Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Lebanese Bands and BDS

When it comes to talking about boycotting Israel, it seems like we always have the same conversations: Pro-Israel people saying that boycotts are bad (and why), anti-Israel people saying that boycotts are good (and why), and the rare exceptions coming from people like Norman Finkelsein who say that boycotts are good but just ineffective.

Because it seems like the discussion is always the same, I enjoyed reading this blog post and comments from a blogger based in Lebanon. I'm not sure why they are all writing in English but it certainly works out for us. Basically the story is that the Red Hot Chili Peppers played in Lebanon last week and a band called Mashrou3 Leila was invited to open for them. Leila is not well known outside of Lebanon and this could be a chance for them to break out of their "indie" status and gain wider audiences. However, because Peppers were planning on playing in Israel at the time Leila was targeted by PACBI and their BDS legions, demanding that they not share the stage with people who don't boycott Israel. In other words, "boycott the boycotters."

Eventually Leila gave in and broke their contract (which could lead to legal action) and announced that they wouldn't play with the Peppers. The Peppers didn't care, neither did the audience, and certainly neither did Israel or the Palestinians. So the only people who actually suffered for this boycott decision were the band and their fans. They gave up a huge opportunity for basically nothing.

The author of the Lebanese blog was rather upset not by their decision but by the bullying and smear campaign of the BDSers in Lebanon who demanded that these artists screw themselves over in the name of someone else's cause. And it is indeed someone else's cause. 

That is what is so great about reading these comments from a Lebanese perspective, they are not all slavering supports of the Palestinians or of the boycott campaign. Many of his readers did not feel that boycotting Israel was (a) effective or (b) something that Mashrou3 Leila should have gotten involved with. Others agreed that Leila's decision accomplished nothing for the Palestinians, and that the whole idea of "boycotting non-boycotters" was dumb. After all they see movies that are also shown in Israel. Where does it end? Even more shocking: they thought that collective punishment of Israelis wasn't such a great idea! Who would have imagined it? Surely not the boycotters.

They weren't all the biggest fans of the Palestinians either. The Palestinian cause is not their cause and in cases like this we do indeed see the limits of pan-Arab solidarity. For example:
"I was discussing this issue with a friend who is getting his phd at a US university with a full ride. He was weirdly pro the move by ML. I asked if he would decline his scholarship and acceptance to his very good university because it had israeli students and had an active study abroad program with israeli univsersities. It’s never the same when it’s about you."
How true that is. One last discussion that I thought was interesting. One Palestinian and BDS supporters yelled at the Lebanese readers: "Don't you remember what Israel did to you? The wars and the cluster bombs?" To which another responded: "Yes, we also remember what the Palestinians did to us."

If you have the time, check it out for yourself.

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