DJs refuse to spin for Israel

The Black Madonna (Merlijn Hoek)

Dozens of DJs and music producers have joined an international call to support the cultural boycott of Israel.

“As long as the Israeli government continues its brutal and sustained oppression of the Palestinian people, we respect their call for a boycott of Israel as a means of peaceful protest against the occupation,” reads the statement artists posted on their social media pages, along with the hashtag #DJsForPalestine.

Popular artists such as The Black Madonna, Four Tet, Caribou, Ben UFO, Call Super, Laurel Halo, Ciel and Rrose showed their support of the boycott, along with record labels such as Truants and Discwoman.

UK-based DJ Ben UFO said on Instagram that after playing in Tel Aviv in 2013 and learning about why Palestinians have called for a cultural boycott, he had declined further invitations to play. “For me this is primarily an issue of solidarity, and an exercise in listening,” he said.

“My position on this issue is part of a more general politics of anti-racism, which I hope that I can live up to.”

In his statement of support for the boycott, British DJ and producer Call Super admonished Israel’s recent passage of the “nation-state” law, which enshrines Jewish supremacy and apartheid.

“We have reached the point where silence makes us complicit,” he wrote on Instagram.

Following the launch of the campaign and a recent appeal by boycott campaigners, Peggy Gou, a Korean DJ based in Berlin, announced she had canceled her performance at the DGTL festival in Tel Aviv.

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) thanked Gou and artists involved in the #DJsForPalestine campaign for their “meaningful solidarity with our nonviolent struggle for freedom, justice and equality.”

Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters applauded the artists for their support of Palestinian rights and the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, saying “we welcome all our brothers and sisters to the barricades.”

In Germany, where the government has undertaken crackdowns on Palestine solidarity activity, a Berlin music venue canceled a party in support of the #DJsForPalestine campaign.

The party was organized by Room 4 Resistance, an LGBTQ and anti-racist collective that opposes Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights.

“Bring politics back to the dancefloor”

In a statement, Room 4 Resistance expressed its frustration at the venue and said its mission is “to bring politics back to the dancefloor, and we stand in solidarity with the Palestinians.”

The #DJsForPalestine campaign kicked off after 20 artists – more than one-third of the original international lineup – pulled out of last week’s Meteor Festival in Israel. They included headliner Lana Del Rey, Of Montreal and Shlohmo.

Musician and producer Honey Dijon, who had sharply criticized fans last month for asking her not to play the Meteor Festival performance, ended up cancelling her gig at the last minute, according to PACBI.

US-based jazz musician Kamasi Washington, indie band Why? and hip hop artists Pusha T and A$AP Ferg were among artists who ignored calls to respect the picket line and performed anyway.

The lead singer of Why?, who had dedicated his performance to the Palestinians who were forcibly exiled from the villages on the land where the festival took place, told Israeli daily Haaretz that he understood “what the boycott was about” but “felt that it’s not the right way to deal with things.”

Yoni Wolf added, “How can you have a dialogue if you’re not there?”

The Meteor Festival was held in the northern Galilee, on land that is inaccessible to millions of Palestinians simply because they are not Jewish.

The head of the Meteor Festival indicated he will be suing Lana Del Rey for canceling her performance, claiming that she “tricked us.”

Voices “grow louder”

Creative Community for Peace (CCFP), a thinly-disguised front group for the far-right Israel lobby organization StandWithUs, had been pushing Israel supporters to thank artists for performing at the festival and “supporting cultural exchange.”

A confidential report authored by CCFP and seen by The Hollywood Reporter indicated that the organization is panicked by the growing cultural boycott campaign.

The lobby group concedes that the campaign is “constantly growing and changing, developing new and innovative tactics to reach artists and pressure them,” and notes the boycott movement’s connections to Black Lives Matter and feminist groups, The Hollywood Reporter says.

“This is worrying, as the physical presence of protesters can make a big difference to an artist who is wavering,” CCFP notably states in its report, adding that “one of the most disturbing” trends is the growth of the so-called “silent boycott,” where artists simply refrain from booking shows in Israel.

“The move from Lana Del Rey, intentionally or not, has only brought BDS more attention,” The Hollywood Reporter writes.

Notably, the owner of a top Tel Aviv nightclub told Idit Frenkel of Haaretz he had noticed a slowdown in appearances by international DJs in the past two years due to the growing boycott campaign.

The owner added that “a number of DJs who used to appear with us – Moodymann, Kyle Hall, the Martinez Brothers – have announced they won’t be returning.”

Frenkel wrote that “the voices calling for a cultural boycott of Israel, whether in sports, concerts or the subfield of electronic music, aren’t going to disappear. If anything, they’re only going to grow louder.”

Meanwhile, music industry publications such as Pitchfork, NME, Fader, MixMag, DJ Mag, Resident Advisor and Germany’s Spex have published articles boosting the cultural boycott campaign, including stories mentioning the wave of artists canceling their Meteor Festival gigs.

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"Yoni Wolf added, “How can you have a dialogue if you’re not there?”"
The better question would / should be how can you have a dialogue with people that have lost their humanity and their conscience.

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Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).