(9 April 2011) What do the hip hop artists Malikah, Nato Caliph, Sharif “The Truth,” and BirD, all have in common? Well they are all on facebook (links provided) and they are also all slated to perform in the Universal Beatz U.S. – Mideast Hip Hop Exchange Week from April 10-17 (2011) in St. Louis, Mo.
These four artists share something else in common, all four were ready to boycott the event for the following reason:
Universal Beatz, had included Marvin Casey of the Dance Troop, Tribe 13 in the lineup of performers at the event. The zionist “Jewish Agency for Israel” sponsors this group, and the goals of the group are to promote and assist the immigration of Jews from around the world to Israel while concurrently denying the right of Palestinian refugees exiled from their homes and lands from returning. Today, the “Jewish Agency for Israel” continues to deny Palestinians the use of land in Israel and is connected to the initiative, “Brand Israel,” which seeks to divert worldwide focus away from Israel’s racist policies of segregation and apartheid by attempting to “brand” Israel as a beacon of scientific achievement and cultural diversity.
Universal Beatz, decided to dis-invite Marvin Casey of the Israeli Tribe 13 group, but only after a campaign was launched that included some members of the St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee (the STL-PSC), and Anna Baltzer (National Organizer for the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation). A big part of the campaign, and probably the most significant part, was to get the bands to sign to boycott the event.
In a statement by hip hop artist Excentrik, BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanctions) is explained:
The whole point of the ‘Brand Israel’ campaign is to further normalize the general public’s view of Israel, to soften it in the eyes of the next generation. They utilize artists like Casey to display a fantastical dream world of tolerance, peace, democracy and diversity that is simply an illusion. The reality of apartheid, systematic displacement, ethnic cleansing, war crimes, house demolitions and illegal occupation are simply washed over if we, as artists and public activists, do not honor the BDS movement.
But Universal Beatz, citing that they want to create an event that is apolitical, also banned the members of the St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee from attending the event. The STL-PSC responded to this with:
(The) STL-PSC rejects the notion that art can ever transcend politics in the context of gross injustice, but we whole-heartedly agree that welcoming any official Israeli cultural institution that is complicit with Israel’s discriminatory state policies is in itself a highly political act and should be recognized as such.
Guy Seemann, the Israeli organizer for Tribe 13 and Marvin Casey, has other plans, he tells the Jewish Agency for Israel that “I want us to be Israel’s new oleh dance group so when there is a city or cultural event they will bring us in to perform. I’ve been working with the Jewish Agency for couple years on how to improve the situation for new olim when they come to the country.”
Universal Beatz has been contacted for the details on their initial inclusion of Tribe 13, but at publishing time no response had been issued.
11 April 2011, Director of Educational programming Kate Demming for Universal Beatz contacted FreeMedia, She states that Excentrik was not a part of hip hop exchange week, and was not slated to perform in it. She also shares that Universal Beatz invited Marvin Casey because they had personal connections with him, being that he is from St. Louis and now lives in Israel. She states that Marvin Casey claims to be “very open to and excitied about the prospect of working with and learning from Palestinian artists.”
Marvin Casey, does not need to return to St. Louis in order to work with and learn from Palestinian artists, he can find them within the occupied territories, in Gaza, and east Jerusalem. Although some of the indigenous Palestinian artists are in jail, if he truly was so open to “learning” from Palestinians he might start by not supporting the Jewish Agency for Israel.