The Music World Goes Anti-Israel
I finally got around to reading a series of articles—open in my browser for sometime now—on international artists [not] performing in Israel. And in an attempt to post a balanced piece I read a bunch more. It seems to me that there is simply no decision made in, around or about Israel and the West Bank that isn’t political, intentionally or otherwise. Here’s a rundown of the past couple of months and the long list of high-profile artists that have, consciously or not, become political pawns, for one side or the other.
The latest spate in cultural boycotts of Israel have been linked by some to the flotilla incident, in which Israeli military engaged with a fleet of aid vessels, carrying supplies to Gaza. Footage (below) captured and smuggled out of Israel, by a New York-based documentary filmmaker raises serious questions about the use of “proportionate force” by the Israeli military, against the fleet dubbed ‘the Gaza Freedom flotilla’.
Since the incident, Pro-Palestinian Activist groups have campaigned hard for international artists, slated for Summer performances in Israel, to cancel/boycott. Some articles like this one hosted by pro-Israeli blog FrontPage.com seem destined to be one-sided. However, they, along with other Israeli media, make some fair points.
The well-publicised cancellation of Elvis Costello’s appearances was labeled by some Israeli press as hypocritical and, after reading Costello’s statement, their reasoning is clear. Despite insinuating an apolitical stance, Costello’s cancelation and ensuing statement were, by their nature and delivery, charged with political intent.
The promoter for the Costello shows, Alive Productions posted this in reply:
“Back in February, when you confirmed the performances in Israel, you were surely aware of the situation in the Middle East, and the existing long conflict between the two nations with different wants and dreams. You are probably familiar with the history and the global reality that we in Israel are confronted with…”
Statements issued by other bands, like The Pixies, walked a finer diplomatic line. And some tried to sit on the fence. But as Leonard Cohen found out, choosing to perform in Israel and the West Bank, means making enemies in both.
Prior to Cohen’s scheduled performance in the West Bank, The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel told the Guardian:
“Ramallah will not receive Cohen as long as he is intent on whitewashing Israel’s colonial apartheid by performing in Israel.”
The official reasons for canceling vary, but the following bands have all canceled performances in Israel since the flotilla incident: Elvis Costello, The Pixies, Klaxons, Gorillaz.
The history of the cultural boycott on Israel hasn’t been limited to musicians. Rob Harris cites other well-known celebrities like Jane Fonda, Danny Glover, David Byrne (formerly of Talking Heads), Harry Belafonte, Naomi Klein, Noam Chomsky, and [surprisingly] John Pilger as signatories on a letter responding to the Toronto Film Festival’s decision to include Tel Aviv as a theme of interest, stating, “Intentionally or not [the festival] has become complicit in the Israeli propaganda machine.”
However, perhaps the most balanced explanation of the boycott campaign was offered by Independent Palestinian MP, Mustafa Barghouti, who told the Guardian:
“This is not boycotting the Jewish people, or the Israeli people, it is boycotting the occupation. More and more people are convinced that something should be done and the peaceful and non-violent way to do it is by boycott, divestment and sanctions.”
A number of artists including Metallica, Elton John, Kool and the Gang, Rod Stewart, Placebo, Editors, Rhianna, and Diana Krall (Costello’s wife) have not cancelled shows.
The final word goes to Melbourne Film Festival Chief Executive, Richard Moore, who echoes my personal stance, stating, “We will not participate in a boycott against the State of Israel, just as we would not contemplate boycotting films from China or other nations involved in difficult long-standing historical disputes.”
I’m very interested in learning more about the on-going situation in Gaza and its affect on entertainment and indie culture, both at a local level and internationally. Please post your thoughts.