June 25, 2013 | 4:46 pm
Posted by Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin
“It’s Only Rock And Roll…
…but I like it.” Those were the immortal words of the Rolling Stones.
And I do. I do like rock and roll, especially when its practitioners like Israel -- or, at the very least, are benignly neutral towards it.
Unfortunately, it would seem that such Israel-philes are in short supply in the world of popular music. Too many rock stars have bought into the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) movement by refusing to play concerts in Israel. We’re talking about people like Elvis Costello (though not his wife, Diana Krall), Carlos Santana, Gil Scott-Heron, Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, among others. It’s not limited to rock stars. Meg Ryan and Emma Thompson have joined this infamous crowd. I have thought of turning around and boycotting their music and their work, but why sink to their level?
The whole boycotting Israel thing is dark, dangerous and extremely hypocritical. I am thinking about all of the national conflicts in the past thirty years that these rock stars have ignored, at least when it comes to choosing concert venues. I realize that some of the boycotters are British, so I suppose that’s why they didn’t self-boycott and refuse to play in London during the darkest days of the troubles in Northern Ireland. Or why you never hear of artists boycotting China even when the Chinese destroyed Tibet. Hmnnn…
But then, there’s the list of popular artists who have gone ahead and played concerts in Israel. That list includes Paul McCartney, Leonard Cohen, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Madonna, Depeche Mode, Elton John (who has criticized the Israel boycotters), The Scorpions, Rod Stewart, Rihanna, the Pixies, Barbara Streisand…
And now, add to that list Alicia Keys. The pop singer has blatantly dissed Alice Walker in rejecting the famous author’s call to boycott Israel and not play concerts there. Alice Walker is such an Israel-hater that she refuses to have her books translated into Hebrew, which means that you can forget about picking up a copy of Ha-Tzevah Argaman (The Color Purple) at Steimatzky’s in Jerusalem anytime soon.
Boycotting Israel is bad enough. But boycotting Hebrew as a language? Waging a linguistic war against a (probably the) Jewish language? Hmnnn….
I have to tell you: I am really moved when rock stars and popular artists decide to play in Israel. Let’s face it. Most popular artists tend to move in very left wing circles (I myself am a boring centrist liberal type), and sadly, those very left wing circles are not always particularly friendly towards the Jewish State. I am sure that most popular artists and their management companies never really take the political situation into account when making their schedules. An audience of ticket-buyers is an audience of ticket-buyers. Still, playing in Israel – like visiting Israel – is a statement.
So, for a while I have believed that the Jewish community has to do a better job of thanking these rock stars for sharing their artistry with Israelis and, implicitly or explicitly, not allowing politics to get in the way of a rocking good time. And when they go to Israel, the crowds always adore them and they come back with a greater appreciation of what we have created in Israel. I even thought of creating an organization called “Rock of Israel” that would thank those stars and promote their work.
That’s why I posted on Alica Keys’ Facebook page. It was very simple and non-political. “Thank you for choosing to play in Israel and bringing your music as a message of peace.” I urge you to do it as well. And continue doing it for rock stars who play in Israel. Gratitude is a basic Jewish value. You don’t have to say “thanks for bucking the BDS stuff.” Just say “thanks.”
One last thing. This posting-on-Facebook thing is not without its perils. Or, minor perils anyway. The Israel-haters are going to respond to your gratitude with, well, attitude. And they will be loud and shrill and crass and frankly anti-Semitic.
My advice: ignore the haters who respond to your pro-Alicia/pro-Israel Facebook post. Don’t get into it with them. You have better things to do with your time.
One last thing: Since I began this blog post with a quote from the Rolling Stones, the rumor that they will be playing in Israel is, at this time, alas, simply a rumor.
May it come to be true. That, at the very least, would give a lot of us “satisfaction.”
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