Musicians: Boycotting Israel Fans the Flames of Conflict
Steve Schnur and David Renzer
Brian Eno is just the latest BDS activist using untruths and misinformation to prey on musicians and artists’ natural affinity for those perceived as victimized.
On November 17th, Vice published a piece by Brian Eno and Ohal Grietzer calling for musicians to boycott Israel “until Palestinians are free.” The piece is the latest attempt by the boycott divestment sanctions movement, also known as BDS, to gain legitimacy by preying on musicians’/artists’ natural affinity for those perceived as victimized, and appealing to a call for “human rights” for the Palestinians.
While we have sympathy for all of those that are downtrodden, unfortunately, these musicians and artists have fallen prey to a narrative that is filled with untruths and distortions and that has its basis in the BDS movement’s lack of support of ‘two states for two peoples.’ Indeed, the boycott movement’s founder and other central BDS leaders have said “they oppose a Jewish State in any of part of Palestine,” and their definition of Palestine includes all of Israel.
Let’s address some of the familiar accusations and examine why they don’t hold water.
The first accusation is that Israel is an “apartheid” state. Anyone who has been to Israel knows that it is a western style democracy (indeed the only one in the region) and by definition cannot be considered “apartheid.” Arabs make up approximately 20 percent of the citizens living within Israel and have always had the right to vote, and the right to a free press. Further, Arab Israelis serve in Israel’s parliament (the Knesset) and serve in Israel’s court system. Indeed one of the judges who convicted former Israeli President Katsav was George Karra, an Arab Israeli.
Just as America grapples with Ferguson and charges of racial discrimination, there may be instances of injustice to Arabs that occur in Israel. However to try to brand Israel as an “apartheid” state is simply untrue and libelous. It is also important to note that Arabs living in the West Bank are governed by the Palestinian Authority, while Arabs living in Gaza are governed by Hamas.
Further inflammatory language used by Eno includes charges that the Palestinians are the areas only “indigenous people” and have been “ethnically cleansed.” It doesn’t require much study of history to know the Jews have a long history of living in Israel, including having Jewish populations not just in Jerusalem, but in many cities claimed by the Palestinians (Hebron, Jaffa, and others). The term “ethnically cleansed” is patently false and inflammatory.
Perhaps most troubling is the timing of this piece and of the call for boycotting Israel when terrorism is striking at western democracies around the world.
Why is it acceptable to only blame one side in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and fail to question why Palestinians have rejected various peace offers dating from 1948 to the more recent offer of former Prime Minister Olmert? Why is it acceptable for Palestinians and their leadership to take no responsibility for inciting terrorist attacks? Why are they not holding their own governments responsible for lack of elections, and supporting a government in Gaza whose charter calls for the destruction of the State of Israel? This gives a “free pass” to behavior that those who support democratic values should question.
We believe that music and the arts can indeed build bridges and should not be used as a political weapon if conditions don’t justify. That’s why artists, including Alicia Keyes, Jon Bon Jovi, the Rolling Stones, Rihanna, Enrique Iglesias, Justin Timberlake, Justin Bieber, and many others continue to perform in Israel for audiences that can include Israeli Arabs, Christians, Muslims and Jews. Over 30,000 people have signed Creative Community for Peace’s Anti-Boycott Petition.
While we lament the loss of all innocent life, when artists function as a bullhorn for spreading untruths and misinformation they only fan the flames of conflict rather than seek to use the power of music and culture to unite.
David Renzer is chairman of the Spirit Music Group. Steve Schnur is the Worldwide Executive and President of Electronic Arts Music Group. Both are co-founders of the Creative Community for Peace.