Friday, June 10, 2011

Statement on Malek Jandali and the ADC Convention

For more than one decade, I have worked closely with the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC). My earliest political activism includes organizing protests with ADC at the Israeli Embassy. After the tragic attacks of September 11, I helped organize a letter from Jewish-Americans to ADC pledging our support to stand against the emerging anti-Arab and anti-Muslim backlash.

As the National Advocacy Director of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, I have worked with ADC—an important member of our coalition—on innumerable initiatives and campaigns to challenge U.S. support for Israeli occupation and apartheid. I have worked with ADC to promote Palestinian self-determination, including organizing with ADC one of the largest-ever demonstrations in U.S. history in support of Palestinian human rights to mark the 40th anniversary of Israel’s illegal military occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip.

I have spoken before at ADC conventions. I am scheduled to speak at this year’s convention on the subject of boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS). I am a dues-paying member of ADC and I count many former and current ADC employees as trusted colleagues and valued personal friends.

It is within this context that I wish to express my deep disappointment that ADC asked Malek Jandali not to perform his song Watani Ana (I Am My Homeland) at this year’s convention. Jandali’s hauntingly beautiful composition is an anthem for the Arab Spring and movingly encapsulates the desire for freedom that animates the spirit of millions of Arabs to risk their lives to protest nonviolently against anti-democratic and tyrannical regimes—often backed fully by the United States—that have for far too long deprived Arabs of their human rights.

In my personal opinion, Jandali’s performance of Watani Ana at this year’s convention is not only completely appropriate but absolutely necessary.

I fully understand that some of ADC’s membership is concerned about the type of regimes that may emerge in the aftermath of revolutions that topple long-standing dictatorships. However, I believe that no division of political opinion should prevent an artist from performing a song that speaks to the noblest ambitions of humankind.

After the downfall of apartheid, former South African President Nelson Mandela once stated that “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.” I would very humbly add that after the inevitable crumbling of Israeli occupation and apartheid, Palestinian freedom will be incomplete without freedom becoming firmly implanted throughout the Arab world.

I look forward to the day when ADC is able provide a forum at its convention for performers to take a clear and unequivocal stand against all Arab dictatorships suppressing freedom, and I will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with ADC, with all Arab-Americans, and everyone who is working for a Middle East with freedom, justice, and equality for all.

Josh Ruebner