INTERVIEW: The BDS Movement is a form of censorship

By June 29, 2015Article
By Rachel Avraham
The whole purpose of music, theater, and art is to express oneself and to share ones creation with people across the entire world.  For this reason, the very nature of music, theater and art knows no national borders. Thus, any movement to separate actors, artists and musicians from their fans is the anti-thesis of the whole purpose of artistic creation.In an exclusive interview with JerusalemOnline, Jill Hoyt, director of the Creative Community for Peace, an entertainment industry organization that promotes the arts as a means of promoting peace and works to counter the cultural boycott of Israel, stressed that supporters of a cultural boycott of Israel seek to exploit artists in order to advance their own political agenda and “to silence or punish those that dissent. It is a form of censorship.”Hoyt noted that the BDS Movement to date has not had much success in forcing international artists to cancel their performances in Israel but “they have made a lot of noise and had some effect on influencing the discourse. The majority of artists don’t choose to perform in Israel for political reasons and more often than not, they don’t cancel for political reasons. Performers book shows in Israel for the same reason that they do in other countries around the world — to play for their fans, promote their albums and their music. But when it comes to Israel, artists are thanked for or accused of supporting Israel when they book a show. And they’re thanked for or accused of supporting the boycott if they cancel.”

According to Hoyt, this reality has consequences that adversely affect “the artistic community and artistic freedom, if left unchallenged. For the most part, what artists do is separate and apart from politics and no artist should be arbitrarily attached to the political beliefs of any group. Nor should they be subject to a cultural boycott due to the actions, real or perceived, of its government. It may start with Israel, but it won’t end there.”

“Governments come and go,” Hoyt stressed. “Art and culture create civilizations. During times of great conflict, it is often the cultural and academic exchanges that wave the way for change. In the former Soviet Union, it let to perestroika, glasnost and the end of the Cold War. Art, music, performances, and the people that created them were pivotal elements in opening communication between the US and former USSR. They allowed people to know one another as individuals and see beyond politics and understand one another. We don’t want to create another Iron Curtain of isolation through boycotts and censorship. By keeping the pathways open and getting to know one another, sharing our stories, understanding the narratives, speaking our minds, and having freedom of expression, we can move forward in the direction of mutual understanding and peace.”

For this reason, the Creative Community for Peace advocates that “music, art and culture have the ability to create paths of communication where none existed, to build trust, understanding and compassion, ingredients necessary for a lasting peace. Music and arts create a special space clearly touching our common humanity. For example, last summer, 40,000 people gathered in Tel Aviv’s HaYarkon Park for Justin Timberlake’s first ever performance in Israel. CCFP ran a ‘Let the Music Play’ sweepstakes, giving away five pairs of tickets to the show which was actively promoted in Hebrew, Arabic and English. One of the winners was an Israeli Arab from Um Al Fahm. At the concert were Arabs and Jews, Christians and Muslims, Moroccans, Ethiopians, Russians, and more. Everyone sang together and danced together.  Friendships were made and new bonds were formed. All of us have reasons to be glad that Justin Timberlake rejected the pressure to boycott and perform in Israel.”

“Of course, such events are not a panacea, and music and art by themselves will not create a peace treaty, secure borders, an end to terrorism or an end to extremism,” she noted. “But every concert, every opportunity people have to come together is a step on the path to peace.” It is for this reason that the Creative Community for Peace focuses on promoting artistic freedom and countering the BDS Movement, offering to support artists that perform in Israel and to introduce them to “organizations that bring Palestinians, Israeli Arabs and Israeli Jews together using art, music and other forms of culture for opportunities to collaborate. Because supporters of the boycott put pressure on nearly every artist who schedules a performance or visit to Israel (they are bombarded with letters, messages on social media and more), it is easy for artists to become overwhelmed. We, CCFP, are here to help them, working to rally public support for peace and artistic freedom and coming to the artists’ defense on social media.”

According to Hoyt, the response from the entertainment industry has been enormous: “We have had nearly 30,000 people sign our anti-boycott petition; we have gone from 5,000 to over 60,000 Facebook supporters and growing all the time. Last summer, more than 300 artists and executives signed our ‘CCFP and Friends’ statement supporting peace and the healing power of the arts. Supporters include Sylvester Stallone, Kathy Ireland, Roseanne Barr, Ron Fair, Aaron Sorkin, Ziggy Marley, Kelsey Grammer, and many others. Generally, we have found most artists to be against cultural boycotts and sympathetic to the notion of artistic freedom. When they need support to stand by their principles, we are here to provide that for them.”

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