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Israeli rocker and occupation critic, Izhar Ashdot: Eric Burdon will play Israel with me

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Nitzani and Ashdot at Tel Aviv Beach, Vienna
Izhar Ashdot (right) and Yair Nitzani on Tel Aviv Beach in Vienna (yes, you read that correctly) shortly before meeting Eric Burdon to finalize the August 1 concert in Binyamina, Israel.  Illustration is a screen grab from Ashdot’s Facebook page.

According to a personal message I received yesterday (Sunday) from Izhar Ashdot, Eric Burdon will be performing in Israel despite reports that he had cancelled his scheduled appearance due to alleged threats from Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activists. Mondoweiss covered the reported cancellation, as well as the U.S. Campaign for an Academic and Cultural Boycott statement denying that the BDS movement uses violent threats.

Ashdot is a founding member of the popular Israeli rock group Tislam.  He personally invited Burdon to appear with his group on stage on August 1 in an amphitheater in Binyamina, Israel.   Ashdot wrote me that Burdon would be arriving in Israel today (Monday) and quoted the British rock legend as telling him that, “… he will stand by his promise of two weeks ago: ‘I believe in everyone’s right to music, without connection his/her politics.’”  The Jerusalem Post reported that the legendary British rocker told Ashdot:

It’s impossible to prevent music. Everyone needs music and there’s no connection to current politics. Everyone has the right to be entertained.

Ironically, Ashdot recently recorded what I believe to be a most powerful and insightful anti-occupation song called “A Matter of Habit.”  As a result the singer was subjected to a barrage of hate-filled criticism and invective both in the Israeli press and on social media sites.  Annie Robbins covered the story and linked to the video of  “A Matter of Habit” here at Mondoweiss.

I sent the Israeli rocker Annie’s post via Asdot’s Facebook page.  I expressed admiration for his courage in answering the criticism of his song’s trenchant protest against the occupation and elucidation of the corrosive role of the military in its perpetuation.  But I also expressed my “disappointment” that he did not use the Burdon cancellation to address the evils of the occupation and how it isolates Israel from the world community. In addition, I recommended that he address the occupation at the concert which was scheduled to go forward without Burdon.

Ashdot did not take kindly to my suggestion.  The singer wrote, among other expressions of disagreement with the thoughts express in my message:

I am afraid that you miss the principal point. The song “A Matter of Habit” is the way in which Alona [the song’s lyricist and Izhar’s life partner] and I express ourselves in regard to the occupation and the damage that it causes our children. Burdon not coming to Israel disappoints me very much, but just as I am against the occupation, I am against boycotts. I, myself, have appeared more than once in the occupied territories, in front of settlers, they are part of my people and one day we must welcome them back without regard to their politics. [My translation, IG.]

I am for boycotts. I supported the grape boycott, the boycott of apartheid South Africa and I wholeheartedly support the boycott of apartheid Israel. I think saying everyone has a right to music and entertainment is a pretty weak excuse for avoiding dealing with the decision of whether or not to perform in Israel. I have never heard of the right to entertainment, but know that the right to self-determination and freedom from occupation is codified in international law.

I can understand how an Israeli performing artist must make peace with his audience and that a complete oeuvre of anti-occupation tunes would be a career killer in Israel. But the Burdon cancellation was at its root about the occupation, so for Tislam’s statement to not mention it just seems to me to indicate that Ashdot is neglecting the obvious. The implied conclusion from his avoidance is that the situation in the territories really is not that bad. But it is.

Maybe my calling out Izhar like this is unfair. Maybe performing a song like “A Matter of Habit” is more than anyone should expect from someone who lives in the belly of the beast. Still, not talking about the occupation but rather his personal disappointment in not being able to perform with Burdon, somehow makes me hear Ashdot’s protest against Israeli oppression differently.

I asked Ashdot if he would sing “A Matter of Habit” at Binyamina.  He did not address my query in his message. 

I hope the Israeli rocker will get the irony when Burdon sings, “We gotta get out of this place” in their joint performance.

Update: Notice of Burdon’s upcoming performance in Israel has just hit the Hebrew language press.

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Ira Glunts It’s not the first time I wrote it and not the last one. You Phill Wiess and NO one here has NO understanding regarding the Israeli Society and you will never will. That’s why I am more amused to read here comments, by some who make themselves specialist regarding “what is going on in Israel”. Ira and Wiess can visit in Israel a million times, but they will always be ignorant regarding the… Read more »

RE The Zionist, Ashdot: “… [We} express ourselves in regard to the occupation and the damage that it causes our children.” Nothing at all about the damage it causes the Palestinian children. Unlike the Jewish settlers, they are not “part of my people.” RE The American, Burdon: I wonder where he got the idea that there’s a right to be entertained? He knows this, but not that international law does give legal rights to which… Read more »

Ashdot: “I express ourselves in regard to the occupation and the damage that it causes our children.” Ashdot still only sees and laments how the occupation indirectly affects Israelis. How learning to subordinate morality because we have to do these bad deeds hurts us (Israelis). It’s an oblique criticism of the Occupation. It’s a form of “shooting and crying” and/or “this hurts me as much as it hurts you.” I suppose that view has some… Read more »

‘I hate the occupation but I ain’t doing anything about it – well I’ll play my guitar to whoever will listen – it’s about the best that I can do.’

Yeah right mister sensitive isreali ‘rocker’?

Electronic Intifada inquired but could not uncover any evidence of “threats”. No information from Burdon’s camp The Electronic Intifada reached Elizabeth Freund, Burdon’s New York based press agent, by telephone this morning to ask about the nature of the threats and whether they had been reported to any law enforcement agency. Freund told The Electronic Intifada she had no information and referred further inquiries to Burdon’s “management.” Freund said that she would forward The Electronic… Read more »