Roger Waters looms large in Hollywood panel on cultural BDS

“I made it very clear that I was not interested in his views on cultural enterprises within Israel,” said Alan Parsons. “I told him I’m going to go. I like Israel and Israeli people."

October 30, 2017 08:22
3 minute read.
Panelists discuss the threat of cultural BDS at an event in Los Angeles

Panelists discuss the threat of cultural BDS at an event in Los Angeles. (photo credit: KELLY HARTOG)


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Calling the BDS movement “a minority conspiracy that has no foundation,” veteran recording artist Alan Parsons advised fellow performer Nick Cave to ignore the appeals he’s receiving to cancel his shows in Israel next month. “Please ignore it. It is an appeal for a boycott, not an actual boycott,” said Parsons near the end of panel discussion on BDS held on Sunday in Los Angeles. 

Cave is slated to perform in Tel Aviv on November 19 and 20, a few days after Parsons himself gives concerts on November 9 and 11 in Haifa and Tel Aviv respectively.

On the panel with Parsons was his bassist, Israeli-born Guy Erez; entertainment attorney Ken Hertz; writer, director and producer David Zucker, known for Airplane and Scary Movie, and actor Mark Pellegrino, who plays Lucifer in the TV show Supernatural.

Moderator Lana Melman, who works as a liaison between the entertainment community and Israel as head of Liberate Art Inc., said the elephant in the room was Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters’ support of BDS and the very public debate Waters had with his former producer and engineer Parsons, calling on him to boycott his concerts in Israel four years ago.

“I made it very clear that I was not interested in his views on cultural enterprises within Israel,” Parsons said. “I told him I’m going to go. I like Israel and Israeli people. I’ve grown up my whole life with Jewish and Israeli people. It was a very unpleasant and awkward situation with Roger and we’ve fallen out since.”

Hertz pushed back, saying the real elephant in the room was whether or not a boycott is an appropriate response to the current Israeli government’s policies. “At some point the appropriate response to the behavior of a government is to boycott investment in that country,” he said. “I think it’s a terrible thing to say artists should not express their artistic freedom, but similarly, people who oppose the behavior or the conduct of the Israeli government, particularly in the occupied territories, this is not altogether the worst response one might expect.”

Erez responded, saying, there are a lot of Israelis who think like Hertz when it comes to criticizing certain Israeli government policies, “but what I think we need is more people to explain to the world what is going on [in Israel]. It’s really comfortable for the Arab world to make us look bad and they will sacrifice the Palestinians.” To huge applause, Erez said, “A lot of people don’t know Gaza has a border with Egypt. Why doesn’t Egypt open up its borders to them? Because they don’t want to deal with them.”

Circling back to Roger Waters, Erez asked how Waters could possibly take a side on such a complicated situation. “It’s even hard for me,” he said, “and I was born and raised in Israel and served in the army.”

Nearly 100 people attended the panel discussion hosted by the Wilshire Boulevard Temple, Israel Bonds and Liberate Art Inc.
“It’s very important to have this discussion. The economic impact [on Israel] is not significant but it’s really a moral issue and moral voices are very important,” said Israel Consul General in Los Angeles Sam Grundwerg, who opened the discussion.

Speaking about Scarlett Johansson and her soda stream campaign, as just one example, Melman said the BDS movement “hijacks the name and likeness of celebrities in order to get basically free publicity for their misinformation and lies associating Israel with destruction and apartheid.”

Discussing the BDS narrative which depicts Israel as an apartheid state, Pellegrino  –who traveled to Israel for the first time last year –  said the apartheid slogan works because “it gets people feeling instead of thinking, and that’s sort of what those movements are all about. They associate you with something despicable so it makes you have a visceral reaction. It’s bumper sticker politics. Catchphrases are far more impactful.”

Pellegrino stood his ground in a Twitter war with Hollywood celebrities over his support of Israel during the Gaza War. Following the evening’s panel discussion, he told the Jerusalem Post, “Ever since I understood what liberty meant I’ve been a fan of Israel. I think I do more political reading than a lot of actors in Hollywood. I think most actors are governed by their instincts.”

Those instincts, he said, “are an amalgam of what culture tells them is good -- the weak and the impoverished are probably inherently good, and the rich and the powerful are probably evil, so you’re going to throw your support behind the weak and the impoverished.” 

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