Even though Neil Young’s July 16 performance in Israel is months away, the artist is being subjected to a multitude of calls to boycott the Jewish state. The Canadians For Justice and Peace in the Middle East (“CJPME”) has launched a petition with a stated goal of 10,000 signatures. This group is attempting to politicize art and disseminate misinformation to achieve its political goals by using Neil’s admirable advocacy on behalf of Native Canadians to mislead him with false comparisons between Native Canadians and Palestinians.
Creative Community for Peace (“CCFP”), an organization founded on the belief that art and music builds bridges and promotes peace, provides artists with accurate and balanced information so that they can have the tools they need to engage in critical thinking.
Contrary to claims by boycott proponents, and unlike Canadian Natives, Palestinians have not been the victims of genocide. In fact, the Arab population in the West Bank, Gaza and Israel has grown and continues to grow exponentially. According to a 2002 article by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), the population of Israeli Arabs increased from 156,000 in 1948 to 1.2 million in 2001, and the CBS predicts it will reach 2 million by 2020. Rather than decimation, Arab Israelis’ quality of life has thankfully improved for both themselves and their children. The CBS points out that Arabs in Israel tend to live 10 years longer than Arabs in neighboring countries and their lifespan has increased by 27 years since 1948.
Israelis actually have much in common with Native Canadians. In the case of Canada, the Europeans who came to her shores had no prior connection to the land. However, archeological discoveries have proven time and again the 3000 year old connection of the Jewish People to the Holy Land. Neil’s involvement and important work promoting First Nation rights has touched the hearts and minds of many Israelis, due to similarities between the two nations. Both have experienced genocide, exile and continued persecution, yet both nations continue to defy the odds and strive to reaffirm their culture in their ancestral homelands.
Although the indigenous and First Nation population in Canada is not unified in its approach toward Israel, the Israeli example of an indigenous people returning to its homeland continues to serve as an inspiration for key figures in Canada’s First Nation people. Only last year, the Chief of the Canadian Cree Nation, the Grand Chief of Manitoba and the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations visited Israel and expressed support for the nation and strengthening these bilateral ties. Chief Phil Fontaine of the Assembly of First Nations, stated that “Indigenous people in Canada have much in common with the people of Israel, including a respect of the land…”.
Native Canadian activist, Ryan Bellerose, said in a June 16, 2013 Toronto Sun article, that “There can be no comparison of the Palestinians’ experience to that of Native Canadians… I am offended that my people’s cause appears to serve merely as a prop for Palestinian propaganda… For too long, we Natives have let an uncompromising and reactionary Palestinian narrative substitute for facts.”
It is critical that the artists and fans hear from voices that support liberal, open democracies such as Israel and the independence of artists. If you believe that cultural boycotts based on misleading information foments discord and discourages dialogue, please join the over 20,000 signatories from across the globe by signing and circulating CCFP’s Anti-Boycott Petition. With your support, Creative Community For Peace is certain that Neil Young will see beyond the rhetoric of the cultural boycott movement and choose to use the universal language of music to uplift spirits and foster change.