Ask anyone who knows me even a little bit socially who my favorite rock band is, and they will not hesitate for a second before they say it is Jethro Tull. So, at least they will be expecting me to say something about Tull’s leader, Ian Anderson’s statement that the band intends to perform their three concerts in Israel as planned.
Again, it’s well known that I do not support a boycott of Israel, while I do support a boycott of settlement products.
That said, given the escalation by Israel embodied in Operation Cast Lead and its aggressive actions to defend its blockade as well as the assault on Israeli democracy by a large portion of the Knesset, I am sympathetic to those artists who have chosen not to perform in Israel.
But I think Anderson has chosen the right path to deal with these issues. He says:
Having long maintained the position that culture and the arts should be free of political and religious censorship and a distance kept between them, I took a decision, nonetheless, in February of 2009 that any future concerts in Israel by me or Jethro Tull would be for the benefit of charitable donations to bodies representing the development of peaceful co-existence between Arabs, Jews and Christians, and the fostering of better Palestinian/Israeli relations.
There are nitpicks I can make with that statement (Ian needs to be aware that some Arabs are Christians, and that Arab is not a substitute for Muslim, for instance), but the basic idea is just right—use a concert in Israel to promote reconciliation. I see that as far more productive than the boycott, which is not increasing the Israeli sense that the world won’t stand for the occupation nearly as much as it is reinforcing the Israeli sense that they are being “singled out.”
In my view, this is the better course. Anderson is not ignoring the situation, but he is refraining from getting involved in it, while trying to do something to help that does not necessarily favor one group or the other.
Anderson has generally refrained from being involved in politics, in a public way. As a result, I have no idea how well he grasps the Israel-Palestine conflict. Nor do I have much sense of where his sympathies lie, if he has any. I do hope he will consult with knowledgeable people (and I of course volunteer my services) as to which groups to donate to.
I would hope that BDS advocates would recognize that a band that doesn’t boycott Israel but contributes the proceeds of its shows to good organizations is working toward the same goal most of us are—an end to occupation and conflict. I’ve applauded Ian Anderson at literally dozens of concerts. I now get to applaud him in the context of my work. I like it.