Friday, May 21, 2010

Boycotts are bustin' out all over

Have you heard the boycott news? Singer/songwriter/rock-n-roller Elvis Costello has not only canceled two gigs in Israel, but he's come out with a powerful public statement of his support for boycott:
"One lives in hope that music is more than mere noise, filling up idle time, whether intending to elate or lament. Then there are occasions when merely having your name added to a concert schedule may be interpreted as a political act that resonates more than anything that might be sung and it may be assumed that one has no mind for the suffering of the innocent. I must believe that the audience for the coming concerts would have contained many people who question the policies of their government on settlement and deplore conditions that visit intimidation, humiliation or much worse on Palestinian civilians in the name of national security. I am also keenly aware of the sensitivity of these themes in the wake of so many despicable acts of violence perpetrated in the name of liberation....Sometimes a silence in music is better than adding to the static and so an end to it."
The announcement is making waves. The Christian Science Monitor published an article about Costello's decision, and linked it to Israel's denial of entry to U.S. academic Noam Chomsky and to a photo essay of other figures (and Ipads) that have been denied entry. The Forward also covered the news, and included these revealing words:
"In reaction, a music industry insider confirmed that the winds could be shifting. The music executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity in light of his ongoing business ties with artists, said that in recent months he had approached more than 15 performing artists with proposals to give concerts in Israel. None had agreed. The contracts offered high levels of compensation. He called them “extreme, big numbers that could match any other gig.” .... But in the battle over public opinion, many other names have also been thrown into the debate. These include artists who either scheduled concerts in Israel or indicated their wish to perform there, but who later withdrew without providing reasons for their decisions.

Such is the case of guitar legend Carlos Santana, who had planned a stop in Israel as part of his tour of Europe and the Middle East. Thousands of tickets to the concert, which was scheduled to take place in a large soccer stadium in Jaffa, had already been sold before Santana and his group announced that the concert had been canceled due to “unforeseen scheduling conflicts.” "

Boycott efforts are getting as creative as the artists being put in the spotlight. Case in point--this video urging Elton John, who played at the infamous Sun City venue in apartheid South Africa, not to play Tel Aviv:

HEY ELTON from John Greyson on Vimeo.

Boycott--particularly the Palestinian Authority's decision to enforce a boycott of Israeli settlement products--has been getting mainstream coverage as well, including in Newsweek and the Washington Post. Here's Newsweek blogger Dan Ephron on why Israeli officials are reacting strongly to the Palestinian boycott of settlement goods despite its seemingly low economic impact:
"For one thing, Israelis fear that a successful boycott of settler goods would catch on elsewhere. While consumers in the Palestinian territories lack the economic muscle to inflict much pain on Israel, their counterparts in Europe—Israel's biggest market—have plenty of leverage....Then there's the comfort-zone issue. Thwarting bombings and shootings requires careful intelligence work and a first-rate military, things Israel has honed for decades. Countering nonviolent action has always seemed more challenging."
Of course, in the words of Yousef Munayyer, ED of US Campaign member group the Palestine Center, "Palestinian nonviolence relies on global non-silence." That means we need to speak up and take action! Find out how you can end the silence by getting involved in the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement in your community by clicking here, and follow the latest news coverage of BDS here.