Dear Oumou Sangaré,
We recently learned that you plan to perform in Tel Aviv on December 9. As an artist who has long used her music and fame to speak out in defense of human rights, we are writing to urge you to cancel your concert in Israel, a country responsible for the oppression of the Palestinian people, forced to live under occupation, apartheid and as refugees for decades now.
For human rights we know to be dear to your heart, Israel has shown no regard. Palestinians are denied the most basic of these rights such as freedom of movement and access to housing, water, education and healthcare. They live under Israeli policies described by the international organization Human Rights Watch as “inherently discriminatory and that violate international law .” In Gaza, they live under siege and in constant terror of a repeat of Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli attack that killed over 1400 Palestinians, 352 of which were children . Palestinian refugees are denied their right of return as guaranteed by international law and recognized in UN resolution 194.
As a champion of women’s rights, we don’t have to tell you know that it is Palestinian women who bear a disproportionate share of the burden of life under Israeli occupation. A study by the distinguished British medical journal, The Lancet, shows that “10% of pregnant Palestinian women were delayed at checkpoints every year from 2000 to 2007, while travelling to give birth in hospital .”
Illegal Israeli restrictions on movement, residency and entry prevent families from living together. The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions estimates that over 24,000 Palestinian structures, including houses, schools and healthcare facilities, were demolished by Israeli authorities between 1967 and 2010 .
Many women are left to raise their children alone, as husbands and fathers are held in Israeli prisons, often without charge. But it is not only men that Israel detains. Since 1967, an estimated 10,000 Palestinian women have been arrested and/or detained under Israeli military orders  and there are currently 164 Palestinian children being held in Israeli prisons according to Unicef .
These violations of human rights and dignity simply would not be possible without the complicity of the international community. It was precisely this failure on the part of the international community and institutions that led 170 Palestinian civil society organizations to call for a campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law . The campaign takes inspiration from the boycotts that helped end apartheid in South Africa and has the support of people of conscience around the world, leading state pension funds to divest, universities to sever ties, consumers to check the labels and Nobel prize laureates to publicly express their support.
The growing list of artists who have canceled performances in Israel includes Elvis Costello, Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, Carlos Santana, August Burns Red, the late Gil Scott Heron, Gorillaz Sound System, The Pixies, Vanessa Paradis and Devandra Banhart. Just last month, international star Natacha Altas canceled her concert, stating, “[A]fter much deliberation I now see that it would be more effective a statement to not go to Israel until this systemised apartheid is abolished once and for all.”
It is with the understanding that Israel will continue its human rights violations as long as it enjoys impunity and is treated as a normal, civilized, democratic State, that we call on you to cancel your concert in Tel Aviv. Just as artists refused to perform in Sun City during the boycotts of apartheid South Africa, we call on you to refuse to perform in Israel.
You once said, “I speak of the women of Africa and of the whole world. I fight for the improvement of women’s situation. So I sing her cause.” We ask you to continue singing for her cause, the mother, wife, sister and daughter, but not in the country whose very policies deny Palestinian women the rights you have fought so hard to defend.
As one of the few to have had the honor of performing at the ceremony for the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we simply cannot see you performing just a few kilometers away from where millions are suffering under oppression.
Please honor the Palestinian women who struggle to defend their rights, as well as your music, which has given hope to so many people, by cancelling your concert in Israel.
Please do not hesitate to contact us for more information and we look forward to your response.
BDS Italy is a national collective of civil society groups, associations, NGOs, trade unions and political parties endorsing the 2005 Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.
 Separate and Unequal, December 19, 2010
 Defence for Children International lists them by name: http://www.dci-
 Childbirth at checkpoints in the occupied Palestinian territory, July 5, 2011
 Statistics on House Demolitions (1967-2010) http://www.icahd.org/?page_id=5508
 UNICEF Appeals for Release of Palestinian Child Detainees
 Introducing the BDS Movement http://www.bdsmovement.net/bdsintro
– Facebook page for the international campaign: http://tinyurl.com/5tfd6ed
– Facebook page for Oumou Sangaré: http://tinyurl.com/66n2h72
– Letter from BDS France (in French): http://tinyurl.com/5sk2j6f
– Letter from Don’t Play Apartheid Israel: http://tinyurl.com/6gpowbd
[DS added the video.]
One Family in Gaza – a heart wrenching testimony