By David Renzer and Steve Schnur, June 28, 2015
(as published in the Jerusalem Post)
Earlier this year Thurston Moore, the American musician best known for his time in Sonic Youth, canceled his scheduled performance in Israel. No statement was made at the time, forcing observers to guess as to his motives. His recent statement (made in The Quietus, June 22, 2015) expressing support for the cultural boycott movement now makes it clear, and was picked up by more mainstream publications including Rolling Stone, in an article by Daniel Kreps.
But is Moore clear on what the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement stands for? Is he aware that supporters of the campaign for a cultural boycott of Israel use misinformation and manipulation to coerce well-meaning artists into supporting their political agenda? He wrote that he decided “to fully acknowledge [his] dedication [to] the boycott until the time comes for it to be unnecessary.” But what does this mean? Until there’s a peace treaty? Until both the Jewish and Palestinian peoples exercise their rights to self-determination and have secure borders? If he’s truly standing by the principles of the cultural boycott campaign, then it does not end here.
According to the guidelines of the BDS campaign, boycott attempts will continue not until the occupation ends, not until both peoples have their own state, but rather until Israel accepts “the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.” As defined clearly by Omar Barghouti, a leader and founding member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), “If the refugees were to return, you would not have a two-state solution, you’d have a Palestine next to a Palestine.” In other words, no Israel.
Ultimately, the responsibility to solve the long-standing and tragic conflict rests with the Israeli and Palestinian peoples and their governments. But any solution that does not allow both peoples to determine their own destiny is not a solution based on justice.
We at Creative Community For Peace (CCFP), an organization representing prominent members of the entertainment industry devoted to promoting the arts as a means to peace and to countering the cultural boycott of Israel, believe in freedom of artistic expression and that artists should be raising their voices for peace.
Of course, cultural events are not a panacea, and music and art by themselves will not create a peace treaty, secure borders, an end to terrorism or extremism. But every concert, every opportunity people have to come together, is a step on the path to peace.
It is Moore’s and other artists’ prerogative to choose not to perform in Israel. We at CCFP lament this decision, and offer artists a chance to engage positively on the issues that matter to them, while creating a cultural exchange that history has proven is far more effective at ending conflicts than weapons. But when Moore and others schedule concerts and then cancel them in this fashion, the people punished are the very Israelis most inclined toward progressive engagement.
Why not play in association with cultural institutions which promote equality? Or make a point of teaching a music lesson at one of the groundbreaking 50-50 Arab/Jewish school in Israel? Or meet and sing with a youth chorus comprised of Israeli and Palestinian high school students? Why not speak about his concerns, but from inside the country, from the stage, doing what he has done for a lengthy acclaimed career? Any thoughtful comments he might have made — before, during, or after his concert — would have certainly gotten media attention and had an impact. But because he has refused to perform and spend time in Israel his comments cannot have the same personal weight, feeling and value they might have. His words now belong to the BDS movement.
Moore, as a prominent musician, could do a world of good by traveling to Israel and bringing Jews and Arabs together through his music. We hope Moore will reconsider his decision to support the boycott campaign, and instead contribute to peace.
David Renzer, Chairman of Spirit Music Group, and Steve Schnur, Worldwide Executive and President of Electronic Arts (EA) Music Group, are co-founders of Creative Community For Peace (CCFP), an organization representing members of the entertainment industry devoted to promoting the arts as a means to peace and to countering the cultural boycott of Israel.