Bouncing home in the early hours of Friday from a second wonderful night of Pete Doherty at Barby Tel Aviv, I am ‘greeted’ by depressingly familiar facebook discussions about Roger Waters and BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) . . . aka the ‘respectable’, twenty-first century boycott of Jews.
I got into indie rock/post-punk revival band The Libertines thanks to a religious-gig-going mate. And something about its maverick co-frontman Doherty, whether his talented songwriting or even some of his offstage excesses, immediately struck a chord with this sheltered, ‘nice’ Jewish boy from Hendon. I guess because of Jonny, I have always somehow been drawn to such outsiders/misfits/rebels. And soon thereafter, my then boss, duty soliciting, picked up Doherty as a client following one of his not infrequent drug-related indiscretions. So you can imagine my excitement when I spotted, on facebook, that Pete was actually coming to Tel Aviv . . .
Springing out of the Central Bus Station last Wednesday evening, I at once purchased a few tins of Sudanese-strength lager for the walk through south Tel Aviv’s Shapira neighbourhood. They soon did the trick, also making the evening prayer in the local Beit Tefila somewhat less routine than usual.
Hearing Pete’s opening “Shalom” immediately warmed the heart. Sometimes it is hard living here. Not the day-to-day. Just the constant feeling that we are on our own, and the knowledge that “they” don’t like us, siding instead, quite incomprehensibly to us, with the brutally oppressive, misogynistic, homophobic, Islamofascist terror ‘states’ nextdoor (the very reasons that I have long ceased reading the paper or watching the news).
So when artists like Doherty refuse to go along with the campaign of hate, speak their first few words of Ivrit (even if, like Pete, confusing their “tov me’od” and “toda”), swig from a bottle of Goldstar, draw on their first Israeli joint, or even relate their experiences from the Carmel Market – see the video at the bottom (of Thursday evening’s opening) – it just means so indescribably much. Well it does, at least, to me.
Pete sussed the locals immediately. “You have to negotiate everything here,” he exclaimed, on emerging for his encore. “I just asked for two minutes [rest]. “No,” the bloke goes, “you can have one”!” And also Tel Aviviot. “You’re a little optimistic,” he told one, after reading out loud her rather forward suggestion for after the show.
I have always liked to think that I possess a good instinct about people. Even famous people. When I first saw Morrissey swing those gladioli on Top of the Pops, I knew that here was a man . . . and, sure enough, some 25 years later, he also ignored the anti-Semites to come and play here (see And we’re still fond of you, Moz!)
BDS represents no less than ‘respectable’, post-Holocaust, anti-Semitism. The obsessives who today demonise the Jewish state by calling for its economic isolation are the same types who, in previous centuries, demonised Jews with caricatures, boycotts, and far, far worse; or who, in return for longed-for Gentile recognition and acceptance, were prepared to sell out their coreligionists.
BDS’s Israel-only bashing and self-hating-Jewish proponents are not folk you’d particularly want to share a beer with . . .
Let us begin, for horrible English toff example, with old horseface Emma Thompson (who, at a theatrical festival to feature productions from, inter alia, Iran, Turkey and China, saw fit only to call for the boycott of the Jewish one!) Her daughter attended the same Hampstead school as children of friends. And, while other celebrity parents – including Sean Bean, Damian Lewis and Bill Nighy – gave of themselves in a fundraising campaign for a sick pupil, Thompson just gave excuses (via her publicist, of course). She was, on the other hand, excellent at making lots of luvvie/“look at me” noise outside the school gates. A real piece of work, by all accounts.
And talk to anyone unfortunate enough to have known Gerald Kaufman growing up in Leeds. They will tell you what a singularly repellent individual he was, even then (see “Dame” Gerald: Our very own “Uncle Tom” and Kaufman: Enough to make your Rabbi anti-Semitic). And one hears similar things about most others in the List of Shame, headed by the (thankfully) late Harold Pinter, abhorrent Miriam Margolyes (see here . . . though not on a full stomach) and, sadly, two artists whom I very much admired, Mike Leigh and Alexei Sayle.
I have little doubt that Waters is another fabrenter (as my parents used to refer to such people). He has had more than enough time to explain why he picks on Israel, and suspends Star of David-emblazoned inflatable pigs over his audiences. To my mind, there is only one explanation. (And I now feel vindicated in my lifelong disdain for the clinical dirges of Pink Floyd – if Hitler had come to power forty years later, guards at Dachau would have alternated Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg with The Dark Side of the Moon.)
Thompson and Waters clearly couldn’t give a Fliegenschwein about human suffering. If they did, they would be working tirelessly on Syria, Saudi Arabia, Darfur, Eritrea, North Korea, China, etc, instead of tirelessly obsessing with the only democracy in the Middle East, and one that has been embroiled in an existential, 66-year war on terror (one now faced by the entire western world). Their issue is with Jews.
The boycotters did try to get to Pete. “They told me it was dangerous here,” he quipped, after stumbling, one (joint-injected) Goldstar too many, into the audience. And while his suggestion for resolving the Middle East conflict – “You might as well just have a drink and listen to some music” – may be a tad facile, it comes from a love of all people, not the hatred of one.
Clean-liver he may not be, but Pete Doherty is clearly just an everyday good bloke. And he is the very antithesis of the arrogant, hypocritical, self-righteous, morally dishonest Thompsons and Waters of this world, who hide beneath veneers of decency, while rabidly pursuing racist agendas of the most pernicious kind. What an upside-down planet we live on, where public persona and choice of lifestyle, rather than fundamental goodness, accord that malevolent pair more standing than him.
The Oxford Dictionary defines a “libertine” as “a person who freely indulges in sensual pleasures” – as a Queens Park Rangers fan (Doherty once penned a club fanzine) puts it so tastefully here, “any chap who’s rearended [mike: allegedly] Moss gets my applause!” – but also as “a freethinker”.
Throughout his litany of troubles, there is one yiddish word that has almost certainly never been used in association with Pete Doherty . . . but for us, Pete, you will always be a mensch.