It is amazing how upset some people get over the idea of a cultural boycott. Perhaps that is because they actually make a difference. If they didn’t, the government of Israel and its lobbies would not be spending a boatload of money to defame the BDS movement at every turn as well as attempting to impose a gag order on artists, scholars, and intellectuals who endorse it. For that reason, I’m disabling comments for this post because I don’t have the time or energy to deal with the inevitable abusive trolls and propaganda-bots. The reality is that playing in Israel right now is on the same level as performing in South Africa during the 1980s when the full severity of apartheid could no longer be covered up by its facilitators in Europe and America. Plenty of artists continued to play in South Africa, either indifferent to the suffering or making the same type of excuses being made today by those who see no problem with performing in Israel.
As we approach the one year anniversary of the war crimes and mass slaughter of civilians in the Gaza strip, one which was openly described in genocidal terms by Israel’s far-right government, I’d like to ask you to consider signing a petition asking Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil to cancel their upcoming show in Tel Aviv. These two guys should know better than most people about the consequences of state-sponsored terrorism and censorship, having not only lived through a right-wing dictatorship (that was similarly propped up by US complicity and self-interest), but also for having paid the price for dissent, as both of them spent several years living in exile in London.
One of the interesting objections to cultural boycotts that one often hears is, “Why should the citizens of _____ suffer for the idiocy and repugnance of their government or leaders?” Well, my short answer to that might be “because they keep voting them in,” but let me try to be less crass and assume we are talking about that segment of a population, however small, that disagrees with those policies but happens to like a particular artist. This type of argument came up not long ago when American rock band Wilco chose to cancel a concert in Indiana when that state legalized the discrimination against LGBT persons as second-class citizens. It kind of blows my mind that anyone would consider the “deprived” Indiana Wilco fan as the victim in this situation. If they are really heartbroken die-hard fans, they can get in a car or buy a bus ticket and go an hour or two to the southeast or northeast and see the band perform in Cincinnati or Louisville or Chicago, or someplace else that hasn’t legalized bigotry. (“Back in the day” I actually traveled a greater distance to see an offshoot from that band, Golden Smog, play in a small Chicago club simply because they weren’t coming anywhere near where I lived.) My point is that, in spite of signs of increasing income inequality in Israel itself, its citizens are a heck of a lot more mobile than the people living in lock-down in the Occupied Territories. If they are really zealous about seeing Caetano and Gil, let them travel to do it, because they have that privilege.
If Caetano and Gil organized a concert in Gaza or the West Bank, perhaps making a public gesture towards a genuine two-state solution, a fundraiser for rebuilding, or some other act that recognized Palestinians and Israeli Arabs as worthy of being treated like human beings, then maybe I wouldn’t have a problem with a Tel Aviv concert. But of course, that is not going to happen. So the right thing for them to do is cancel. And presuming that they don’t, I encourage you to think twice about buying tickets to see them in other cities on this tour. I am sure the shows will be really good. I am also sure that a lot of you out there have seen both of these artists on numerous occasions. Consider letting this one pass and writing them a letter about why you will not be attending. You can write to their management here: Gilberto Gil (at Gege Produções), and Caetano Veloso.
Again the link for the petition is here. Thanks for reading.