Iconic Musician Bob Geldof: Israel Mustn't Isolate Itself From the Rest of the World

Irish anti-poverty activist, in Israel to receive honorary PhD from Ben Gurion University, urged Israel to spurn cultural isolation, forge better ties with African nations.

Irish musician and anti-poverty activist Bob Geldof encouraged Israelis to forge new connections with Africa and reject cultural insularity, speaking on Sunday in Herzilya at a conference focusing on Israel's relationship with the African continent.

The organizer of the Live Aid and Live 8 concerts, which raised global awareness of the plight of Africa's starving millions, arrived in Israel as a guest of honour of the IsraAID conference on Israeli involvement in Africa: Past, Present and Future."

Bob Geldof

Geldof, who first achieved notoriety performing punk music in the late 1970s, and played the leading actor in the 1982 film version of psychedelic rock band Pink Floyd's The Wall, is best known for organizing musicians to raise funds for Ethiopia during its agricultural crisis of the mid-1980s by recording one of the best-selling records of all time, "Do They Know It's Christmas."

Geldof will also be receiving an honorary doctorate from Ben Gurion University during his visit to Israel for his efforts to combat poverty in Africa and worldwide.

"The Jewish people throughout history, famously, have used their intellect and their culture to be open; to absorb, and be absorbed into other cultures, to assimilate, to learn from and to teach," Geldof said. "That's what you guys do. Do not be forced into turning away from the world."

The conference brought together not-for-profit organizations and private companies who share an interest in increasing Israeli participation in African affairs. Conference panelists discussed trade relations, technological transfers and humanitarian aid.

Idan Raichel, the first artist to achieve popular success in Israel with music that fuses elements of Ethiopian music and Abyssinian languages, sat on a panel with Geldof that discussed "the arts and the media as agents of change for Africa."

The Ambassadors of Ghana, Ethiopia and Nigeria were also in attendance at the conference.

"50 percent of the fastest growing economies in the world are in Africa today. So when people say aid doesn't work, they are wrong," said Geldof. "And that's why the Israeli government has to move away from its narrow focus on its own internal problems, and look out to friends that they will need in the future."

"They have to up their spending on overseas development aid," Geldof added. "They have to join in the rest of the world." Geldof's pleas for Israel to increase aid to Africa were received with lively applause from the conference participants.

Geldof said that people who learn of the human suffering that takes place in Africa must be enlisted to combat it. "If, during the Holocaust, you had been told about it, and you did nothing, are you complicit? Yes! If you are told of a crime and you do nothing, are you complicit? Yes! If you are told that 30 million humans are dying of hunger, and miles to the north, in the continent of Europe, we are paying taxes to destroy food -- are you complicit? Yes!"

Geldof called upon Israeli artists to convince the country to increase ties with Africa. "It's up to the artists of this country and the media to draw attention to your own self-interest. Self-interest is that way -- Africa," Geldof said. "The artists need to persuade the country and the politicians."

In response to a question from Haaretz regarding the type of music that has the most potential to move listeners to participate politically and make a change, Geldof said that pointed protest songs are not as effective as righteous rock anthems.

"If a band gets up and starts preaching, it's boring. Because who are these guys, me or anyone else, to wag a finger? The power of rock'n'roll, or the power of any artist, is in suggestion," he said.

"Noise, attitude, all those things, without articulating what it is, is more powerful," Geldof said. "It conveys a feeling of discontent, things aren't right, things should change, things can change, I'm going to do something."