Don’t Ignore the Cultural Boycott of Israel

Nearly 50 artists, including Roger Waters, Thurston Moore, Julie Christie and Mike Leigh, recently signed an open letter to the English rock band Radiohead, urging them to cancel their upcoming concert in Israel — and to support the cultural boycott against the Jewish state.

In addition to the anti-Israel “regulars,” some new artists joined the signatories this time, including the hip-hop group Young Fathers.

The open letter was widely reported on in both music and mainstream publications, including Pitchforkthe Washington TimesVulture and Yahoo News. 

These reports, with rare exception, quoted heavily from the letter’s false accusations about Israeli apartheid and human rights violations, without any semblance of a counter-argument to these charges.

In reality, Israel is an open, liberal democracy that guarantees equal rights to all of its citizens. Hundreds of artists who visit or perform there every year speak glowingly about the Jewish state, despite the harassment they receive from the likes of Roger Waters and mostly ill-intended grassroots groups.

In its article, Pitchfork, a popular music magazine that bills itself as “the most trusted name in music,” created the illusion of a wave of support for a cultural boycott of Israel by musicians and artists.

The story conveniently neglected to mention even a handful of the high-profile artists who have rejected the call to boycott Israel — including Madonna, Justin Bieber, Justin Timberlake, Bon Jovi, Claire Danes, Helen Mirren, Rihanna, Alicia Keys, Pitbull, Lady Gaga, Paul McCartney, Neil Young, Ricky Martin, Joss Stone, Carlos Santana, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Quentin Tarantino, Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, Seal, Kevin Costner, Cyndi Lauper, Yanni, DJ Tiesto, Moby, Elton John and Bob Dylan — to name but a few.

The Pitchfork article also failed to balance the negative comments made by the letter’s signatories with even a smattering of positive descriptions, such as one by Madonna, calling Israel “the spiritual center of the world,” or by Jay Leno, who describes Israel as “this one little paradise in the Middle East where freedom reigns.” Pitchfork also failed to mention Paul McCartney, who kept his concert date in Israel despite threats against him.

Just two days after the circulation of the open letter, the chief pop–music critic at the New York Times interviewed Roger Waters, as part of the TimesTalks series of conversations with 21st-century “talents and thinkers.”

In the question-and-answer session, Waters admitted that the open letter fell on deaf ears, and that Radiohead remained committed to performing in Israel in July.

But those same publications that breathlessly reported about the boycott letter were inexcusably quiet about this new announcement. 

When news outlets publicize calls for the cultural boycott of Israel and fail to provide balance, they are not sharing a news story; instead, they are helping to spread misinformation, lies and propaganda.

Lana Melman