It’s been almost two months since Hamas’ devastating attacks on Israel, which saw the killing of around 1,200 people and taking over 200 people hostage. In retaliation Israel began bombarding the Gaza strip, which had been under blockade since 2007. The bombing has reportedly killed over 14,000 people, including over 5,000 children.
As the violence has spiralled, schools, hospitals and bakeries have been targeted by the Israeli Defense Force. Across the world, millions have taken to the streets to demand an end to the slaughter. Young people have evengathered in online spaces to demonstrate and call for a free Palestine.
As protests have developed, the rhetoric around them has deteriorated. In Britain, recently departed home secretary Suella Braverman referred to historic marches calling for a ceasefire as ‘hate marches’ with some arguing her comments incited far-right violence at the cenotaph on the morning of Armistice day. Politicians of all stripes have added to the noise, as things have reached fever pitch.
Cultural figures across the world have spoken out in favour of the Palestinian cause, with many facing damning repercussions. Just yesterday Academy award winning actress Susan Surandon was dropped by her talent agency. Others have faced similar reprisals. Some have refused to comment on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza which Israeli Holocaust Scholar Raz Segal has labelled “a textbook case of Genocide”.
British musicians Sleaford Mods stopped a concert in Madrid after a ‘Palestinian Flag/Scarf’ was thrown onto the stage multiple times by a fan demanding to know what the band's take on the crisis was. The band, who have been outspoken critics of the Conservative government, took to Twitter to say “Don’t be asking me to pick sides for something I ain’t got any real idea about, at a gig. I’m a singer. My job is music..”
They later issued a clarifying statement explaining the tweet was due to frustrations with interruptions of their show, stating the cumulative effect of 80 minutes of disruptions was “distracting and upsetting”, asserting that the band is “horrified by the killing in Gaza and in Israel” before calling for an end to all the killing.
It is within this context that over 1,200 musicians, artists and performers have signed an open letter demanding a permanent ceasefire in Gaza.
Little Mix’s Jade Thirlwall, Sam Fender, Becky Hill, Paloma Faith, Fontaines D.C., Big Zuu, Rag N Bone Man, Declan McKenna, Seán Ono Lennon, IDLES, Ghetts, Bob Vylan, MNEK, Primal Scream and Alfie Templeman are among the names to add their names to the open letter organised by Peace & Justice Project.
The letter, titled Music for a Ceasefire was convened by Samuel Sweek who told Huck, “For decades, music and the arts have been instrumental in uniting people for the cause of peace. That is why we launched the Music For A Ceasefire open letter, calling on world leaders to support an immediate ceasefire in Gaza to end the violence and destruction that has brutally taken the lives of over 14,000 innocent people.”
Launch signatories for the letter included Clean Bandit, Enter Shikari, NOAHFINNCE, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Architects and The Last Dinner Party.
Rou Reynolds, lead singer of Enter Shikari spoke to Huck over email as the band embarked on a European tour. “I support a ceasefire because quite simply, I support civilian life. I support people’s right to exist.” Reynolds stated, on the band’s decision to sign the letter.
“With every day there isn’t a ceasefire, more innocent people are killed. With everyday there isn’t a ceasefire, hundreds of thousands of people in Gaza live without sufficient access to food, shelter, and even water, the fundamental commodity for life. With every day there isn’t a ceasefire, diarrhoeal disease spreads, and a public health crisis develops that will no doubt be as deadly as the violence itself.”
Gabrielle Aplin is another high profile musician who has chosen to sign the letter. Her cover of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s The Power of Love went to the top of the UK singles Chart in 2012 when it featured on the John Lewis Christmas advert. She told Huck, “I signed the open letter calling for a ceasefire, very simply because I believe that civilians should never be caught up in conflict. It sends a clear message as an industry and as a community of artists that we stand for peace and we want to make that very clear to our leaders. We are all using the platforms we have to come together.”
The signatories of the letter include hundreds of up and coming musicians who do not necessarily have the backing of major record labels to protect them but are still speaking out. Holly Henderson is one of those musicians. She told Huck, “One of the duties we have as artists is to tell stories, shine light on moments in our society that will stand the test of time, and provide a unique dialogue. Dialogue through art has been an essential catalyst for positive change in social issues for thousands of years. We’re seeing a genocide happen before us, this is one of the only ways we can use our voices to create awareness, and create the pressure needed to convince our government to finally do the right thing.”
The letter comes as the UK parliament refused to back calls for a ceasefire last week in an amendment put down by the Scottish National Party. Labour leader Keir Starmer whipped his MPs to vote against it, forcing a number of shadow cabinet ministers to resign. Despite this, in the House of Commons there were passionate advocates calling for a ceasefire from opposition benches. One of those such advocates was ex-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who founded the Peace & Justice Project.
Speaking to Huck the MP for Islington North said, “Every person killed in Gaza has a name, a face and a story. Their death is a future stolen by the inaction of politicians. It’s a disgrace that so many British MPs ignored the voices of Palestinians asking for help when this issue came to Parliament. History will judge those who failed to vote for a ceasefire when they had the opportunity.”
Calls for a ceasefire have been international, with performers, artists and musicians from across the world signing the letter. Irish band Kneecap are one such band who have long used their voices to campaign against injustice and oppression. They told Huck “Irish artists have always used their voices to speak to power, to challenge it, to stand up for the oppressed and the downtrodden. We know that better than anyone, as a band from the North of Ireland, a place where our families were denied basic rights and treated as second class citizens. The oppression of the Palestinian people is a stain on humanity and we as Kneecap will do all we can to assist them,” before ending their statement with, “Free Palestine. Free Ireland.”
This morning, a temporary four day ceasefire in Gaza is on the table, with the Knesset last night voting through a deal that would see the release of 50 Israeli hostages for the return of 150 Palestinian women and teenagers held in Israeli jails. Despite this, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu has stated, “We are at war, and we will continue the war. We will continue until we achieve our goals”.
For many, this intention to continue the destruction in Gaza will be devastating, but those fighting for peace say we must not give up hope. Ending his statement to Huck Shikari’s Rou Reynolds stated, “It’s important for us to use our voice, even though it may be small, in order to help combat the ugly, diluted, and tribalised lens through which much of this conversation takes place. It's so easy to get caught up in the emotion of it all and not see a rational route out. But for those who are lucky enough not to be directly caught up in the conflict, we must do our best to help illuminate the road toward peace.”
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