Below is an open letter to Mercedes Sousa, best known as ‘the voice for the voiceless ones.’ As an outspoken critic of the fascist coup in Argentina she became recognised as a friend of freedom and justice throughout the world. Her planned trip to Israel will permanently destroy that beautiful image of her.

Dear Mercedes Sousa,

We read that you plan to sing in a concert in Israel this fall. We write you to ask you to cancel this visit.

Your voice carries with it the love, the pain and the hopes of decades of struggle against oppression in Latin America. Your songs opened pathways into the heart of many of us–all over the world–to a deeper understanding and communion with the peasants, the workers and the indigenous communities of Latin America. Don’t let your art become the ambassador of oppression, ethnic cleansing, murder and land usurpation by performing in Israel.

We know that you have visited Israel before. However, the Israel you visited then appeared as if it were about to step on the path toward peace. Those hopes for a positive change that you may remember from your last visit have been dashed. Israel is today more than ever an apartheid state, a state committed to the continued violent colonization and ethnic cleansing of the indigenous people of Palestine.

In 2006, virtually all leading Palestinian artists and intellectuals called for a world-wide cultural boycott of Israel, similar to that imposed on apartheid South Africa. To date, many prominent international artists, including Ken Loach, John Berger and Jean-Luc Godard and a few artists’ unions, like the Irish Aosdana, have heeded the Palestinian Call and refused to perform of participate in cultural events in Israel.

If you sing in Israel you will be lending your public image and the moral authority of your art to Israel’s effort to whitewash its increasingly tarnished image as a state that ignores and breaches every principle of international law and tramples upon every human right. You will also violate the Palestinian civil society’s Call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) that demands artists shun Israel until Israel fulfills its obligations under international law. By singing in Israel you will betray your sisters and your brothers everywhere.

As much as we try, our imagination fails us. How will you sing “cuando tenga la tierra” for a state devoted to the expropriation of the land’s peasants, its indigenous communities? Will you let that song become the anthem of the expropriator? How will you sing “honrar la vida” for the pleasure of an audience that sends its young men to destroy the lives of the indigenous communities of Palestine, to demolish their homes, to uproot their olive trees and to expel them from their land?

How will you sing “Hermano dame tu mano” in a state that makes not only different laws for Jews and Palestinians, but also different roads, a state that keeps four million Palestinians effectively caged behind walls and checkpoints, and millions more expelled and not allowed to return. How will you sing “sobreviviendo” in a safe concert hall, half an hour drive from communities laid waste, communities whose thousands of resisting sons and daughters are languishing in military prisons.

How will you sing “Alfonsina y el mar” in a place where Palestinian children are not allowed to see the sea?

Don’t let your voice be sullied with collaboration with this oppression! Don’t sing in Israel! Don’t fail the struggle for freedom and equality in Palestine! Don’t betray the people whose struggle echoes so closely the struggles of the people of Latin America!

We undersign this letter as Jews from all over the world. We sign as Jews because we are worried that you might think that through your visit to Israel you stand in solidarity with us Jews, on account of the terrible history of Jewish persecution in Europe. If this is so, we appreciate the intention, but we cannot appreciate the gesture. We want and welcome being free of fear and free of persecution. But we do not believe in liberation through the oppression of others, nor in salvation by finding another scapegoat. We do not believe in a solidarity that asks that we hate those less privileged. We wish to live in freedom, but together with all humanity, with all people, of all backgrounds, faiths, color and origin, not by becoming ourselves usurpers and persecutors. The colonization and ethnic cleansing of Palestine does not liberate us. On the contrary, it seeks to lock us in a cycle of continuing domination and repression. In performing in Israel, you will not be standing with us, you will be betraying us as well. Please cancel your visit.

Enjoy the following…Cuando tenga la tierra


  1. August 4, 2008 at 15:35

    Several years ago, before light of enlightened thought reached the bottom of the African continent, an organization called “Artists United Against Apartheid” was formed in order to protest the ongoing crimes against humanity being perpetrated by the white South African regime against the black majority over whom they ruled, without the benefit of any legal rights … sort of like the situation that exists in Israel / Palestine today.

    The goal of the Artists United Against Apartheid was to bring to the forefront of the consciousness (of the west) the state of affairs going on in South Africa while people went for luxury vacations to “Sin City” – or “Sun City” – depending on your point of view. “I ain’t gonna sing Sun City” was one of the tracks off of the album “Sun City”, a record produced by the AUAA, a record that I am pleased to say I purchased – for its full cost when it came out (1985) – knowing that the money from the album would be used to fight apartheid (alas only about one million dollars was raised, but apartheid was eventually beaten).

    What we need now is an Artists United Against Zionism – or, more precisely, Artists United for Peace in the Middle East … anything that would demonstrate that we do not support a regime that kills with impunity by using our art to their benefit.

    I have been on several occasions why I have never visited the “Holy Land” – my response remains the same: the land is not for me until it is for all. How can I go to a nation that accepts me as a citizen and denies my brother the same rights?

    We have very few things left in life once we abandon our principles and Israel has demonstrated, on numerous occasions, that their principles are something that they are more than willing to abandon. By targeting the weakest members of society, by intentionally attacking members of the media in brazen attempts to silence the voices of dissent Israel has shown that their lineage stems directly from the practiced brutality of the South African regime; a regime that brutalized its citizens with impunity while the world watched and cried out in protest.

    So long as we in the west continue to support Israel with our money and talents – so long as we continue to remain silent when it comes to allowing our politicians to believe that we WANT them to back this racist, violent junta, nothing will change.

    The will to change must exist on both sides – until then, until there is a genuine desire – no, not desire, hunger – a thirst for change that goes beyond anything else, then it will be possible to solve the problems facing the people of Israel/Palestine. Without that will to change, however, without that unquenchable thirst, nothing of value can come.

    CrazyComposer, Out.

  2. Easterling said,

    August 4, 2008 at 15:51

    The dead have no voice! They are silent for all eternity! Who will sing their songs? Who will tell of their lives cut short by evil insanity? Who sings for the murdered?

    “Imagine no religion. It’s easy if you try. Now hell below us. Above us only sky. Imagine all the people. Living for today. You may think that I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one. Perhaps some day you’ll join us. And the world will live as one.” John Lennon – “Imagine”

  3. fran said,

    August 4, 2008 at 17:13

    Her correct name is Mercedes Sosa.


  4. Gustavo Caldas said,

    August 4, 2008 at 22:51

    I can’t believe that an icon of the progressive left in South America can consider going to sing in Israel.If she does,people with a conscience and a sense of justice should consider boycotting her and not buying her records anymore

  5. scobra said,

    August 4, 2008 at 23:43

    this lady is not even good at music. no wonder she attaches herself to worthy causes – it makes u p for the lousy music.

  6. sydda essop said,

    September 28, 2008 at 11:22

    grew up during apartheid in south africa. I remember how we honoured artists boycotting apartheid south africa. I agree with Gustavo Caldas, if she goes we should boikott her. How sad!

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