August 5, 2010

6 min read


While some musicians are boycotting Israel, others like Jethro Tull aren’t. Maybe our “playcott” campaign is working after all?

Is it possible, that maybe, just maybe somewhere in the collective internet subconscious things we do/say/write can actually have some small positive effect on others? Ya, probably doubtful. But maybe.

As was widely reported (i.e. here), after the recent Flotilla debacle, a few musicians such as the Pixies and Elvis Costello cancelled their scheduled concert dates in Israel. These musicians were being suckered in by the dark side. But fortunately, cyberspace struck back.

Cyberspace struck back.

Rob Eshman of the Jewish Journal, while clarifying that neither Meg Ryan nor Dustin Hoffman boycotted the Jerusalem Film Festival, gave Hollywood agents and managers an easy to use 3 step test when asked by their clients if they should boycott Israel. Like cooking rice, but easier. He writes.

  1. Are your facts correct? The Middle East crisis is a cesspool of misinformation. Breaking news stories are the most susceptible to lies and spin. The initial reports following the shooting of Muhammed al-Dura, the so-called massacre at Jenin, even the flotilla raid all proved exaggerated, misleading or false. Before you decide, make sure you get the facts.
  2. Are you being fair? Israel is an imperfect democracy. But poll after poll shows its people want to reach a just resolution to its problems with the Palestinians, and numerous Israeli governments have tried. For all its flaws, Israel doesn’t come close to the levels of social and political oppression, injustice, occupation, resource theft or cruelty that is common in Saudi Arabia, China, Russia, Syria or Egypt — to name a few. The American invasion and occupation of Iraq killed more innocents in seven years than Israel ever would or could — but no one’s boycotting the Staples Center. Why single out Israel?
  3. Are you being effective? Once you are informed and you put Israel’s transgressions in perspective, by all means take the right action — speak out. But speak out against extremists and fanatics on all sides. That’s the real battle here: between fanatics on all sides who want to perpetuate hate and deny the other side’s rights, and moderates on all sides who want a better future for their children. The band Jethro Tull donated proceeds from a concert to groups that bridge gaps between Jews and Arabs. Use your platform to support the many people in Israel fighting for a just solution. The artistic, musical and film communities are at the forefront of this struggle — your support for them can really make a difference.

In addition to Eshman, the highly influential editorial staff of Jewlarious called out the boycotters here and suggested that instead of using the effective “buycott” technique where pro Israel activists encourage people to actively buy Israeli product, supporters should employ a “Playcott” for musicians who continue to show support for Israel and all around good sense.

So… maybe the internet was listening.

British indie Rock band Jethro Tull and its band leader Ian Anderson have come down firmly on the side of the good and the just by stating that J-Tull will indeed be stopping in Israel during the band’s upcoming tour. Sadly, the number of people who do the right thing these days is dwindling by the minute, so when they do the right thing, we’ve all got to stand up and cheer. Way to go Jethro! Your son in law would be very proud (that’s Moses for anyone wondering).

Ian Anderson’s statement is so sensible that we’ve included it in its entirety below:

    Having performed concerts in the Middle East region many times over the last few years, I am well aware of the ethnic and religious tensions existing, not only in the countries concerned, but in the broader international diasporas representing the various groups and their interests.

    Having long maintained the position that culture and the arts should be free of political and religious censorship and a distance kept between them, I took a decision in February of 2009 that any future concerts in Israel by me or Jethro Tull would result in charitable donations to bodies representing the development of peaceful co-existence between Muslims, Jews and Christians, and the fostering of better Palestinian/Israeli relations. A number of potential charitable beneficiaries have now been identified and are under consideration.

    I speak only for my own share of concert profits here - I am not about to tell the rest of the musicians or crew what views they should hold or what to do with their remuneration. Nor do I feel pressured by human rights groups, national interests or any individuals to perform or not to perform in Israel or anywhere else. I make up my own mind in light of available facts, with my own experience and a sense of personal ethics.

    To those who tell me I should "boycott" Israel (or, for that matter, Turkey or Lebanon), I can only point out that on my travels around the world I am continually reminded of atrocities carried out historically by many nations who are now our friends, and it serves to strengthen my resolve that some degree of peace and better understanding may result from my and other artists' professional and humble efforts in such places. If I had the opportunity to perform today in Iran or North Korea, hell - I'd be there if I thought it would make a tiny positive net contribution to better relations.

    It's a long time since Pearl Harbor, Auschwitz, Hiroshima and the firestorm of Dresden and I hope that, one bright day sometime in the future, it will seem a long time since the blockading of the supply flotilla to Gaza and the bombing of Israeli citizens by Hamas and Hizbolla.

    So, I decided many months ago not to profit from my work in this troubled region and hope that interested parties on all sides will understand and respect my decision and resolve. The details of recipients of my charitable donation will be posted for the benefit of the doubters, as usual, on this website later in the year.

    Ian Anderson, June 2010.

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