The American singer, songwriter, and activist had been scheduled to perform at the annual Friends of the Israeli Defence Forces (FIDF) Western Region Gala at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles on December 6.
The FIDF raises money for the Israeli military, but masquerades as “a non-profit organization which has been operating in the United States for 31 years” serving families of fallen soldiers. Apparently, the gala “has become a tradition and a must-attend event for the Los Angeles Jewish community.”
Now, what was Stevie Wonder thinking when he agreed to perform for one of the world’s most vicious occupying armies in the first place? Isn’t he a “longtime human rights advocate” arrested in 1985 for protesting South African apartheid? Isn’t he known “an outspoken supporter of racial justice and civil rights in the United States”? Was it the money? The event was a $1,000-a-head fundraiser.
Most importantly, Stevie Wonder is a United Nations “messenger of peace”? Last Thursday, UN overwhelmingly voted to recognize a Palestinian state. The U.S., Canada, Israel and a few non-consequential countries voted against.
“Given the current and very delicate situation in the Middle East, and with a heart that has always cried out for world unity, I will not be performing at the FIDF Gala,” the singer said in statement to Reuters. “I am and have always been against war, any war, anywhere.”
What a load of nonsense! Wonder would have performed for the IDF right after Israel’s 8-day “Operation Pillar of Cloud” bombardment of Gaza, which reportedly killed at least 170 Palestinians, including more than 30 children.
But Wonder is not the only culprit here. Legendary American singer and actress Barbara Streisand performed at the FIDF’s 2011 gala. The year before, it was Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli.
Nevertheless, I’m glad Steve Wonder felt the sting. And I envy the brains behind the personal, emotive and fact-based petitions.
“You were arrested in 1985 protesting South African Apartheid, now we ask you: please remember that apartheid is apartheid, whether it comes from White Afrikaaner settlers of South Africa or from Jewish Israelis in Israel,” the petition posted on change.org read. “Desmond Tutu has recognized that Israel’s Apartheid is worse than South Africa’s — will you stand with us against apartheid and cancel your performance at the IDF fundraiser.”
As an introduction to its“We Just Called to Say, Don’t Entertain Apartheid!” petition, the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation reminded Stevie Wonder about his arrest in South Africa and past work as a supporter of racial justice and civil rights. “Please be that messenger of peace by refusing to entertain or fundraise for a military that continues to systematically oppress an entire population,” the petition letter read.
Below is the full text:
Dear Stevie Wonder,
We are a diverse group of people of conscience and social justice organizations around the world, saddened by the announcement that you will be performing and helping to raise money for the Israeli army next Thursday, December 6th, at the LA Friends of the IDF Annual Gala.
In 1985, you showed the world that you opposed Apartheid in South Africa when you were arrested protesting the Apartheid regime and in your song, “It’s Wrong (Apartheid).” Now, 27 years later, we wish to say: Apartheid is still wrong.
Today, the Israeli army is enforcing a system that South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu has described as even worse than Apartheid in South Africa. And 15 years ago this week, Nelson Mandela himself said: “we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”
Israel’s illegal military occupation denies the fundamental human rights of Palestinians through a system of segregated roads, buses, legal systems, and more. Palestinian homes, schools, hospitals, and entire villages are demolished to clear areas for Israeli Jewish-only settlement. Thousands of Palestinians are held without charge and tortured in Israeli prisons, including children. Palestinian olive groves are razed, burned, or confiscated. Palestinians inside Israel are prohibited from living on the vast majority of the land because they are not Jewish, while millions more Palestinians are forced to live in exile. And the 1.7 million Palestinian men, women, and children in Gaza live under constant fear of U.S.-funded drones, missiles, and tanks that have wrought death and devastation, including in the army’s recent attacks on Gaza that killed more than 130 Palestinians, most of them civilians.
Three years ago, you were designated a “Messenger of Peace” by the United Nations. November 29th — one week before your scheduled performance — is the UN’s International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. Please be that messenger of peace by refusing to entertain or fundraise for a military that continues to systematically oppress an entire population.
Please continue your legacy of speaking out for the oppressed. Please be a “full-time lover” of justice by standing on the right side of history and canceling your performance for the Israeli army.
Photo via: Rolling Stone