So, I just learned that although The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel has asked Jello Biafra not to go ahead with a planned show in Tel-Aviv, Jello has decided to do so. You can read PACBI’s latest letter here. Included is a letter Biafra published on his Facebook page.
I have to say how deeply disappointed I am with this decision. I lived off Jello’s music when I was a teenager. This guy influenced me to become more interested in politics and social justice. He is not the first of one of my favorite Musicians to go against the Boycott (See Saul Williams) and in doing this, Jello has broken a picket line and destroyed the hard work of many Activists and Artists who have coordinated together to help end the Occupation.
Apparently PACBI contacted Jello and asked him to respect their call for boycott. But, after talking it over with the band members, it was decided that Jello and co. would go to Tel-Aviv as planned. In his open letter, he tries to disregard BDS as not unified, saying it does not enjoy the same amount of support amongst the Israeli left as it does the Palestinian left. To which I say: of course it doesn’t. It enjoys immense support amongst Palestinians, though. In fact, the BDS campaign is Palestinian and PACBI is a Palestinian organization. This disproportionate amount of support for the campaign is because… wait for it… Palestinians, not Israelis, are the ones suffering under occupation and apartheid.
I think PACBI’s letter exposes the ridiculousness in Biafra’s claim:
“After all, it does not seem to make sense for us to argue that we would have taken a position to boycott apartheid South Africa only once the white community spoke out in favor. It was black South Africans that people listened to in deciding to boycott, and where it was not, we think you would agree that it should have been the case.”
“What is also important to keep in mind is that people who want to stand in solidarity should take their reference points from those who are oppressed and not the Israeli left. Palestinians cannot wait for the Israeli left to wake up and give them their freedom. Struggle against colonialism, occupation and apartheid does not work like that, as you must know from the civil rights movement’s struggle in the US and the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa.”
Amongst all Jello’s rationalizing, it becomes evident that he suffers from delusions of grandeur. His choice to break the picket with assurances that he wants to change the situation seems to say:
“Sure, I don’t know much about the issue and I’m breaking a picket of those who have devoted their lives to ending oppression of Palestinians, but my very presence on a stage is so powerful that it may just change the situation for the better.”
A lot of the comments on the internet have suggested Jello has become a greedy sellout, who has been corrupted by money and success. I disagree. I do not think Jello has become that much of a Corporate Whore that he would fiddle for the Fuehrer, so to speak. What I DO think is that the man has an inflated sense of self importance and he doesn’t really understand the conflict properly. Nor the Boycott, for that matter. Unfortunately, he is actively hurting the boycott and lending legitimacy to the occupation, whether he thinks it or not.
His Facebook message is lukewarm and The lame little offer to “learn more” about the situation, by travelling around is an equally tepid attempt to retain a little credibility. As PACBI reasonably suggested:
“Please cancel your show and come and learn about the situation first. It seems like the more logical thing to do if one really wants to learn about a situation. “
P.S. For decent commentary on the BDS Campaign, see this article by Neve Gordon, an Israeli proffessor at Ben Gurion Univerity (and an open supporter of BDS).