Writers, activists said a performance would help “whitewash Israel's practices”

Tabla maestro Zakir Hussain has called off a series of performances scheduled to be held in Israel later this month, in the wake of an appeal made by 85 artistes, writers and activists.

The Indian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (INCACBI) had appealed to Mr. Hussain ‘as an artiste of conscience' to cancel the scheduled performance since it would “lend a stamp of approval to Israeli policies of colonialism, apartheid and occupation.”

Ethical concerns

INCACBI has questioned Israel's admittance into the global cultural arena when it “does not respect international law and recognise the Palestinian people's right to freedom, equality and justice.” The forum urged him to reflect upon the “ethical implications” of performing in Israel, which would help “whitewash Israel's practices.”

INCACBI was formed in 2010 in India, in response to the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. It contributes to international pressure on the country to abandon military aggression, legal discrimination and persecution against Palestinians.

Writer and activist Githa Hariharan, member of INCACBI, told The Hindu that Mr. Hussain calling off the tour was “great news” and that all his fans would be glad to hear. She said writer Vikas Swarup had also cancelled his visit to Israel in May for an international writers' festival.

Thanking Mr. Hussain on their Facebook page, INCACBI said: “No artist can create or perform without paying attention to the injustice in the world around him, or the bravery of people's struggles such as the one in Palestine. As someone who makes wonderful music, we are happy you have remembered this.”

The petition was signed by several writers, artists, film-makers and theatrepersons, including Gargi Sen, Githa Hariharan, Dhruv Sangari, Vidya Rao, Saeed Mirza, Sudanwa Deshpande, M.K. Raina, N. Pushpamala, Ram Rahman, Amar Kanwar, Sheba Chhachhi, Saba Hasan, Ayisha Abraham and Anand Patwardhan.

However, according to the entry on the Facebook page of concert organiser Avshalom Farjun, Mr. Hussain has “postponed” his visit because of safety concerns, as per the communication received from him. It says his proposed visit to Israel met with opposition and he received appeals to cancel it in person and via an online petition bearing the signatures of more than 85 Indian artists.

The communication from the maestro's manager, according to Mr. Farjun's post, also mentioned the decision to cancel the programme was difficult for a man who believed that “music is the universal language of peace” and hoped to visit Israel later.

Last February, the maestro performed at a solidarity concert and a fundraising event here to develop music therapy programmes for Palestinian refugee children.

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