Monday, June 12, 2017

Looks like Thom Yorke of Radiohead has joined countless other rockers giving the boycotters the finger, this time from the pages of Rolling Stone magazine (which, apparently, is still published), a turn of events that got me reflecting on previous instances and thoughts regarding BDS and celebrity.
For obvious reasons, BDS hits the newswires whenever it intersects with fame, which is why the “movement” tries to glom onto any publicity (good or ill) related to a rock or movie star (be they up and coming, has been, or never was). 
The underlying problem with such an approach is that it equates being newsworthy with being noteworthy.  But why should the opinion of a rock guitarist or drummer, no matter how talented, mean more than that of the crossing guard, or the guy working the supermarket checkout counter?
The eloquence of actors makes them a bit trickier to deal with than those who communicate through electric instruments pumped into enormous amplifiers.  Keep in mind, however, than even the best paid actors are simply craftsmen, like fine carpenters or chefs. And if they have a reputation as being wiser than members of these other professions, perhaps it is because: (1) their craft is the ability to convincingly deliver clever and articulate dialog; and (2) that dialog is provided to them by teams of writers who hone and polish words to ensure that they are clever and articulate before being placed into an actor’s mouth.
This is a long way of asking whether we should care about which celebrities are or are not choosing to visit Israel this year, or any other year. After all, if a major university or church chose to boycott or divest from Israel, that would imply that the moral weight of these centuries-old institutions was now bearing down in judgment on the Jewish state. But can the same moral weight be assigned to Meg Ryan?
Calibrating Israel’s moral credibility on the whims of pop and movie stars is particularly problematic, given the strategy the BDSers use to get their way, demonstrated by moral blackmail and disruptions Radiohead has had to contend with since announcing their latest Israel gig.   In other words, the boycotters have made it clear that they have every intention of making a celebrity’s life hell if they keep their commitments to perform in Israel and have already demonstrated that they will exploit the name of any celebrity who caves into their demands.
Celebrity BDS is clearly part of the boycotter’s “Apartheid Strategy” predicated on the notion that if stars can be made to boycott Israel the way they boycotted Apartheid South Africa, then that will turn Israel into the next South-Africa-like pariah.  From this fallacious premise (equivalent to “All dogs are animals, all cats are animals, therefore all dogs are cats.”) the boycotters have constructed a strategy crippled by three fatal flaws:
First, given the high profile of BDS bullying campaigns directed at bands like Radiohead, who can take seriously the claim that any band choosing to skip Israel is taking a moral stance, vs. getting a bunch of harassers off their back?
Second, by turning decisions over whether or not to perform in Israel into political statements, the boycotters themselves created a formula that says the thousands of artists visiting the Jewish state each year must be doing so as defiant demonstrations of support for Israel.
Finally, the whole celebrity boycott plan rests of the assumption that a nation which has withstood invasion, war, terror, economic blockade and decades of propaganda assault to build a vibrant and successful nation are going to buckle because Elvis Costello screws his Israel fans, or Roger Waters say something mean whenever his nurses at the geriatric ward let him near a computer. 

In a word, the entire plan is fakakta.  

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