Israel-Hamas war: the complicit silence of the music industry, Jeune Afrique

Israel-Hamas war: the complicit silence of the music industry

On June 2, 2020, your publications and profile photos on social networks were tinged with black: you widely shared the hashtag “Blackout Tuesday” to protest against the death of George Floyd, a black man killed by a white American police officer. The question of racism in the United States and its impact on the music industry then came back to the center of discussions. The call to take a stand was widely followed by professionals well beyond American borders. In France, our current colleagues and collaborators had relayed this hashtag and the hashtag Black Lives Matter.

An injustice is an injustice

We remember the discussions around the history of the fight against racism and for civil rights in the United States. Some, including in the rap world, did not know that Black Panther was something other than a film Marvel released in 2018, and seemed to doing a very vague idea of ​​who was Angela Davis. Many knew Martin Luther King through his speech “I have a dream”, but were not aware that one of the cornerstones of his concrete action was a campaign to boycott Montgomery buses.

Overall, music industry professionals, even when they are not very familiar with American racial issues, agree to take a public stand, convinced that an injustice is an injustice. Many black people in this industry have been struggling for a long time and taking action on several fronts, including promoting the richness of their cultural heritage. Without denying that systemic racism is still present and that people from diverse backgrounds struggle to find a place at the top of the industry pyramid, we must congratulate and salute the activists who regularly succeed in relaunching discussions around of the question racism against black people in the professional environment. To denounce police violence, many artists, whether directly concerned or not by the issue, did not hesitate to display their commitment by signing forums, demonstrating, speaking at their concerts and all other possible ways. Thanks, among other things, to this commitment by influential figures, the fight against police brutality has moved beyond the restricted framework of disadvantaged neighborhoods in France to widely affect public opinion.

For years, many artists and players in the music industry have tried, with varying degrees of tact, to keep Palestine in the minds of their colleagues, most often by telling them to refuse to perform in Israel or at events financed or supported by Israeli state organizations. This commitment against colonization, occupation and annexations of territories the palpable even in times of status quo: when no one talks about Palestine anymore, we remain vigilant. We continue to call for a boycott of Israeli stages and to explain the reasons why we are doing so: the boycott is not an end in itself, it is a means. One of the only concrete and non-violent means we have to express our disapproval of Israel's colonial policy, which has reached a new milestone since the religious and supremacist extreme right came to power. We are trying to persuade you that it is neither normal nor trivial to go and perform in Tel Aviv. We are also trying to make you understand that Israel is spending millions of dollars to soften its image in the eyes of the world. When you go there, you contribute – certainly, often in spite of yourself – to maintaining this system of communication which aims to make people forget the policy Israeli, nourished by racist ideology, an ideology that you readily denounce when it comes to the United States.

Good oppressors, bad victims

These calls to take a stand have certainly been more significant among artists and industry players who capitalize on a certain "oriental music" trend, often marked with a strong exotic trait, and even more significant when the said artists are not from of these cultures. Indeed, support is expected from those who enjoy Arab cultural heritage without suffering the pangs of racism and oppression. On October 7, 2023, Palestine violently burst into our lives again, and, above all, in yours. Now you can no longer ignore what is happening. The news reminds you of the Palestinian question, the colonial question, the occupation. We love to travel don't we? We like to broadcast our creations and go on tour to meet de our audience across the world, right? The blockade of Gaza has lasted since 2007. Today, a young Gazan teenager has only ever known this thin strip of land measuring 360 km2, where there is a lack of everything, even when no one talks about it.

This is not a question of delivering a history lesson on Israeli colonization in Palestine. Many of you have an idea. You know it because someone has already told it to you, and you have been asked to position yourself, to act, to challenge your audiences and your collaborators, to challenge your elected officials, in particular those who have recently devoted a lot of energy to denouncing the genocide of the Uyghurs, the repression in Syria, or even to campaign for the reception of refugees in France. We have repeated it to you: one does not exist without the other, there are no good and bad victims any more than there are a good and bad oppressors. You know this, because often “we brought everything back to Palestine”. We know it, we repeat ourselves, we don't give up, we still believe in it, we want things to change and we are ready to be ostracized, and even to give up our careers. We repeat it when no one is talking about it anymore, because we know that if we remain silent, the next time the subject will resurface in an even more dramatic way. And this is precisely what is happening now: we are talking about Palestine again now that Gaza residents are being massacred again.

“A litmus moral test”

A column by Mona Chollet was published on Mediapart on October 29, 2023. It highlights essential reflections, which appeal to those of us who are of Arab, North African culture ou Muslim: is it not, ultimately, the latency of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim racism, which has penetrated the interstices of French society, which gives you so much difficulty in supporting the Palestinians? To put it another way, you like Arabs when they make you dance to raï, eat houmous and when you market their cultures for a career; why does it seem so difficult to support them when they are being massacred in Palestine? You like the descendants of Algerian immigrants when they release rap hits that enrich your majors; why do you have so much difficulty denouncing the colonial policies, the very ones that affected their nation for almost a century? You like rap, techno, reggae, jazz and soul; you know that this music was born precisely from resistance to oppression, from the denunciation of racism and de apartheid; Why do you have so much trouble positioning yourself? We are perplexed to see that organizations created, financed and intended, among other things, to promote the free movement of artists remain silent today in the face of the drama in Gaza, even though the question of freedom of movement is fundamental there.

Palestinian music is increasingly broadcast and many Palestinian artists have made a place for themselves in the international musical landscape. You were able to watch documentaries, read articles that talk about the life and music of Palestinian artists or even attend their concerts at the biggest festivals as well as during more confidential events. Some of you work with Palestinian colleagues in record labels, distribution companies, or on music streaming platforms. Today there is a wide range of tools that you pouvez serve you to talk about Palestine, inform and raise awareness among those around you on this issue and, in doing so, raise awareness more widely about the colonial issue and racism, because, once again, one does not go without the other. So, use it! These tools were built first to support the talent and creativity of Palestinian artists. But also so that, through channels that resemble you, you feel free to use your notoriety as an artist to denounce the oppression suffered by the Palestinian people and thus contribute to giving peace a chance.

Dear colleagues in the music industry, today there is an urgent need to position ourselves with regard to what is happening in Gaza and what is emerging in all of the occupied Palestinian territories. Because, as Angela Davis recently declared, "Palestine is a litmus moral test for le world. »

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