Creative Community for Peace Fights BDS Efforts Against Musicians 

October 16, 2019
Steve Schnur (left) and Ziggy Marley; Photo courtesy of Creative Community for Peace

Internationally famous recording artists such as Lady Gaga, Madonna and Bruno Mars are prime targets for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS), in part because of their huge reach and visibility. 

The BDS movement launches campaigns including Twitter mobs aimed at persuading artists to cancel concerts scheduled in Israel after they announce upcoming world tour dates. The BDS website lists under Successes: “Stars including Lauryn Hill, Elvis Costello and Vanessa Paradis have canceled shows in Israel following requests from the BDS movement.”

This idea — that preventing musical expression and appreciation is a success, anywhere, at any time — is appalling to the musicians and industry executives of Creative Community for Peace (CCFP), a Los Angeles-based nonprofit co-founded in 2012 by video game entertainment executive Steve Schnur and veteran music exec David Renzer. 

CCFP believes musicians are uniquely positioned to spread peace. They argue that intimidating recording artists from going to Israel is the opposite of peace building, and is an effort that must be countered.

On Sept. 26, CCFP held its second annual Ambassadors of Peace award event and fundraiser at the Holmby Hills home of CCFP advisory board member Gary Stiffelman and his wife, Carmen. The event was a super-charged, super-amiable cross between an emergency work retreat and a celebration. Carmen’s artwork — life-size figurative sculptures — dotted the backyard, where some 400 people congregated.

The BDS movement is cowardly. It’s hypocritical and it’s bullying. When an artist chooses not to perform in Israel, or anywhere in the world, all of us suffer.”
— Aaron Bay-Schuck

The five honorees, chosen for their commitment to championing artistic freedom, included  CEO and co-chair of Warner Records Aaron Bay-Schuck; President Caroline/Harvest Records Jacqueline Saturn; Q&A Media Inc. founder Troy Carter; and WK Entertainment founder Walter Kolm. 

CCFP also honored eight-time Grammy winner Ziggy Marley, son of late reggae icon Bob Marley. Ziggy has played in Israel many times.

Renzer welcomed guests from a large stage built over the swimming pool and said that the evening’s turnout had exceeded their expectations and raised $400,000.

Later, Haim Saban, a leading sponsor of the evening and a presenter, said that when Renzer announced how much they’d raised, his daughter turned to him and said, “You should match that.” He added, “I always do what my daughter says,” and pledged an additional $400,000. Saban said he hopes his funds will be used to educate those who are in favor of the BDS movement, and to figure out how to talk with them.

CCFP speaks with the big names, but also the bands behind them, as well as the agents, managers and others who make the industry work. 

“We help them understand that the boycott movement is not a social justice movement, but a political movement, which seeks the destruction of Israel,” CCFP Director Ari Ingel, said. “They seek to limit any engagement between Israelis and Palestinians. We believe in coexistence and that understanding each other is crucial. Music and the arts bring people together, and cultural events such as concerts in Israel play a small, yet crucial role to hopefully help achieve that peace.”  

Among those CCFP has worked with and successfully brought to Israel are Alicia Keys, Cyndi Lauper, Scarlett Johansson, Carlos Vives and Pusha-T.

Throughout the evening, presenters and honorees expressed exasperation about preventing the sharing of music, known for instantly reaching people across cultures, inspiring joy and openness.

Bay-Shuck, who played an integral role in launching Bruno Mars’ career, said he first felt music’s unique ability to transcend cultural barriers while working on the Black Eyed Peas 2003 hit “Where Is the Love?” written in part by Justin Timberlake, who also sang on it. With its intensely political lyrics and heart-catching melody, Bay-Shuck said the song hit in “every corner of the world. The BDS movement is cowardly,” he said. “It’s hypocritical and it’s bullying. When an artist chooses not to perform in Israel, or anywhere in the world, all of us suffer.”

Carter, who worked at Spotify before launching his own company and is known for  transforming Lady Gaga into a global pop phenomenon, said, “We are blessed to get up in the morning every day and work on art that heals people. Music is one thing that brings people together, and we’ve got to champion that.”

Saturn, whose Caroline label collected more than 14 platinum and 17 gold single certifications this past year, talked about feeling unity among people when she visits Israel, and then returning home to confront friction among people here. Like many of the speakers, she expressed a sense of wonder and joy when visiting Israel that contradicts so many messages people hear about it.

And Marley spoke about visiting Israel as both a child and as an adult. He expressed frustration at the idea that someone else would try to tell him where he can and cannot play.

But CCFP’s larger message is one of spreading the love. Marley, who just completed the world tour for his seventh solo album, “Rebellion Rises,” summed up the nonprofit and many of its supporters saying, “Love is the foundation. This entire album is a message to the best side of humanity. It’s a rallying cry and encouragement for us to stand up. When we do, our actions will be felt.”

You can sign the anti-boycott petition on the CCFP website.

Wendy Paris is a writer living in Los Angeles. She is the author of “Splitopia: Dispatches From Today’s Good Divorce and How to Part Well.”

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