My word: BDS and Matisyahu’s bum rap

What is BDS if not a blacklist of companies associated with the Jewish state?

Matisyahu attends Sonos Studio Listening Party at Sonos Studio on May 20, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.  (photo credit: JEROD HARRIS/GETTY IMAGES FOR SONOS/AFP)
Matisyahu attends Sonos Studio Listening Party at Sonos Studio on May 20, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.
“All my life I’ve been waiting for I’ve been praying for For the people to say That we don’t wanna fight no more There will be no more wars And our children will play...”
– “One Day” performed by Matisyahu
The lyrics might seem innocuous – pro-peace and world harmony, even – but hip-hop singer Matisyahu who performs them was singled out as being out of tune with the message of an annual music festival in Benicassim, near Valencia in Spain. As The Jerusalem Post’s Herb Keinon put it: “If you plan on going to the Sunsplash Rototom Reggae Festival in Spain this week, you better not speak the language of the Hebrewman. If you do, they might kick you out.”
Matisyahu’s sin was being Jewish. The well-known singer shot to fame while he was still an ultra-Orthodox Jew with a distinct hassidic look. He shaved off his sidecurls and beard and dropped the haredi garb several years ago, but he is still a proud Jew: an American Jew; not an Israeli.
That apparently was enough for the festival’s organizers.
Facing intense pressure from the local BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement, they called on Matisyahu to clearly state where he stands on Zionism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Matisyahu stood his ground, posting on Facebook: “They wanted me to write a letter, or make a video, stating my positions on Zionism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to pacify the BDS people. The festival kept insisting that I clarify my personal views; which felt like clear pressure to agree with the BDS political agenda.
“Honestly it was appalling and offensive, that as the one publicly Jewish-American artist scheduled for the festival they were trying to coerce me into political statements.
Were any of the other artists scheduled to perform asked to make political statements in order to perform?” As Douglas Murray suggested in an essay published by the Gatestone Institute, “Spain has its own border issues. Perhaps Spanish performers should henceforth be quizzed about their political attitudes before they are allowed to perform abroad? Maybe the rest of the world should demand that all artists from Spain sign a statement or make a video supporting Catalan independence if they are to be allowed to perform in public?” Following the uproar, the festival organizers flipflopped on the hip-hop and reinvited Matisyahu, but the damage was done. Or perhaps not: The festival got more publicity than it has previously generated in its 22-year existence and the bum rap also exposed the ever uglier aspects of BDS. The call to “boycott, sanction and divest” from Israel might start at the so-called Green Line but it never stops there.
And it has nothing to do with peace, cultural exchange and human rights.
As I noted last week, in a new level of absurdity mixed with hypocrisy, a Norwegian film festival refused to screen a prize-winning Israeli documentary about disabled children. According to a Yediot Aharonot report, Roy Zafrani’s The Other Dreamers was rejected because the festival organizers didn’t want to screen an Israeli movie that didn’t deal with “the occupation” in some negative form or another.
A few months ago I noted that singer Achinoam Nini, better known abroad as Noa, had also faced attempts to silence her when she performed in Spain. Ironically Nini, who represented Israel in the 2009 Eurovision along with Israeli-Arab Mira Awad, is a passionate and outspoken peace activist. Unlike Matisyahu she actually does try to convey a political message in her performances – one of coexistence.
But BDS is part of the particularly sinister far Left. BDS supporters don’t want normalization. They don’t want anything other than the delegitimization, demonization and eventual destruction of Israel.
BDS País Valencià and RESCOP, the two groups behind the attempt to ban Matisyahu, issued a long and detailed defense of their reasoning. Point 8 of the statement, for example, read: “As citizens of conscience who also abhor all forms of racism and racist incitement, our call for excluding Matisyahu’s performance is a valid ‘common sense’ boycott against an artist who refuses to disavow his shameful racial incitement and hateful messages. Matisyahu’s religious or ethnic identity is entirely irrelevant to our call for excluding his performance.”
Of course his religious and ethnic identity is irrelevant: They’ll put pressure on anyone who shows a measure of support for Israel, no matter who they are or where they’re from.
Take the case of Emma Carter. According to a Yediot Aharonot report this week, the British tourist who fell in love with Tel Aviv was forced to close her Facebook account after posting: “There are a few factors I consider when liking a place – people, food and architecture! All are fully met in Israel....”
Carter praised the warmth of Israelis she met, the sense of security – and the Iron Dome anti-rocket system – and the ice-cream shops open 24 hours a day.
This was too much. Carter discovered who her true Facebook friends are: She was accused of supporting an “apartheid state” and a country of murderers who steal Palestinian land – as if the people who have never visited Israel know more about what it’s like than somebody who’d just come back from a trip and seen it firsthand.
Carter said that when she set out for Tel Aviv, accompanying a friend who wanted to celebrate her 40th birthday there: “As an Englishwoman, all I knew about Israel were the wars in Gaza.”
That’s all anybody would know if the BDSers had their way. According to the Yediot story, Carter ended up closing her Facebook account as the attacks on her (and Israel) mounted up and Facebook warned her that her post was “offensive.”
MANY BDS and pro-Palestinian groups are proud to have Jewish members, and they take great pains to stress that they are not anti-Semitic. Perish the thought.
During last summer’s war in Gaza, I received an email from a group called BDS Italy so filled with the self-righteousness of the far Left that it made me laugh out loud, even as the rockets were still pounding down on us at a rate of about 100 a day.
“BDS Italy expresses its unequivocal and absolute condemnation of the shameful posters plastered around the city of Rome by the neo-fascist group Militia, as well as the general co-optation [sic] of the Palestinian cause by the extreme right to spread anti-Semitism,” it read. “BDS Italy denounces anti-Semitism as racist and reactionary ideology and condemns the use of Palestinian suffering as a pretext and tool for spreading this vile ideology. In particular, we condemn the fascist call to boycott Jewish- owned businesses, a call which includes an appalling ‘blacklist.’ “BDS Italy notes that the campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel... has nothing to do with the odious and despicable maneuvers of fascists new and old.”
For the BDS promoters to describe the blacklist of Jewish- owned businesses as “appalling” is especially absurd.
What is BDS if not a blacklist of companies associated with the Jewish state? An email I received from BDS South Africa last week tried to explain why the campaign had singled out Woolworths for its consumer boycott campaign. “Several retailers in South Africa have some sort of trade relationship with Israel. Boycotting all of them at the same time is not feasible so we focus our campaigns and move from one target to another as we reach our goals.....
“While the individual Woolworths cherry may not come from an illegal Israeli settlement, the supplier in all likelihood according to various reports, has activities in the settlements making the supplier and Woolworths guilty of violating international law.
“In addition, it is well documented that Israeli agricultural companies are using Israel’s main water supplier Mekorot which has illegal activities in the illegal Israeli settlements. Woolworths is aware of this but has failed to clarify whether any of its Israeli produce come from companies that use Mekorot.”
By this standard they should boycott the Palestinians, not support them: Both the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza, for example, use electricity supplied by Israel; PA officials and Hamas members regularly receive medical treatment in Israeli hospitals; and far from avoiding Israeli academic institutions, BDS founder Omar Barghouti studied at Tel Aviv University.
My answer, as always, is to counter the boycott with a buy-cott, favoring blue-and-white products.
If individual BDS supporters feel compelled to boycott all Israeli cultural, medical and technological developments that’s their right, even if their lives will be poorer, shorter and more miserable as a result.
But wouldn’t it be better to promote true coexistence? “One day,” as Matisyahu might say to anyone who’s not too prejudiced to listen.