Avi Shamir

Roll Over Roger Waters – and Tell Costello the News

This week Jethro Tull front man Ian Anderson will be staging two concerts in Tel-Aviv as part of his world tour. Apart from his famed flute and the good music he brings to our shores, the good news for Israel is Anderson’s continued refusal to give in to pressure from ex-Pink Floyd bass player, BDS activist and incurable anti-Semite Roger Waters. The latter’s pet passion, when he isn’t flying a pig-shaped balloon emblazoned with the Star of David as he did so flagrantly in a concert in Belgium in 2013, is convincing rock musicians to boycott Israel.

Waters has not managed to sway Anderson who, in his last visit to Israel in 2012, said: “I don’t let those people bully me and tell me where to play, I make my own decisions.” Anderson is in good company with Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and other big acts who have performed here in recent years. What makes Anderson unique among his peers is that he also donated his personal earnings from previous concerts in Haifa, Jerusalem and Ranaana to non-profits that promote Israeli-Palestinian dialogue and cooperation. Now, there’s an old rock and roller who wants to stimulate change and knows how to set an example.

Anderson’s arrival here flies in the face of Waters and BDS, which stands for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions directed against Israel. One wonders why a movement that calls for an end to Israeli Apartheid doesn’t seem to care if its boycott victims are Palestinians. Last summer BDS managed to induce Soda Stream to close down its West Bank factory, put hundreds of Palestinians out of work and claim success. “This is a clear-cut BDS victory against an odiously complicit Israeli company,” BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti stated, adding: “Israel should not be allowed to exploit its occupation by operating factories in Palestinian lands.”

For the full story on this BDS “victory” check out:

Not to limit its damage to the occupied territories, BDS has no qualms about targeting Israeli companies on the west side of the green line, calling for boycotts of Teva Pharmaceuticals, Ahava Dead Sea skin care products, Israeli fruit and vegetables and even Ben & Jerry’s ice cream if doesn’t shut down its Israeli branches. Strangely, according to an investigation by the Zionist Federation in the UK, two pro-BDS websites called “Students for Justice in Palestine” at Cornell University and the “Palestinian Holocaust Museum” (just the name raises eyebrows) are powered by WiX, a website platform based in Tel-Aviv.

Without a doubt, BDS can also stand for Barefaced Double Standards, which conveniently enables Roger Waters to be anti-Semitic, anti-Israel and politically correct all at the same time. And since Waters’ sphere of influence is in the music industry, the boycotters he aims to recruit are like-minded musicians.

Elvis Costello, for example. Back in 2010, Costello caved in to Waters/BDS pressure and cancelled his two Israeli show dates. He may not be a proven anti-Semite like Waters, but he does have one damning racist remark in his portfolio. Way back in 1979, Costello, then an up and coming young rock star, was sitting in a hotel bar in Columbus, Ohio with blues singer extraordinaire Bonnie Bramlett, of Delaney and Bonnie, when he infamously called Ray Charles a “blind ignorant nigger.” This earned him a smart slap on the face from Bramlett, lots of bad press, a ton of hate mail and racist baggage that he has been trying to discard ever since. My guess, maybe as late as 2010 Costello figured he could somehow cover up his racist image with a handy politically correct cosmetic makeover, i.e. by hopping on the Israeli boycott bandwagon.

A footnote to that: The only defense for Costello’s racist remark was that he was drunk…Which is oddly reminiscent of a background voice muttering “I was drunk at the time” on Dark Side of the Moon, an iconic Pink Floyd album I can’t listen to any more without conjuring up an image of a flying pig with a branded Star of David silhouetted by the bright side of the moon.

As far as Waters, Costello and their shocking words and deeds are concerned, most Israelis agree that if it sounds racist and smells racist, it’s racist. By that same logic, many of those same Israelis are coming to an understanding that where the occupation of Judea and Samaria, aka the West Bank, is concerned, if it looks, feels and smells like Apartheid, it must be Apartheid. But very few Israelis believe that the BDS boycotts are going to end the occupation or bring an Israeli-Palestinian settlement any closer.

BDS may not care what the Israelis think, but they must be aware that world public opinion is not on their side. Only yesterday, Yair Lapid, the leader of the Yesh Atid centrist party and a prominent figure in the Israeli opposition, asked London Mayor Boris Johnson to terminate a BDS hate campaign spreading through the London Underground to herald “Israel Apartheid Week.” Lapid received the Mayor’s assurances that the transport authorities will tear down the inflammatory posters plastered on over 500 of the city’s tube trains and apprehend those who are caught dispensing them. And recently, a French high court upheld a landmark decision to fine BDS activists for incitement and ruled that the organization is discriminatory and illegal.

These are noteworthy developments. English and French officialdom are now saying, however belatedly, that BDS is promoting hatred against an ethnic group and an entire nation, signifying the beginning of the end of their anti-Israel activities. It also debunks the myth that Europe, and the whole world, for that matter, is against Israel. In effect, it turns the old “Zionism is Racism” accusation on its head and points a finger at the real haters, those who are against the existence of the Jewish state.

In tune with the times, Ian Anderson will be performing here soon, and reportedly rock legends Bruce Springsteen and Dire Straits have booked summer dates in Tel-Aviv. As for Roger Waters, Elvis Costello and all those who support the BDS agenda, their act is getting old.

About the Author
Avi Shamir is a freelance writer, editor, translator and the author of "Saving the Game," a novel about baseball. A Brooklyn College graduate with a BA in English, Avi has contributed to the Jerusalem Post, The Nation, Israel Scene, In English and The World Zionist Press Service.
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