How the Pixies Broke Their Own BDS Boycott and Ended One Music Fan's Suffering

BDS seems to think that imposing silence across Israel by persuading bands to boycott will end the conflict. Not likely.

Ron Ben-Tovim
Ron Ben-Tovim
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Ron Ben-Tovim
Ron Ben-Tovim

The easiest way to start this off would be to say this: I will never forgive The Pixies for cancelling their planned show in Tel Aviv in 2010. And this, despite the fact that it was just announced that they plan to finally arrive at the Holy Land (sans Kim Deal, for shame!) in June of 2014.

As with any music fan anywhere in the world, music has always been there for me, a survival tool for making sense of things that don’t generally make sense (I think grownups call those things “life”), and providing the soundtrack for the highs and the lows.

An incomplete list of highs and lows would include: Watching news reports of Tel Aviv bus bombings with The Smashing Pumpkins’ “Ode to No One,” growing up as a long-haired angry teen with Korn and Megadeth (sorry mom and dad, turns out you were great), getting enlisted to the IDF with The Pixies’ Doolittle and Surfer Rosa albums blasting in my car on leave, facing being dumped with Jeff Buckley (“Lover You Should’ve Come Over” on repeat), and, finally, getting married to… whatever music was on. I was pretty drunk at the time.

And as with every other music fan, I needed music. I needed it to comfort me, to make me feel normal, that whatever weird thing it was I was going through, it was still not half as weird as Frank Black’s lyrics, or as Kim Deal’s beautiful mind and voice.

And to snatch that away, or, more accurately, to promise it and then to take it away, as the Pixies famously did following the IDF raid on the Turkish aid flotilla, is to remove that prop of normality, leaving me to drop on my face.

Do I understand that artists face immense pressure, whether internal or external, to not play in Israel? Maybe I do. Can I rationalize, I who admire integrity in the artists I passionately follow, why someone would stay out of Israel for the sake of preserving that oh so elusive of attributes? Probably. Am I blind to the plight of Palestinians? No, I am not.

But can I forgive? Now, that’s a whole other kettle of Middle-Eastern fish. Forgiving is emotional, not rational or realistic, and definitely not political, and after all it’s my own beating heart which Frank Black stepped on three years ago.

The gist of the aptly named Boycott Divest Sanction movement (BDS) is pretty much the notion that Israelis shouldn’t really have much of anything until the occupation ends.

“If you, nice Left-leaning music person over there in Israel, just take care of that tiny Middle East peace thing for us,” they seem to say, “we’ll let you have that thing you can’t really live without. Good luck, and happy trails!”

And Israeli music fans, people like me, need to understand why it is that acts they love and that help them deal with the insanity that is this place won’t ever come. And if they don’t like it, then to channel that pain away from moaning about how crappy it is that Pearl Jam won’t ever play here and toward making the world a better place.

But, see, my world, as with every person, is just that, a better place, when I switch on stereo, when I go to a concert. It doesn’t radically alter reality, but it helps to at least spark the rare illusion of normality, if only for a few hours.

So, no, I won’t forgive The Pixies for taking that away.

What I will do, however, is buy a ticket for their 2014 concert, hope they actually show up, and have a great evening with my wife. Maybe we’ll eat something first, and we’ll probably complain about what most certainly will be the horrendous post-concert traffic.

It’ll be just a normal evening. Just what we need.

PixiesCredit: AP
The Pixies: Black Francis, David Lovering and Joey Santiago.

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