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'BDS Did an Important Job!': What Israeli Leftists Don't Get About the Boycott Movement

חנין מג׳אדלי - צרובה
Hanin Majadli
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Noga Erez performs in Israel. Spotify Israel's music editor has quit and the local music industry is worried new artists may pay the price
Noga Erez performs in Israel. Spotify Israel's music editor has quit and the local music industry is worried new artists may pay the priceCredit: Tomer Appelbaum
חנין מג׳אדלי - צרובה
Hanin Majadli

Three weeks there was a storm in an Americano, lukewarm soy milk on the side: “The Shadow,” Israeli rapper Yoav Eliasi, found a new self-hating Jew – a woman this time – to hang in the public square of Facebook. He took an interview with the (too) cool musician Noga Erez and homed in on one phrase: “BDS did an important job.” How scandalous!

The usual suspects soon joined the party of twisting her words and taking them out of context, where they were confronted by the knights of freedom of expression. Close the circle and carry on. And still, it’s interesting to reread Erez’s words as reported in the interview, this time without twisting them or taking them out of context.

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In the interview, which was published in March in the British magazine Huck, Erez had this to say about Roger Waters’ call for a cultural boycott of Israel: “I have a complex answer to this question. I was very happy when Radiohead came to Israel. Even if something terrible happens in the country, it does not mean that people who live in it are part of it, or they want it – and that is the case in Israel, she said, adding: 90 percent of the 40,000 people who filled the audience at that Radiohead show do not want the occupation to continue. I believe BDS did an important job in putting the spotlight on the situation, but I hope all the effort, time, and money they put into it will be invested in discourse and connection.”

So why was Erez happy that “Radiohead came to Israel”? Because that’s the “real” Israeli left – it’s against the occupation, but only in theory. When it comes to real, painful action that hits sensitive places, it has trouble realizing its principles.

Let’s continue: “Even if something terrible happens in the country.” Noga, that something is called settler colonialism, apartheid, oppression, occupation, racist supremacy, military rule. Choose your favorite expression, but spare me that “something.”

“It does not mean that people who live in it are part of it, or they want it.” Honestly, I don’t get it. If the Israelis aren’t part of the occupation, then who is? Who serves in the army? Who sends their children to serve? Is it the foreign workers? And if they aren’t “part of it” and/or “do not want it,” what’s keeping the tens of thousands of Israelis who are against the occupation from actually resisting it? If there’s a problem, I can suggest a few acts of civil disobedience.

As for “that is the case in Israel”: Just the opposite, clearly that’s not the case in Israel. The majority of Israelis are right-wing. Of course the right is right-wing, but on matters of foreign policy and defense, particularly those that pertain to the Palestinians, the left acts like the right.

“90 percent of the 40,000 people who filled the audience at that Radiohead show do not want the occupation to continue.” Noga, who do you suppose the 40,000 people who came to see Radiohead voted for, if not Yair Lapid and the Labor Party. Nice people in plaid flannel shirts, who certainly don’t want the occupation to continue; they are only members of the elite who enable it – from Military Intelligence Unit 8200 to the Sayeret Matkal special-operations force.

So yes, “BDS did an important job in putting the spotlight on the situation,” but apparently it wasn’t enough. Because if the conclusion you reach is “but I hope all the effort, time, and money they put into it will be invested in discourse and connection,” you apparently still don’t understand what the world realized long ago: Talking simply doesn’t get the job done.

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