The Epic Failure of the BDS Cultural Boycott

The headlines have focused for weeks on the campaign by Roger Waters to persuade Radiohead to cancel its Israel gig. The self-appointed musical boycotter-in-chief has been no more successful with Thom Yorke than with hundreds of other performers who have ignored him. In fact, many are now more comfortable joining in the condemnation of the anti-Semitic boycott. Just last week, Nasreen Qadri, a Muslim Israeli Arab singer who will perform with Radiohead, blasted Waters and the other BDS advocates for actions detrimental to the cause of peace and tolerance.

The cultural boycott got a lot of attention and the image of success when its initial call to boycott Israel was answered by a handful of acts, most notably Elvis Costello, Gil Scott-Heron and the Pixies. One good indication of how complete the failure of BDS has been is that the Pixies later performed in Israel and are expected to follow-up that 2014 concert with another this year.

The handful of boycotters have been almost entirely B- or C-listers while the A-list, which includes Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, Madonna, Elton John, Rihanna, Rod Stewart and hundreds of others have played to tens of thousands of Israeli concert goers. According to a list compiled by the Creative Community for Peace (CCFP), along with my own research, nearly 1,000 artists have performed in Israel in defiance of the boycotters.

CCFP, a group comprised of leading figures in the entertainment business, has played a critical behind-the-scenes role in working with artists and their representatives to ensure they understand the deleterious impact of the cultural boycott and the nefarious motivations of the BDS campaigners. CCFP has helped mobilize the entertainment community to oppose the BDS movement.

Others are speaking out as well. After a group of British celebrities called for boycotting Israel, J.K. Rowling and more than 150 other prominent British artists denounced their campaign. This month, the anti-Semitic BDS nudniks tried to coerce Lincoln Center to cancel a play because of its Israeli provenance. To its credit, the Center ignored the pressure and, backed by prominent artists who came out in support of the performance, pledged to go on with the show.

I’m not sure why Radiohead has attracted so much attention considering it has one of the longest relationships with Israel. This was their fourth trip to Israel, the first going back to 1993. Yorke hasn’t minced words in his responses to the BDSers, from his scathing retort to Waters in Rolling Stone, to giving protestors the finger at a concert recently in Scotland.

Artists should be embarrassed to abandon their principles and give in to blackmail from the boycott advocates. Those who have joined the BDS movement should be even more ashamed of being associated with a campaign that is anti-peace, anti-freedom of expression and anti-Semitic. Fortunately, their efforts, like the rest of the BDS campaign, have failed to hurt Israel or change its policies. The only ones who continue to suffer from the boycott are the Palestinians.

Waters’ increasingly desperate rants are a response to the epic failure of BDS. Artists can do their part in nailing its coffin shut by standing with Yorke and giving a collective finger to the BDSers by performing in Israel.

Dr. Mitchell Bard is the author/editor of 24 books including the 2017 edition of Myths and Facts: A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict, The Arab Lobby, and the novel After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.

About the Author
Dr Mitchell Bard is the Executive Director of the nonprofit American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (AICE) and a foreign policy analyst who lectures frequently on U.S.-Middle East policy. Dr. Bard is the director of the Jewish Virtual Library, the world's most comprehensive online encyclopedia of Jewish history and culture. He is also the author/editor of 24 books, including The Arab Lobby, Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam’s War Against the Jews and the novel After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.
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