Open letter to Özcan Deniz and Aslı Enver: “Don’t Entertain Occupation”

Dear Özcan Deniz,

Dear Aslı Enver,

It is with regret that we have learned that you will attend an event in Tel Aviv next month on the back of the popularity of your show, “The Bride from Istanbul” (İstanbullu Gelin), in Israel.

It is distressing enough that your show has been broadcast on Israeli television for the past three years in spite of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement’s long-time calls for a cultural and academic boycott of Israel. Your decision to personally attend an event in Israel in spite of all these boycott calls, however, has distressed to an even greater degree your millions of fans around the world, especially your Palestinian admirers, as well as friends of Palestine.

Let us remind everyone again: BDS, which was formed on 9 July 2005 by Palestinians to oppose the policies of occupation, expulsion and murder that the Israeli state has pursued since its founding, and the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), which is spearheading the movement’s boycott calls in the academic and cultural spheres, are calling for a permanent and consistent boycott of Israel until the country withdraws from the territory it occupied in 1967; ceases its racially discriminative policies against Palestinians with Israeli citizenship; and respects, protects and encourages Palestinian refugees’ right to return to their homeland as part of U.N. Resolution 194.

Since the BDS movement’s founding, thousands of cultural and academic figures have heeded these boycott calls by refusing to permit their films to be shown in Israel, refusing to take the stage in Israel, refusing to collaborate with official Israeli academic and cultural institutions and refusing to attend any worldwide event that is supported by Israel.

As you are no doubt aware, Palestinians have been conducting the “Great March of Return” every Friday since 30 March 2018. In these marches, Palestinians are protesting the complete land, air and sea embargo that Israel has imposed on Gaza since 2008 – thereby turning the area into the world’s largest open prison – with demonstrations along the border. So far, Israeli snipers have killed more than 230 people in these protests and injured thousands more, and this toll rises with every passing Friday. Israel is continuing its reckless assaults without discriminating between children, women, health workers or journalists. On 14 May 2018 alone, 60 Palestinians were killed and another 2,770 injured as Israeli snipers cruelly shot down Palestinians protesting against the United States’ decision to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. As it is, the figures from the last year alone are sufficient to depict the true, murderous face of Israel.

At the same time that Israel is pursuing its campaign of murder, it is also seeking to conceal and remove these policies from the global agenda by using academic and cultural channels as part of a PR operation to give itself the veneer of a normal state. And it is cultural channels that allow Israel to hide its bloody hands. There is no question that your attendance at the event in Tel Aviv will aid Israel’s efforts on this front. After all, Israel will appear like a normal state if it hosts, on the land it is occupying, two stars with millions of fans around the world. Perhaps while you are there, people around the world will see a normal and legitimate country, full of people enjoying themselves, instead of Palestinians who are being murdered, injured or arrested during the Great March of Return. More than that, your Palestinian admirers will also have no chance to see you because of the ongoing siege of Gaza and the apartheid wall in the West Bank.

Based on your pro-Palestinian social posts, we can see that you are aware of Israel’s murderous reality and that you do not condone such actions. Like you, we also believe that Israel is a state that takes aim at children with machine guns. However, we cannot understand how you would support Israel, which is trying to whitewash its war crimes – war crimes in which it does not even spare children – on the arts and culture front. The concerts that you plan to attend on 6 and 7 April come immediately after the anniversary for the Great March of Return, and one can imagine that Israel will again intervene heavily, adding another massacre to its long list. Meanwhile, the stage where you will sing is a part of the occupation that has swallowed up the city of Jaffa, which hosted and nurtured Palestinians for hundreds of years. As Palestinians mourn and bury their loved ones, will you – just a short distance away – be able to act normally, as if nothing is happening? Will you be able to do what it takes to plug your ears to the sounds of the Palestinian people’s screams as you entertain apartheid Israel?

Instead, we call on you to avoid contradicting yourselves and join the caravan of other artists, like Shakira, Lana Del Rey, Roger Waters, Lorde, Elvis Costello and others, who have refused to entertain Israel. We call on you to be the voice of Palestinians and oppositional Jews, to avoid assisting Israel in its efforts to whitewash itself, to refuse permission for the broadcast of “The Bride of Istanbul” in Israel and to reject your invitation to appear in Tel Aviv.

BDS Turkey – BDS48