“What the Israeli government is doing to the Palestinians is disgusting,” said singer-song writer Macy Gray as she tried to decide whether or not she was going to perform in Israel in January. Like many artists before her who’ve had concerts in the Jewish state, Gray was concerned about how her performance there would reflect her views on the Israel-Palestine situation.
Of course, Macy Gray is not the first artist to have had these qualms—recently, many performers have decided that boycotting Israel could be their way of showing their distaste with the Israeli government’s attitudes and actions toward the Palestinian people. British singer-songwriter Elvis Costello, who cancelled two concerts scheduled for this past June, said that it had “been necessary to dial out the falsehoods of propaganda, the double game and hysterical language of politics” before making his decision. In turn, the Israeli government has publicly chastised Costello, the Pixies, and other artists who have boycotted Israel. Of Costello, for instance, Israel’s Culture and Sports Minister Limor Liynat went so far as to say: “An artist boycotting his fans in Israel is unworthy of performing here.”
Despite all this attention, however, many have still failed to grasp the message these artists are trying to convey.
Although Macy Gray felt that her absence would ultimately fail to make a difference, many other songwriters feel differently, and their boycotts may have shed new light on the situation. Even though the Israeli government remains unconcerned with the obvious disapproval it has been received from artists all over the world, its citizens might have been inspired to look further into the situation and to try and understand the reasons behind such drastic actions, albeit in the realm of popular culture.
In fact, a cultural boycott is something that will obviously affect the people of Israel rather than the Israeli government, as proven by the government’s choice to ignore the boycotts and move forward with its political agenda. Most recently, Israel has released a statement saying that it considers its attack on the Freedom Flotilla legal under international law. Israel continues to defend Operation Cast Lead and the murder of around 1,400 citizens, and its government officials even say that they would be willing to repeat the attack. The siege on Gaza continues even though it has been exposed that the blockade was meant to “push the area’s economy to the brink of collapse.” Permits allowing the rebuilding of Gaza have been slowed down, thanks to “burdensome bureaucratic conditions,” and citizens are forced to rebuild their homes out of the one material of which they have an abundance—sand.
While it may be unfair that plenty of Israeli citizens must suffer from this cultural boycott due to the actions of their government, the boycotts stand as a disapproving reminder that around a thousand women and children had to die two years ago largely because of the Israeli government. Many citizens continue to suffer, whether by the Israeli occupation of the West Bank or the continued siege of Gaza. The protests may have no impact on the Israeli government, but at least they may influence Israeli citizens. In that sense, the least these artists can do is to continue their purposeful inaction—and hopefully make a difference in the future.
Asmaa Rimawi ’14, a Crimson editorial writer, lives in Mower Hall.