Pete Seeger endorses boycott of Israel

on 29 Comments

Below is a press release issued by Adalah-NY and the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. For more background see these posts:

Folk music legend Pete Seeger has come out in support of the growing Palestinian movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel as a program for justice for Palestinians and a route to peace in the Middle East.

Seeger, 92, participated in last November’s online virtual rally “With Earth and Each Other,” sponsored by the Arava Institute, an Israeli environmental organization, and by the Friends of the Arava Institute. The Arava Institute counts among its close partners and major funders the Jewish National Fund, responsible since 1901 for securing land in Palestine for the use of Jews only while dispossessing Palestinians. Although groups in the worldwide BDS movement had requested he quit the event, Seeger felt that he could make a strong statement for peace and justice during the event.

During a January meeting at his Beacon, NY home with representatives from the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) and Adalah-NY, Pete Seeger explained, “I appeared on that virtual rally because for many years I’ve felt that people should talk with people they disagree with. But it ended up looking like I supported the Jewish National Fund. I misunderstood the leaders of the Arava Institute because I didn’t realize to what degree the Jewish National Fund was supporting Arava. Now that I know more, I support the BDS movement as much as I can.” 

Jeff Halper, the Coordinator of ICAHD, added, “Pete did extensive research on this. He read historical and current material and spoke to neighbors, friends, and three rabbis before making his decision to support the boycott movement against Israel.” Seeger has for some time given some of the royalties from his famous Bible-based song from the 1960s, “Turn, Turn, Turn,” to ICAHD for their work in rebuilding demolished homes and exposing Israel’s practice of pushing Palestinians in Israel off their land in favor of development of Jewish villages and cities.

The November virtual rally “With Earth and Each Other” was billed as an apolitical effort to bring Israelis and Palestinians together to work for the environment. Dave Lippman from Adalah-NY noted, “Arava’s online event obfuscated basic facts about Israel’s occupation and systematic seizure of land and water from Palestinians. Arava’s partner and funder, the JNF, is notorious for planting forests to hide Palestinian villages demolished by Israel in order to seize their land. Arava was revealed as a sterling practitioner of Israeli government efforts to ‘Rebrand Israel’ through greenwashing and the arts.” 

Currently, the JNF is supporting an Israeli government effort to demolish the Bedouin village of Al-Araqib in order to plant trees from the JNF that were paid for by the international evangelical group GOD-TV. The Friends of the Arava Institute’s new board chair has recently published an op-ed in the Jerusalem Post that only cautiously questions some activities of the JNF, an organization whose very raison-d’etre is to take over land for Jews at the expense of the Palestinian Arab population. 

Pete Seeger’s long-time colleague Theodore Bikel, an Israeli-American known for his life-long involvement with Israeli culture, recently supported the Israeli artists who have refused to perform in a new concert hall in Ariel, a large illegal Israeli settlement in the West Bank.

Seeger joins a growing roster of international performers who have declined to whitewash, greenwash, or in any way enable Israel’s colonial project, including Elvis Costello, Gil Scott-Heron, Roger Waters, Devendra Banhart, and the Pixies.

29 Responses

  1. Potsherd2
    February 28, 2011, 12:08 pm

    This warms my heart!

    I grew up listening to Seeger, Bikel and all the old folkies. They were the moral voice of the 60s. We marched for peace to the beat of their songs. It was painful to see Seeger standing next to Arava. I’m glad he’s joined the right side.

    And to hell with that hypocrite Robert Zimmerman.

  2. annie
    February 28, 2011, 1:05 pm

    this is awesome. i love pete and was very disappointed when he participated in the arava event. i’m glad his research and interactions have brought him around.

  3. Richard Witty
    February 28, 2011, 1:07 pm

    I’m disappointed. I found his earlier stand supporting and encouraging communication was more effective and more endearing.

    • fuster
      February 28, 2011, 1:35 pm

      Richard, anybody understanding what’s happening in the West Bank should feel the need to speak against Israeli policy and actions.

      I’m sure that Seeger is no different.

      I’m also sure that Mr Seeger is not supporting all things that members of the BDS advocate because all those things aren’t clear defined and the various members of the movement have varied goals.

    • maggielorraine
      February 28, 2011, 1:50 pm

      effective how?

  4. eljay
    February 28, 2011, 1:32 pm

    >> I’m disappointed. I found his earlier stand supporting and encouraging communication was more effective and more endearing.

    Yeah, it’s always disappointing when someone sees the truth behind the lies and is disgusted by the revelation. Shame on Mr. Seeger for taking a moral stand instead of remaining “endearing”.

  5. seafoid
    February 28, 2011, 2:21 pm

    Things are starting to be discussed in the US>

    I got the Progressive in the post . Front page “Bill Moyers: the rule of the rich”
    And then Utne Reader in the post
    Front page “Fire the rich, a radical fix for the economy that greed destroyed”

    I support the US intifada and am sure Pete Seeger does too.

  6. Light
    February 28, 2011, 4:11 pm

    It was reported today that the Coen brothers will receive a prize from Tel Aviv University.

    link to

    It would be great if they joined BDS.

    • Taxi
      February 28, 2011, 8:52 pm

      Cohen brothers make a move against israel? Never gonna happen, sadly. Hollywood is too hi on zioweed and the Cohen Brothers are upstanding members of that private smoking club.

      • annie
        February 28, 2011, 9:52 pm

        i don’t see it as slam dunk as that taxi. think positive.

      • DBG
        February 28, 2011, 10:36 pm

        and the Cohen Brothers are upstanding members of that private smoking club.

        Are the Cohen brothers ardent Zionists? Or is this private smoking club kinda like a Jew only country club?

    • MRW
      February 28, 2011, 8:56 pm

      The Coen brothers don’t have the balls or moral character to buck Israel. With one statement they could change Hollywood, but profits and distribution are more important to them.

      • annie
        February 28, 2011, 9:55 pm

        how can you say that mrw? they are artists, do you know what their politics are? just because someone is a successful jewish artist doesn’t mean they are a zionist.

      • Taxi
        February 28, 2011, 11:52 pm

        Why haven’t they made a movie about the I/P conflict? Why don’t they hire principal Arab actors in their projects? (Answer is: they don’t want to upset their relatives in israel).

        They may not be outspoken about their zionism, they may even be anti-likudist and anti-settlements, but that doesn’t mean they don’t think/believe that creating a Palestinian Nakba was necessary/good for euro jews. Liberal zionism with a small ‘z’ is still zionism.

        And for ‘feeling’ artists, they sure are quiet about a heck of a lot of ‘people agony’ out there. I’ve given up waiting on successful Hollywood jews to speak out against israeli practice of Apartheid, either artistically or through political activism.

        Artists too can be blind annie, they’re not gods you know. They can also be whores.

        Anyone who doesn’t think there’s a zio clique/club in Hollywood is in denial of something for some really weird reason.

        I hold all jews, successful or not, accountable for their silence. This silence of jews, especially ones who know better, is a big-big part of the problem. The Coen Brothers wear this badge neatly.

        I like some of their films a lot, yes. But I sure don’t approve of their silence on Palestinian suffering.

      • annie
        March 1, 2011, 2:52 am

        Why haven’t they made a movie about the I/P conflict? Why don’t they hire principal Arab actors in their projects? …..I hold all jews, successful or not, accountable for their silence.

        well, i don’t. i don’t find every jew responsible anymore than i hold every american responsible. this is an equal opportunity offense. i hold all americans equally responsible and i hold all israelis more responsible. but, i don’t view all jews responsible for israel’s aprtheid and i don’t blame them all and don’t hold them all accountable. i just do not. that said. if the coen bros go to israel and accept the award after being contacted by the bds campaign and informed by the bds campaign and knowingly still go then i will definitely hold them responsible accordingly.

        i am just not going to assume coen bros = ‘jews’ ‘hollywood’ ‘zionist’ ‘screw them’. we have not even heard from them yet! so i will give them the benefit of the doubt until if and when they refuse this award.

        keep in mind some people just don’t think about politics. they bury their heads. you can’t make every jew on the planet responsible for the politics of israel. that’s absurd. look at me, i am not jewish but i had no political awareness of this until a decade ago. there are kids out partying and making music and films and gardening and screwing and dissecting bugs and painting watercolors of sunsets and studying the astronomy and the flightpatterns of eagles and on and on and on. and those people don’t think about politics, and some of them are jews.

        it would be marvelous if the entire world were focused on our focus but they are not and the fact that they are not is not blamed on one ethnicity because they are related to members of the apartheid state (assuming they are). so that’s what i think. and i will not judge the coen bros til after they take a stand. ask me again in may, until then i am their fan and very hopeful they won’t empower israel by accepting this award.

      • Taxi
        March 1, 2011, 8:39 am

        Silence = Complicity.

      • fuster
        March 1, 2011, 9:43 am


        your ideas in the comment are ignorant and repugnant.

        and stupid.

      • Taxi
        March 1, 2011, 10:36 am

        What’s the matter fuster?

        Did I hurt your feelings?

        Poor you mister smartypants.

      • annie
        March 1, 2011, 10:46 am

        let’s see if they remain silent, that is all i am saying.


      • fuster
        March 1, 2011, 10:53 am

        no, Taxi, you didn’t hurt my feelings. your stupidity simply saddens me.

        I expect better than that.

      • Taxi
        March 1, 2011, 11:08 am

        Fair enough annie.

        But for me, I live in LA, my finger is on the pulse of my city. There is no room for a single dissident voice in this town, just like on Capitol Hill.

        Denial of this fact by crocodile-teared fusty is simply preposterous and ain’t even worth addressing.

        Hey fusty you deny like Qaddafi denies. Quit making a fool of yourself.

      • fuster
        March 1, 2011, 5:27 pm

        if you live in LA, and there’s not a single dissident voice in the town, I guess that you’re lacking something or just too scared to speak.

        too timid to honk in real life????

      • Taxi
        March 1, 2011, 8:11 pm

        I said I lived in LA, I did NOT specify it as Hollywood.

        Tedious troll! Just buzz off with your lamo comments.

      • fuster
        March 1, 2011, 8:20 pm

        Taxi, old crab,

        —But for me, I live in LA, my finger is on the pulse of my city. There is no room for a single dissident voice in this town…—-

        that was what you wrote. If it’s not what you meant to write, fix it.
        not my problem if I read it as you wrote it.
        pretty much your problem.

    • Avi
      March 1, 2011, 2:18 am

      I have always enjoyed the Coen brothers’ movies, whether it was O Brother, Where Art Thou?, No Country for Old Men, The Lady Killers, Burn After Reading, Intolerable Cruelty or A Serious Man.

      In the DVD bonus features of A Serious Man, the two discussed how they had some apprehension about making fun of Jewish customs, but went ahead anyway hoping to break the mold.

      As an aside, those sentiments explain why Judaism and Jews were always a taboo topic in Hollywood. Writers have mocked Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, but none dare portray Judaism or Jews in negative light.

      Hence, IF the Coen brothers take the prize, I will resolutely boycott them.

  7. jon s
    March 1, 2011, 6:28 am

    Avi, This time you really crossed the line.
    How could you not mention Big Lebowski??

  8. fuster
    March 1, 2011, 9:41 am

    Miller’s Crossing

    are the two best.

  9. Kathleen
    March 1, 2011, 9:45 am

    what took you so long Pete?
    Better late than never

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