The Economist – Palestinians in Israel, ,Boycotting the boycotters
The Economist –
Palestinians in Israel
Boycotting the boycotters
A campaign to boycott Israel threatens to spoil some Palestinians’ fun, too
ORGANISERS of a music festival scheduled for next month in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights to bring together Palestinians living in Israel, the West Bank and the diaspora are facing a whole host of headaches. Israel’s insistence on a heavy police presence threatens to spoil the atmosphere of what has been billed as a rave modelled on Woodstock, the musical event that rocked New York’s Catskill Mountains in 1969. Nearby residents fret about pleasure-seekers and their noise. Israel’s embassy in Jordan hesitates to give visas to Palestinian bands from the diaspora. And the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign (BDS), which wants Israel ostracised until it withdraws to its pre-1967 borders, is pressing foreign-based Palestinian bands not to take part.
From its proposed lakeside site in northern Israel, not far from where drugs are smuggled in from Lebanon, the event is meant to show off the best of Palestinian music from around the world, and to highlight a non-violent cultural struggle for identity. “Make Music Not War” read the leaflets, beneath depictions of Mahatma Gandhi spinning discs. But having already persuaded various people to boycott Israel—including Alice Walker, an American author; the Pixies, an American rock band; and Stephen Hawking, a British scientist—BDS says it would be hypocritical not to demand that a Jordanian-Palestinian hip-hop band, Akher Zapheer (The Last Zephyr), do so, too.
The organisers argue that the pressure amounts to mere political correctness. Yazid Sadi, a Palestinian guitarist living in Haifa, Israel’s third-largest city, says he launched the festival to reverse the rapid assimilation, or “Israelisation”, of Israel’s young Arabs. He compares BDS to chemotherapy. “It doesn’t distinguish between cancerous and good cells,” he says. “It kills them all.”
Makbula Nassar, a spiky chat-show host on Radio Shams, an independent station run by Palestinians in Israel, mocks the ban, too. “We’re already under a cultural siege,” she says. “We should be empowering ourselves, not further cutting ourselves off from the Arab world.”
But the BDS movement is unrepentant, insisting that Palestine’s fate cannot be held hostage by Palestinians who are Israeli citizens—and who make up around 12% of the Palestinians all told. “Blacks in South Africa lost contact with the world because of the global boycott of apartheid, but all voiced their support,” says Omar Barghouti, a leading BDS campaigner. “There’s no freedom without sacrifice. It’s worth a few cancelled concerts.”