Let’s be charitable and accept that not everyone who disrupted Gil Scott-Heron’s gig at the South Bank Centre was an anti-semite and that some of them may have been motivated by genuine concern for the plight of the Palestinian people and their just struggle for nationhood.
Even so, it’s clear that the pro-boycotters are fundamentally anti-Israeli rather than pro-Palestinian. Did the fact that a long-standing anti-racist and anti-apartheid campaigner like Scott-Heron doesn’t agree with the boycott not give these people at least pause for thought? Or the fact that if his planned concert in Tel Aviv goes ahead it will undoubtably be a boost to the Israel left and peace movement?
Gil Scott-Heron performing “We Almost Lost Detroit” & “Work For Peace” recently
No, none of that seems to matter to the anti-Israel fanatics. They just want to demonise and delegitimise Isreal and all its people, making a politically illiterate comparison with apartheid as a cover for their real programme of opposition to Israel’s very right to exist.
Even the Morning Star‘s reviewer at the gig seems to have noticed the double standards of the boycott campaign:
“Is it not hypocritical for us, as British citizens, to be calling for a boycott of Israel when our own government’s treatment of Afghans and Iraqis – and historically many, many others from Ireland to Kenya to India – is hardly better than Israel’s treatment of Palestinians?” Eh, quite so, comrade: try thinking that one through some time.
According to the Morning Star report, Scott-Heron eventually left the stage while his pianist took a solo, and returned to announce that he would cancel the Tel Aviv gig. Let’s hope this was a momentary lapse and that he doesn’t give in to anti-Israeli exceptionalism (the modern form of anti-semitism) and instead follows the courageous and principled lead of the writer Amitar Ghosh:
“I would like to state clearly that I do not believe in embargoes and boycotts where they concern matters of culture and learning. On the contrary I believe very strongly that it is important to defend the notion that institutions of culture and learning must, in principle, be regarded as autonomous of the state. Or else every writer in America and Britain, and everyone who teaches in a British or American university, would necessarily be implicated in the Iraq war… Similarly every Indian writer and academic would also be complicit in the actions of the Indian government in areas of conflict. And if we don’t defend this principle how will we defend the rights of dissent of those who are employed in universities – especially, for instance, in times of war, when reasons of state can be cited to create an explicit complicity?
“I do not see how it is possible to make the case that Israel is so different, so exceptional, that it requires the severing of connections with even the more liberal, more critically-minded members of that society.”