I wish this was a fan letter because like so many of my boomer generation I grew up with and love your music. But your past musical success has given you a platform to promote an obsessive and ill advised cultural boycott campaign that is damaging to the generations of Israelis and Palestinians that come after ours.
Music can be used to bring people together. It can be used as a common language where sometimes commonalities are hard to find – especially among youth in this part of the world. You however, have turned music into a language of bitterness and divide. When you bragged recently about talking Stevie Wonder into cancelling a tour to Israel you used music as a political weapon. You aggravated the conflict and did not bring the two sides any closer together.
You state that your goal is to promote a two-state solution but an important element in that quest is for the societies to come together. Boycotts drive them apart. They promote negative rather than positive energy. Your strategy is the opposite of reconciliation and coexistence.
In short, your campaign is about as nuanced as a brick through a Plexiglas window. It bounces back and lets no more light through.
Don’t you get that even some of the most liberal pro-peace activists and organizations are against what you are preaching? You should listen to the words of Sari Nusseibeh, president of Al Quds University in east Jerusalem who says:
“The reason I don’t believe the boycott is the way to go is that I believe peace must be built on the bridge between two civil societies…While some people believed that one way to deal with Israelis was ‘to bash them on their heads,’ the other way is to reach to their hearts, and it’s the reaching out that’s important.”
How Roger, are you building bridges by demanding a cultural boycott? What are Israeli and Palestinian youth supposed to think? How are you helping to build trust with your misguided deeds which sound oh so liberal and progressive but in fact breed mistrust? Rather than encourage compromise you make Israeli youth feels more vulnerable and isolated – the opposite of where they need to be in order to want to move forward. And you give sustenance to Palestinian youth who believe they have no reason try to engage their neighbor peacefully as staying away from them is the ultimate answer to their aspirations.
Your songs about generational alienation should guide rather than misguide you.
Your politically correct zeal is backfiring in any case. Among students in your own country, the UK, attitudinal research towards BDS unequivocally shows that British university students are highly against this particular form of political pressure. They do not think boycotts are fair play. Students are into exchanging ideas, not wholesale prohibitions. You should listen to your audience.
And I ask, would you suggest that the truly great Stevie Wonder, who has shown us all how even the most harsh circumstances could be overcome, boycott other nations? Would you urge him and other musicians to avoid playing in the countries Freedom House lists as repressive of basic civil rights such as Russia and Venezuela, places you have played in and profited from?
Next time you visit Israel I highly suggest you take a tour of Hadassah Hospital, where Israeli and Palestinian doctors work side by side to help Palestinian and Israeli patients. It is the kind of environment where cultural barriers are strengthened not reinforced.
Or take time to sit with the Parents Circle, a group of bereaved Palestinian and Israeli parents who come together to help build a two-state solution based on understanding and respect. They do not boycott each other, they lean on each other for strength to try in their own way to resolve the conflict for which they paid the ultimate price…the loss of their children.
Roger, on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, you just might need some more education. Meanwhile, we don’t need your thought control.