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Patti Smith, Questlove among 600 musicians calling for ‘solidarity with the Palestinian people’

Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello with guitar in hand.
Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello is among the musicians who signed a letter in support of the Palestinian people.
(Jim Watson / AFP via Getty Images)

On Thursday, more than 600 musicians from around the world issued a letter addressing the recent violence between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas and calling on musicians “to publicly assert their solidarity with the Palestinian people.”

The letter, published by the organization Musicians for Palestine, was signed by artists including Patti Smith, Rage Against the Machine, Run the Jewels, Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, the Strokes’ Julian Casablancas, System of a Down’s Serj Tankian, Noname, the Roots’ Questlove and Black Thought, Royce da 5’9" and Cypress Hill.

“As musicians, we cannot be silent. Today it is essential that we stand with Palestine,” the statement says, adding that “we speak together and demand justice, dignity and the right to self-determination for the Palestinian people and all who are fighting colonial dispossession and violence across the planet.” It alleges that the Israeli military has committed war crimes.

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Organizer Stefan Christoff, a Montreal-based musician and community activist, said the letter was the result of a collective effort that tapped his and his peers’ musical networks and focused on the humanity of the situation.

“We wanted to encourage artists to speak together and hopefully through that people would feel courage to speak in support of human rights in Palestine,” Christoph said on the phone from Montreal. “Because an injustice to one is an injustice to all. That’s where we’re coming from.”

The letter follows a series of statements from individual artists concerned about the long-running conflict. In a May 11 Instagram post, Rage Against the Machine posted an image of a mosque and the caption, “The violence and atrocities we are witnessing in Sheikh Jarrah, the Al Aqsa compound and Gaza are a continuation of decades of Israel’s brutal apartheid and violent occupation of Palestine. We stand with the Palestinian people as they resist this colonial terror in all its forms.”

On Facebook, System of a Down’s Tankian, long an advocate for Armenian causes, wrote, in part, “As an artist and activist from a nation of genocide survivors I empathize with the oppressed people of Palestine pummeled by Israeli Occupation.”

Other signees include respected independent artists and producers Sarah Davachi, Ozomatli, Alan Bishop (Sun City Girls), William Tyler, Amber Coffman, Claudio Parra González, Thurston Moore, Bun B, Heba Kadry, Nicolas Jaar and Pharoahe Monch.

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The organization’s cause is one for which Pink Floyd’s Waters in particular has long advocated. He has called for a cultural boycott of Israel in the face of what signatories of the new letter call its “legacies of systemic violence, racism and dispossession shaped by colonialism.”

Christoff adds that the open letter is focused solely on the Israeli bombings and the ways in which the occupation of the West Bank affects Palestinian people. “We’re trying to highlight the humanity and the injustices that Palestinian people are facing, and we think it’s time for us to be honest collectively, on a global level, about what that actually looks like.” Adds Christoph, “Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have made that clear many times.”

Thursday’s letter concludes with a call for all musicians to add their signatures and refuse “to perform at Israel’s complicit cultural institutions, and by standing firm in your support of the Palestinian people and their human right to sovereignty and freedom. We believe this is crucial to one day live in a world without segregation and apartheid.”

Currently, Israel and Hamas are in the midst of a tenuous ceasefire brokered last week by Egyptian and American officials. Eleven days of violence killed more than 240 Palestinians, and Hamas-launched rockets killed a dozen people in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.


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