Giving some love to the cultural boycott

on 10 Comments

On Monday evening, Jethro Tull performed in Jerusalem with Shlomo Gronich as guest keyboardist. Gronich played riffs from Israel’s national anthem, the Hatikvah. Front man, Ian Anderson’s decision to play in the apartheid state was taken in spite of urgent calls for him heed the boycott call. It is clear from his interview with the Jerusalem Post that he was contacted by both pro- and anti-boycotters, but he used the opportunity to call the Palestinian boycott call “irritating and shallow,” and to join the chorus of contempt for Elvis Costello, although curiously he was keen to emphasise that his decision was also based on maintaining his ‘reputation’ for not cancelling shows unless he is ill. From his statement on the band’s official website in June 2010, we learned that he made up his "own mind in light of available facts, with my own experience and a sense of personal ethics.” That must be why he approached former British PM and the Middle East envoy of the risible Quartet, Tony Blair, for advice on which ‘co-existence’ charities he should donate his fee to for performing in Israel. Anderson’s good will is accepted unquestioningly by the Post who are triumphant with the headline: ‘Jethro Tull donates to co-existence’. Other apologists busy celebrating on a Jethro Tull internet discussion site: "The Jethro Tull Board proudly wishes a "yosha koach" to Jethro Tull for not yielding to the intense pressure, intimidation and lies of the Israel-bashing crowd. We are sure that Ian and the boys will receive unsurpassed love and gratitude from an audience, and from a nation…"

Ian got more than love; he got up-close and intimate with the Occupation. In 2008, Jethro Tull’s famed guest keyboardist, Shlomo Gronich, performed for the settlers in Silwan. As reported by Gush Shalom in the lead up to the concert, "Gronich, who in the past presented himself prominently in the country and abroad as a “peace seeker” and even held joint performances with Arab artists, is now due to give a free performance at the “City of David” settler enclave at the heart of Silwan Village, in an event honouring the American millionaire and settler patron Irwin Moskowitz, in the framework of celebrating the anniversary of the occupation of Palestinian East Jerusalem and its annexation to Israel (“Jerusalem Day”, June 2)." Anderson had told the Post reporter that his donations “don’t make me feel particularly good or saintly, it was just one of those things you do, from time to time, like most people in my position,” he said. 

Other artists ‘in his position’ are giving some real love, however: UK band Faithless’s simple and witty statement sends out a message of support for the Palestinian call to boycott Israel: "…this short note is for all fans and family of the band in Israel. It’s fair to say that for 14 years we’ve been promoting goodwill, trust and harmony all around the world in our own small (but very loud!) way. Ok. We’ve been asked to do some shows this summer in your country and, with the heaviest of hearts, I have regretfully declined the invitation. While human beings are being wilfully denied not just their rights but their NEEDS for their children and grandparents and themselves, I feel deeply that I should not be sending even tacit signals that this is either ‘normal’ or ‘ok’"

Today, Thursday 12 August, in Dublin, is the launch of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) pledge, signed by over 130 Irish creative and performing artists, to boycott Israel:

In response to the call from Palestinian civil society for a cultural boycott of Israel, we pledge not to avail of any invitation to perform or exhibit in Israel, nor to accept any funding from any institution linked to the government of Israel, until such time as Israel complies with international law and universal principles of human rights.

In the words of IPSC Cultural Boycott Officer Dr. Raymond Deane, "These artists are aware of the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s statement in 2005 that “We see culture as a propaganda tool of the first rank, and…do not differentiate between propaganda and culture.” On Wednesday PACBI released a statement on the historical significance on this pledge, which represents "a ground breaking strategy in supporting Palestinian struggle for freedom and justice…. Regardless of intentions, [an artistic] act is a conscious form of complicity that is manipulated by Israel in its frantic efforts to whitewash its persistent violations of international law and Palestinian rights."

There is no need for ‘saintly’ artists – a category Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson disingenuously implies he might fit into after his flirtation with ‘Reverend’ Blair; just individuals that are willing to wise-up to the shameless exploitation of their art.

Eleanor Kilroy is an artist and BDS activist living in London.

10 Responses

  1. Psychopathic god
    August 12, 2010, 9:51 am

    I just learned about the anti-zionism efforts of violinist Yehudi Menuhin, back in 1947. Like Father Like Son: A Tribute to Moshe and Yehdi Menuhin

    I read the article twice, looking for a suitable passage to quote here. It’s not possible. click the link. Read the entire article.

    Last week I was engaged in a ‘discussion’ with the representative of a zionist organization and was accused, again, of Jew hatred and antisemitism. Some better angel whispered in my ear to ask him: “Which Jewish are we talking about, the Jewish of Jeremiah, Judaism’s proud representative in the pantheon of Axial Age giants of ethics, or the Jewish of Jabotinsky, Israel’s equivalent of Osama bin Laden?

    Moshe and Yehudi Menuhin — aha, now I have the quote:

    “Moshe Menuhin sounded several themes that his son has consistently endorsed:

    •Justice for the Arabs. “The education of prophetic Judaism that I got from my grandfather,” Moshe Menuhin said, “did not allow me to become an Arab hater. . . .”

    A Jeremiah Jew.

    Here’s what happens to such a one in a Jabotinsky Jew environment:

    Both Menuhin and his wife were warm and gracious, with Diana being more talkative. Tall and attractive, she was outspoken and frank regarding the power of the Zionists to diminish the number of concerts her husband might give. Diana Menuhin said after it became known that Yehudi Menuhin felt there were two sides to the Middle East conflict, and especially after he gave a concert to aid Palestinian orphans, that his bookings dropped dramatically.

    Back then, I found it difficult to comprehend that anyone would cancel a performance of perhaps the greatest living violinist because of his not giving Israel his blind, total support. Now, however, a quarter of a century later, I reflect that in the ensuing years I have not personally seen Menuhin’s name listed as soloist at any U.S. concert hall.

    I remember when my parents got their first record player; it came with 5 free albums of the customer’s choice. My Mother chose a record that included Yehudi Menuhin.

    Israel — Jabotinsky Jews — have shot themselves in the foot: “We don’t want no stinkin’ Yehudi Menuhin’s paradin’ around here.”

    Maybe it should happen more often that artists of quality should refuse to perform in Israel, until Israel listens more to Jeremiah and less to Jabotinsky.

    In Goldberg’s bombastic piece the other day, attention was drawn to Ephraim Sneh’s worry that “Iran with nukes will cause a brain drain in Israel.” Actually, Israel, Jabotinsky Israel, is causing a brain drain from Israel. To figure that out, Gen. Sneh, you maybe should ask the brains that left or that you kicked out of your Jabotinskyite experiment of civilization by death, not the robotbrains left behind to continue the killing.

    • Taxi
      August 12, 2010, 10:35 am

      Great link, Psycho.

      Kudos and much love and appreciation to all artists who support universal rights for all – yes including the equitable rights of Palestinians!

      It begs the question, however: the artists that insist on playing in apartheid or despotic states, what REALLY makes them turn a blind eye to a suffering mass, a whole nation no less? Is it downright bigoted ignorance or is it careerism?

      I guess taking a peek at who actually ‘manages’ these ignoramious artists might provide a clue or two.

    • Psychopathic god
      August 12, 2010, 10:36 am

      edit: the link should have read, . . . Yehudi Menuhin . . .

      • thankgodimatheist
        August 12, 2010, 7:56 pm

        Thanks PG for this valuable info about one of the greatest violinists in history ..To think that even he was targeted just shows the extent to which this rabid crowd are ready to go..
        I’ll be giving some repercussion to this..

      • lareineblanche
        August 13, 2010, 12:09 am

        the link should have read, . . . Yehudi Menuhin . . .
        Yes, a genius, but of course the greatest of all was Jascha Heifetz…

        There is a curious story about Menuhin and Gilles Apap, a French violinist now playing at the Santa Barbara symphony (unless that’s changed) – that I hold from an acquaintance who knew Apap – that Menuhin actually barred a release of a certain recording by Apap (can’t remember which composer) because it was better than his own version. I can look it up if necessary…

  2. Richard Witty
    August 12, 2010, 11:28 am

    There are far far more independant voices like Ian Anderson than others, thankfully.

    “but he used the opportunity to call the Palestinian boycott call “irritating and shallow,” “

    • Citizen
      August 13, 2010, 10:02 am

      Witty, Anderson is for from being free of ignorant bias; he has bought the Israeli hasbara line, hook, and sinker; folks, here’s some relatively inside skinny on how Israel buys supporters of anti-BDS and how the full Israeli concept of using pop culture to favor Brand Israel has been in full swing:
      link to

      The hasbara musik people are the group irritating and shallow. Courageous humanist musik people all favor BDS & total free speech to help the obviously oppressed, not the bully oppressor feigning victimhood.

  3. annie
    August 12, 2010, 2:03 pm

    thank you eleanor, a great post and links too.

    “These artists are aware of the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s statement in 2005 that “We see culture as a propaganda tool of the first rank, and…do not differentiate between propaganda and culture.

    can’t be any clearer than that.

  4. marc b.
    August 12, 2010, 6:02 pm

    and…do not differentiate between propaganda and culture.”

    someone with a bit sense. perfectly put.

  5. MarkF
    August 14, 2010, 11:39 am

    One minor correction – the author of the post called it a Palestinian boycott. It should be an Israeli boycott, yes?

    I read Ian’s statement and the Jpost article, and to be honest this one is pretty personal because Tull happens to be my favorite band from childhood and my inspiration to appreciate, learn and perform music. I consider Ian to be a tremendously gifted songwriter and one of the most intelligent guys I’ve never known….

    My opinion is that if an artist wants to play for fans he should do so. Fans also have the right to no longer support that artist if they choose to do so for whatever reason. I would hope Ian is sincere when he states that he would play in Iran and other places as well.

    I’m struggling with this one because I think music and the arts can play a large part in healing divides between peoples (yeah, lofty stuff). I’m also aware that music can be political, and the beauty is that is solely the choice of what inspires the artist.

    Would Israel ban, say, Rage Against the Machine from playing there? That’s one band that would hit the stage with an aggressive political bent that would bust up any thoughts of using them for propaganda.

    Hmm, maybe another tact would be to actually play the gigs, but make political statements at the shows? You know, real hard hitting commentary. Set up a tour of various artists who are opposed to Israel’s behavior, play their music amd make their statements to the crowd and the Israeli press.

    Funny how some posts hit me hard when they probably shouldn’t, like the post about Ringo being the stupidest Beatle.

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