Pete Seeger joins Palestinian boycott movement

American folk music legend reportedly tells Israeli organizations: "I support the BDS movement as much as I can."

American folk singer Pete Seeger in 2009 311 Reu (photo credit: REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)
American folk singer Pete Seeger in 2009 311 Reu
(photo credit: REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)
American folk music legend Pete Seeger has apparently joined the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, a Palestinian movement which seeks to put economic and political pressure on Israel.
According to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), the American musician expressed regret for his previous support of an event sponsored by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and threw his support for the BDS movement at a meeting in New York last month.
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Last year, the American musician participated in an online virtual rally for the Arava Institute, which receives a significant portion of its funding from the JNF. Seeger said he "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." He reportedly said that he did not understand the degree that the JNF supported Arava and with that knowledge, "I support the BDS movement as much as I can," according to ICAHD.
ICAHD Coordinator Jeff Halfper said in a press release that Seeger has "for some time" donated a portion of the royalties from his 1960s song, "Turn, Turn, Turn," to ICHAD and that the singer "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's donations to ICAHD went to rebuilding Palestinian and Arab homes demolished by Israeli authorities, according to the organization.
The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel, published a letter late last year calling on Seeger to “join the growing list of artists who have respected the Palestinian boycott call,” referring to cancellations this summer by the likes of Elvis Costello and the Pixies.
The letter cited recent events in the Beduin village of Al- Arakib, where illegal structures have been torn down nearly 20 times this year by the Israel Police. The letter also focused on the participation of the Jewish National Fund as a partner in the online presentation.
In a separate letter to Seeger in 2010, Halper wrote: “I hope that you will decide to join these artists of conscience and once again make a bold stand for justice. The movement is gathering strength, the violators of civilized norms are fearful, and change is in the air.”
In January, a controversial law prohibiting boycotts of Israel and the West Bank. Submitted by coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) following consultations with the Justice Ministry, the bill defined boycott as “an intentional avoidance of economic, cultural or academic relations with a person or another agent, solely because of their ties to the State of Israel, its institutions or areas under its control.”
The bill proposes that anyone who knowingly and publicly calls for such a boycott be found as having committed a civil injustice and be punished by law.
The original bill, submitted a month earlier, proposed a fine of NIS 30,000 on anyone initiating, encouraging or providing assistance to boycotts, although it included no definition whatsoever of what in fact constituted a boycott.
David Brinn and Ron Friedman contributed to this report.