Letter to Caetano Veloso

I am writing you now because you have had a profound impact on my life; because I have listened to, and embraced your music -- which touches my soul in the deepest of ways -- for more years than I can remember.
07/16/2015 05:44 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

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Dear Caetano Veloso,

I am writing you now because you have had a profound impact on my life; because I have listened to, and embraced your music -- which touches my soul in the deepest of ways -- for more years than I can remember; because you have been a fighter for justice in the toughest of times; because your music inspires me, soothes me, challenges me and has helped get me through times of great pain and loss.

I am writing you now in the hopes that you will rethink your decision to perform in Israel at this time and that you will heed the call from Palestinians, joined by thousands upon thousands of others across the globe, for dignity and for justice.

You wrote that you will perform in Israel and see for yourself what is happening there. But, as others have asked of you, I, too, ask you to first engage in that learning and then, once you feel you know enough, make an informed decision. By playing in Israel now, you are, by your own admission, making a decision without having the information you need to know if, by your actions, you are supporting and sanctioning injustice.

You also said that you played in the U.S. during the Bush era -- but that is not a fair comparison. While organizing was going on against the terrible acts of the U.S. government during those years, there wasn't an organized call coming from civil society, as there is from Palestinian civil society, asking those of us with a conscience to support Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) until Israel complies with basic principles of human rights and international law. The analogy to boycotting South African apartheid is much more apt.

I am a 59-year-old Jewish woman whose journey related to Israel and Palestine has been very long and filled with enormous soul-searching. I became connected to Israel to support what I understood to be the liberation movement of the Jewish people -- not acknowledging at the time that liberation is never liberation when it is at the expense of another people, when it results in dislocation and homelessness and the denial of another people's right to self-determination. I was always a critic of the Israeli government and opposed Israel's occupation of 1967. However, despite ample evidence and documentation, I knew nothing about the Nakba, the catastrophe of 1948 when over 700,000 Palestinians were expelled from, or pushed out of their homes and land as a result of Israel's establishment. While my life's work is connected to the importance of storytelling, I did not let in the story, the reality of the Nakba until, in truth, I could no longer sleep at night.

And, as you well know, the injustice didn't end in 1948. Violence against the Palestinian people and continued destruction of their homes and theft of their land have only intensified since that time. I don't want to recite the list of anti-democratic policies; of daily brutality; of structural and systemic inequality that characterizes the Israeli government's treatment of the Palestinian people in Israel and the occupied territories. You can easily go to countless websites and spend time in Palestine to learn the facts. And, while I agree with your critique of Benjamin Netanyahu, the truth is that these unjust conditions flourished freely under every Israeli party in power -- since Israel's inception.

You wrote that the Israelis who will come to your performance will agree with your critique of Israeli society. I am not sure who those Israelis are. The Israelis I know who stand for justice are adhering to the call for BDS and will not be at your performance as a result of their principled, ethical stand. Again, BDS is a call for Israel to be held accountable to the most fundamental values of decency and fairness.

The reality is that your playing in Israel will only give fuel to the anti-democratic forces. You are not simply a world-famous singer; you are also known as a world-famous fighter for justice. Your presence in Israel can have no effect but to promote long-standing policies I have no doubt you abhor.

From the bottom of my heart, I hope you will decide not to perform in Israel at this moment in history. I feel confident you will not regret that decision.

Sincerely yours,
Donna Nevel