Last week, the world was exposed to some of the fundamental flaws of the “Boycott Israel” faction known as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Sadly, in this case, the victims were artists.
The first incident occurred when Israeli director Roy Zafrani, whose recent films include the internationally award-winning documentary about disabled children, “The Other Dreamers,” was told by organizers of the Norwegian Human Rights Human Wrongs Festival that his work could not be shown unless the film was about “the illegal occupation, the blockade of Gaza or the discrimination of Palestinians.”
“I’m sorry,” wrote founder of the festival’s parent organization, the Oslo Documentary Cinema. “Please let me know if you have documentary films that are dealing directly with the occupation.”
Zifrani, whose film received no Israeli government funding, called the decision “absurd,” saying, “I'm not a political man. I am not responsible for my government’s actions.”
In the second incident – one that was met with worldwide outrage, followed by a public apology and ultimately a victorious performance – the American Jewish musician Matisyahu was asked to provide to the organizers of the Rototom Reggae Festival in Spain a statement or video that expressed “in a very clear way” his positions on Zionism and a Palestinian State after the BDS movement lobbied the festival that the performer was a “Zionist” who justified the Israeli practices of apartheid and ethnic cleansing against the Palestinians.
Calling the request “appalling and offensive,” Matisyahu said, “I support peace and compassion for all people. My music speaks for itself and I do not insert politics into my music.” Stating that “no artists deserve to be put in that situation,” Matisyahu, the only Jewish American singer on the bill, wondered if “any of the other scheduled artists were asked to make political statements in order to perform.” Thousands of Matisyahu fans worldwide were equally shocked and disappointed that he was disinvited from performing. The festival later issued a statement, admitting “that it made a mistake, due to the boycott and the campaign of pressure, coercion and threats employed by the BDS País Valencià because it was perceived that the normal functioning of the festival could be threatened. All of which prevented the organization from reasoning clearly as to how to deal with the situation properly.”
We at the Creative Community for Peace (CCFP), an organization comprised of prominent members of the entertainment industry that promotes the arts as a means of building bridges, join the many voices of condemnation of these discriminatory and racist actions that are tantamount to censorship of an artist’s freedom of expression. They expose the extremist views and actions that accompany the BDS movement, from spreading the falsehood of accusations of “apartheid” in Israel, to only supporting the Palestinian right of self-determination while refusing to recognize the same right for Israel.
Rather than recognizing the power of the arts to bring people together, the BDS movement's radical agenda unfortunately promotes the further separating of peoples whose chances for a peaceful future could only be enhanced by culture and the arts functioning as a bridge of societies.
Further, in an environment of rising global anti-Semitism, these acts cross the line of acceptable behavior.
While the organizers of the Reggae Festival recognized their bias and discrimination, perhaps it is time for the Human Rights Human Wrongs festival in Oslo — as well as future targets of BDS threats – to do the same.
Steve Schnur is Worldwide Executive and President of Electronic Arts (EA)Music Group and Co-Founder of Creative Community for Peace.
David Renzer is Chair of Spirit Music Group and Co-Founder of Creative Community for Peace. Creative Community for Peace (CCFP) is an entertainment industry organization that represents a cross-section of the creative world dedicated to promoting the arts as a means to peace and to countering the cultural boycott of Israel.