After weeks of sustained protest and outcry from punk rock supporters, Palestinian solidarity activists, and boycott campaigners, punk rock icon Jello Biafra has agreed to cancel his upcoming show in Tel Aviv, planned for next week.
Biafra had announced his decision to play the gig several weeks ago, claiming that the boycott movment against Israeli apartheid was “divided” and “not as unified” as the South African anti-apartheid movement, and therefore it didn’t really apply to him.
Today, Biafra issued a statement on his Facebook page saying that he and his band, the Guantanamo School of Medicine, are not going through with the Tel Aviv gig, but that “this does not mean that I or anyone else in the band are endorsing or joining lockstep with the boycott of all things Israel.”
I am going to Israel and Palestine to check things out myself and may yet conclude that playing for people in the belly of the beast was the right thing to do in the first place.
Biafra’s decision to cancel the Tel Aviv gig is the right one, but he still seems under the impression that the boycott is a fringe movement that he has the right to ignore.
In his statement, Biafra also concludes quite naively that if he had also booked a gig in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, it would have put the entire debate to rest — as though playing a show in Tel Aviv and playing a show in Ramallah would have been an equitable move. However he doesn’t understand that playing a show in Tel Aviv in the first place is a direct violation of the Palestinian-led boycott call, no matter wherever else one happens to play. If an artist performs for money in Tel Aviv, he is crossing the boycott line. And Palestinians leading the BDS call will not be placated or amused by a token gig in a ghetto bantustan in the West Bank.
And not only that, it comes off as quite racist.
We tried again and came close to landing a Ramallah show, but again, we needed to be better prepared. How fair is it to the organizers to demand a full-on rock show on a few days’ notice with a type of music they may not be familiar with? More importantly, how much are we really doing for Palestinian rights if people there don’t seem interested in our kind of music at all?
No, Jello. People are interested in your music “there.” I happen to know quite a few Palestinian punk rock fans. What they’re not interested in is you deciding to take money to play a gig in Tel Aviv, therefore breaking the BDS call. That’s the big issue.
Jello Biafra may not understand the basic foundation of what’s at the heart of the boycott movement. But at least he won’t entertain an audience in Tel Aviv.