Michael Kohler

Say Goodbye, Dave

Every year, the date of the Dave Matthews Band’s annual visit to Long Island to play at the Jones Beach Amphitheatre goes on my calendar as soon as it is announced. Sadly, when they make their annual stop this week, I along with a good number of like- minded Jewish and Zionist fans, will voluntarily forgo this year’s show here and at their local venues across the country, and write off a sometimes decades-long fandom, as another unfortunate consequence of the Israel–Hamas war.

“What does the Dave Matthews Band have to do with the Israel–Hamas war,” you might be thinking? The answer should be nothing – there should be no connection. But unfortunately, lead singer Dave Matthews has repeatedly chosen to use brief interludes in many post-October 7 concerts to offer unfair, anti-Israel remarks which alienate and ruin the evening for many Jews and Zionist fans.

I am not accusing Dave of being an antisemite.  There are those in the music industry (read: Roger Waters) and I do not believe Dave is anywhere near that level.  Instead, the South African born, naturalized U.S. citizen is unnecessarily (even though likely well-intentioned) weighing in on a topic he is grossly misinformed and causing more harm than good.  Deep down, he is a true pacifist.  He wants the war to end and the killing to end and for there to be peace on earth and, yes, even for the hostages to return home, and he uses his voice and fame to spread that message.  This simplistic, innocent, and even naïve view of the world he wishes for is great – for an artist or musician or poet; but it is has also led him to become the perfect, unwitting propogandist for Hamas-fed lies that make it into the public discourse and are accepted as true.

You see, when you all you do is react to the latest death count released by Hamas or emotionally retell to your audience a story of a little girl in Gaza forced to collect rainwater to drink, as he did at MSG in November, you are making a clear distinction and assigning labels of “oppressor/bad guys” and “oppressed/good guys.”  But a 100+ year old conflict and 9+ months of war cannot be summed up in two minutes between songs.  Israel did not hit the al-Ahli Hospital back in November, instead it was a mis-fired terrorist rocket; the high number and percentage of children killed in Gaza was never accurate and is being disproved and walked back by the U.N.; there never was a famine or risk of people dying of starvation in Gaza and that assertion is being disproved; and Israel does not target civilians, their deaths are caused solely because Hamas fires rockets, fights from and hides its munitions in and below civilian homes, hospitals and mosques.  These unsubstantiated, so-called “facts” are quickly fed to the public and eaten up by do-gooders like Dave Matthews who then literally can’t help himself from getting up in front of 20,000 people, speaking from his heart and begging the world to put an end to such suffering.

Hamas leadership must be smiling ear-to-ear watching as their public relations strategy works perfectly!  With every word out of Dave’s mouth, they watch Israel’s standing in the world continue to take a beating, giving them zero desire to put an end to the fighting and death of their own people.  Dave, have you heard the quotes from Yahya Sinwar welcoming the death of Palestinian civilians as a “necessary sacrifice” to achieve their permanent goal of eliminating Israel?  Do you realize that your comments are having the exact opposite of your intended effect to end the war, and is only perpetuating the conflict by playing right into Hamas’ playbook?

A Facebook group, “DMB Jew Crew” became a safe space for like-minded fans to discuss the band’s anti-Israel messaging, our feeling of unease and abandonment and even fear hearing such comments at concerts.  With the violent anti-Israel protests taking place across the country and the inexplicable rise in antisemitism, these feelings are well-founded – and not what one wants to experience while attending a concert of their favorite band.  The group reached out to Dave explaining that it is not wrong to express empathy for the victims in Gaza but imploring him, if he is going to comment on the situation, to present both sides of the conflict and speak of the pain and suffering of Israelis and plight of the hostages, as well.

And just as reports posted in this group suggested that message might have gotten through came the troubling comments this past weekend at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in upstate New York where the band’s annual 2-night stint is a tremendously popular anticipated destination for their loyal fanbase.  Some speculate that it was here in New York with its large population of Jews, just as he did at MSG in November, that he chose to go on his worst rant to-date. On night one, standing alone on stage, Dave called for a ceasefire in Gaza and opined that it “doesn’t make any sense” that “we send our tax dollars across the world to drop bombs on children and starve them and deprive them of water” and called to “free Palestine.”  Sounds like a line straight from Sinwar himself.

Someone must have gotten in his ear because on night two he attempts to make things better by correcting his “error of omission” for failing to mention his desire for the safe return of the hostages the night before but reiterates his sympathy for “the decades of violence committed against the Palestinians.”  In other words, his attempt to make things better just made them worse as he did not retract any of his prior offensive remarks, doubled down on his presentation of Palestinians as the victims, and suggested that Israel and the United States are perpetuating the war to make money for the defense and arms industries.

Dave, you have been played.  When the facts and goals you are advocating for are those of and praised by Iran, countless of its proxy terrorist organizations and the violent, antisemitic mobs calling for a global intifada in cities around the globe and for the destruction of the one Jewish country, you are on the wrong side of history.  One day you will wake up and realize this.  But you are not looking to the future, you are looking at the present and the pacifist in you wants an end to the war.  I get it.  Unfortunately, your words and actions are having the exact opposite effect: you are encouraging Hamas to prolong this war, and you my friend, have blood on your hands.

How about the next time you have an uncontrollable urge to comment on the war in Gaza, you think about and offer these remarks instead: Why hasn’t Hamas accepted any of the numerous cease fire deals that would put an immediate end to their people’s suffering?  Besides building hundreds of miles of terror tunnels, what has Hamas done with the billions of dollars of foreign aid they have received since they took control of Gaza in 2007? And when you chant for a free Palestine, clarify that you want to see a Gaza and Palestinian people free of Hamas’ authoritarian, terrorist rule.

War is horrible and we would all like it to end.  But it is crucial to remember there was no fighting on October 6, and Israel did not want this war nor start this war.  You question why people can’t solve their problems by talking, so please read up on the myriads of peace proposals the Palestinians have walked away from over the decades and how Iran, Hamas and the like do not recognize Israel’s existence or right to exist…so who exactly should Israel be talking to?  Unfortunately, though, you have made your views crystal clear and until you change your tune, me and countless other Jewish and Zionist fans can no longer support you or the band.  I am afraid we must Say Goodbye.

About the Author
Michael Kohler is on the Long Island Regional Board of the American Jewish Committee, is committed to strengthening the relationship between US Jews and Israel, and professionally works as an immigration attorney on Long Island, N.Y. The opinions expressed are personal and do not reflect those of AJC or any other group or organization.
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