Score one for BDS

The movement pulls off a victory as Western Sahara diva Aziza Brahim pulls out of Jerusalem’s Sacred Music Festival.

Aziza Brahim (photo credit: Courtesy)
Aziza Brahim
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The international movement to boycott, divest, sanction and ultimately delegitimize the State of Israel was dealt a major setback last month when American Jewish reggae and hip-hop star Matisyahu faced down the organizers of the Rototom Sunsplash festival in Benicassim, Spain, and was reinvited to perform there after his show had been canceled.
But overlooked in the controversy was the BDS victory closer to home – when Sahrawi singer and percussionist Aziza Brahim pulled out of Jerusalem’s Sacred Music Festival, held here this week. Brahim had been slated to perform at the Tower of David on September 2.
In July the Sahrawi singer posted an announcement on her Facebook page saying: “I’ve decided to cancel my concert at the Jerusalem Sacred Music Festival.
I want to express sincerely my followers’ understanding, support and the respect in which most of them have shown their opinions.”
Brahim’s decision to pull out of the festival followed an Internet campaign by Freedom Support, which describes itself as “a blog to support the Sahrawi people in their struggle for independence.
“We are asking Aziza Brahim to respect the Palestinian call for a cultural boycott of Israel. Initiated in 2005, the BDS campaign is a call endorsed by the great majority of Palestinian civil society to pressure Israel into ceasing its systematic oppression of Palestinians and abide by their legal right to self-determination and independence.
After 67 years of denying such rights, with thousands of Palestinians massacred and millions remaining refugees, Israel has been accused of committing genocide and crimes against humanity.
Like the indigenous Sahrawi people, Palestinians also have been awaiting justice, freedom and the realization of their rights since 1948,” the Freedom Support blog posted.
Saying that the Tower of David is located in “occupied east Jerusalem,” the blog claimed that the festival is “trying the exploit her name for political goals; it is to legitimize the Israeli brutal occupation of the Palestinian land and embellish the hideous face of the State of Israel.”
The BDS victory in getting Brahim to cancel this gig follows a similar campaign in 2013 when Malian singer Salif Keita was persuaded not to perform.
Aziza Brahim was born in 1976 in a refugee camp in western Algeria’s Tindouf region. The camps were established following the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara in 1975. The people of the former Spanish colony, known as Sahrawis, reject Moroccan rule and consider the Rabat regime of King Mohammed VI to be an occupier. Some 165,000 Sahrawi refugees live in Algeria, while a further 26,000 fled south to Mauritania. The refugee camps are governed by Polisario, which is part of the government in exile of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.
Partly educated in Cuba, Brahim won a Sahrawi national music competition in 1995 and launched a singing and acting career. She has recorded four albums, most recently her 2014 CD Soutak.
In Brahim’s “Hijo de les Nubes” (Song of the Clouds), she sings about the 2,400-kilometer fortified barrier Morocco has built to prevent the Sahrawi refugees from returning.
“The songs I write are based on my own suffering,” explains Brahim, “but they are also a reflection of the suffering of my people. Those living in the refugee camps, under occupation or in exile.”