The Israeli press was reporting yesterday that The Rolling Stones are planning a show in Tel Aviv in June. The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) hit back immediately by slamming the group’s decision as hypocritical.
“The Rolling Stones were at the forefront of enforcing a cultural boycott of apartheid South Africa,” said BNC spokesperson Rafeef Ziadeh, “but performing in Israel at this time is morally equivalent to performing in South Africa during the apartheid era.”
The announcement yesterday came after months of speculation and rumors. Israeli concert promoter Shuki Weiss held a press conference in Tel Aviv to announce the 4 June gig. Israeli newspaper Haaretz today gushed it “could be the second most significant show in the history of live music in Israel.”
The Jerusalem Post claimed that Weiss has shelled out an “estimated” $6 million to secure the gig. Tickets for the show reportedly start at 695 shekels ($200).
Weiss has been at the forefront of official Israeli attempts to fight back against the cultural aspect of the BDS movement. “The state must intervene,” he told Israeli legislators in a 2011 parliamentary committee meeting.
In the BNC press release, Ziadeh called on the band to cancel the gig. Noting how such high-profile performances are politicized, she stated they “will be used as a publicity tool by the Israeli government.”
Ziadeh noted, however, that things are changing and that high profile acts are now often joining the boycott of Israel, either explicitly or tacitly: “We’re now at the point where high profile performances such as this one are the exception rather than the rule. There are hardly any western artists playing in the upcoming Red Sea Jazz Festival and last year’s Plugfest and Lollapalooza Israel festivals had to be scrapped because international artists refused to play there.”
Even Weiss himself conceded this point in his press conference: “It’s not taken for granted that a band of this magnitude will come to Israel.”
Last month, while the gig was still only a rumor, a hoax Facebook page was set up by unknown persons posing as BDS activists.
The hoax appeared to be an attempt to discredit Palestine solidarity activists by making it appear as if BDS activists disseminate false information and post anti-Semitic and racist content.
The page posed a letter calling on The Rolling Stones to cancel their rumored gig – the letter was supposedly signed onto by The Electronic Intifada but this was untrue.
The Electronic Intifada denied signing the letter produced by the page. Ali Abunimah, EI’s executive director, clarified:
While The Electronic Intifada reports on the BDS movement and individuals who write for it – including me – may support BDS, we do not sign letters like this or endorse specific campaigns in the name of the publication. It should, moreover, be obvious to any serious journalist that the appearance of our name is suspect because the letter was not published on our website, nor did we disseminate it on our own Facebook page or Twitter accounts.
The background to all these events is the recent ratcheting-up of Israeli government attacks on the BDS movement. In February, it was reported that a special ministerial meeting had discussed getting Mossad and Shin Bet (Israel’s spy agencies) more involved against the campaign.
The Times reported that “Israeli spies have been ordered to dig up intelligence showing that supporters of an economic boycott are linked to terrorists and enemy states.”