By Tariq Shadid
I feel fortunate that I don’t need to explain to you what the devastating effects of Israel’s expansionist policies have been, and continue to be. You are very well informed, and quite aware of the extensive misery that has befallen our people since the ethnic cleansing of our land in 1948 by Zionist terror organizations, the occupation of 1967, the separation wall, the repressive Apartheid system of the Israeli state, the blockade and repeated bombardment of Gaza, and the continuing persecution of the Palestinians that has been going on for well over 65 years.
I also feel fortunate that at least one of the iconic rock stars of our age has had the courage to speak out like you did, against a course of history that has proven to be destructive to human rights in all possible aspects of life. You are one of the few voices that dare to make themselves heard in a world ruled by the ‘I have nothing to hide but the truth’ adage, in reference to your own words that I heard you speak in your recent interview with the Huffington Post.
In that same broadcast, you made it clear that you are pondering carefully the strategic value of calling upon artists to refrain from performing in Israel. Although you did not say it in so many words, we were given reason to believe that you are reconsidering your stance on this subject, which is why I am writing this open letter to you.
Although it may well be that my words will never reach you, I of course hope that they will, especially in this contemplative phase in which you seem to be finding yourself. What I hope to convey to you, as a Palestinian, is that you issuing a call upon other artists not to perform in Israel is indeed of significant strategic value, and of moral importance.
Please allow me to respectfully observe that you seem to be, rather understandably, underestimating the effect of your own expressions and stances on the issue, and the impact they have had on public perception. The vastness of this problem, and its deep ramifications that even have their effects on the geopolitical decision-making of world politics, make every individual’s efforts seem relatively small and insignificant.
Nevertheless, we must believe that the sum of the efforts of all brave individuals who have the courage to stand up against ongoing injustices, should be able to sort some effect that could have a positive influence on the outcome of this complex paradigm of violence and injustice. Without this belief, brave individuals like yourself would lose their drive to make a difference, and the issue would be left in the hands of those very same currents that have been causing the dire situation that we are facing today.
It is exactly for this reason that I feel compelled to express to you that you are one of those select few who have the potential to empower many other individuals to make courageous steps in the same direction of your firm position of protest against occupation, settlement building and oppression along ethnic lines.
If you should decide to withdraw your call for the artistic boycott of Israel, exactly that which you are afraid of is bound to happen, and I am quoting your own words: “in the long term, have less effect on the outcome”. The reason why I am saying this is that there is no lack of people who oppose the Israeli occupation, in fact, the vast majority of world citizens already oppose and condemn it. This can be seen in practically every UN resolution on the subject, and in the expressions of countless other artists and human rights activists from every corner of the world.
All this opposition has never resulted in anything, that much we can clearly see. None of it, despite its pure intentions and its respectable efforts, has actually risen above the level of some dust in the wind, blown away into oblivion. One of the reasons for this is that true change requires true courage. How much courage does it take to say ‘stop the occupation’, when you already have international law supporting your call, and countless UN resolutions amounting to the same effect? This, dear Roger, is exactly where you are one of the very few among this world’s most prominent artists who is truly making a difference. This is what makes you a unique voice among all those who were merely repeating predictable mantras that have already proven to be a mere journey on a dead end street.
True change requires true courage. You didn’t suddenly whimsically decide to call for a boycott. You were, in fact, thinking clearly and wisely, seeing the necessity of a strong statement, and the importance of sending a clear signal to Israeli Apartheid: the message that continuing its violent and oppressive course would cost it the sympathy of the artists of this world, in a way that could be felt, seen and heard.
There is no doubt in my mind that you would remain a true friend of justice if you decided to withdraw your boycott call. I am not interpreting your careful consideration as some kind of structural change of ideology or position, since you have made it quite clear that your doubts only concern the strategic value of such a move. My message to you is that I ask you to have faith in the original thoughts that led to your stance in support of the boycott, and to come to the full realization that your role in it, in this current time frame, is of crucial importance. The choice to go ahead and issue the boycott call could ‘blow up in your face’, perhaps, and you are worried that you might become someone who, on the long term, has less effect on the outcome. Withdrawing it, however, might very well be a fast short-cut that would put you in those ranks already. You would have as little effect on the outcome as all those others who sympathize with the Palestinian cause, and have chosen words over action. I sincerely doubt that this is where you want to be, and who you aim to be.
Dear Roger, courage is often not the effect of mere cerebral thought and reflection, but mainly the result of passion, the same passion that brought you to musical excellence and stardom, and the same passion that made us recognize you as a genuine supporter of justice. While you consider your options, know that the Palestinian people, in their daily misery, are not waiting for a man of words, but for a man who makes a move that breaks free from all that has gone before and has so far been unable to stem the tide of injustice. A move that the legendary Roger Waters is not beyond making, and will hopefully decide to make.
aka Doc Jazz
– Tariq Shadid is a surgeon living in the Arab Gulf who has been contributing articles to the Palestine Chronicle for many years. Some of these essays have been bundled in the book ‘Understanding Palestine’, which is available on Amazon.com. He also is the founder of the website ‘Musical Intifada’ featuring his songs about the Palestinian cause, on www.docjazz.com. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.