed of their houses and their land.

Ada J. Kenney