A rather tragic story in the Jerusalem Post, which yet again utterly ignores why an increasing number of musicians and artists in general are boycotting and ignoring Israel; it’s the occupation, stupid. No amount of PR will change the brutal facts on the ground:
Their aim, as an old Elvis Costello song professes, is true.
An influential group of US entertainment industry executives has for the first time launched an organization to counter cultural boycott efforts against Israel, the likes of which contributed to Costello’s canceling of scheduled shows here last year.
Creative Community For Peace (CCFP) pledges to use a wide range of measures to bolster the resolve of artists who sign contracts to perform in or travel to Israel and then face calls from various “boycott groups” to cancel their trips, according one of its founders, Steve Schnur.
Schnur is a worldwide executive of music and marketing for Electronic Arts and president of Artwerk Music Group, and is responsible for licensing music for some of the most popular computer video games.
“We felt that if we could create a place where artists can get information from other artists and from people they know who understand what Israel is really about – the freedom, the democracy and equal rights – and not rely on the disinformation they’re given about ‘apartheid’ Israel, then maybe we could change things,” Schnur said in a phone call this week from Los Angeles.
“Our aim isn’t to applaud the fact that artists have come to Israel, but to enable others to continue to go there.”
The boycott issue has always been present with regard to international artists and Israel, but in the past few years, pro-Palestinian organizations abroad have stepped up efforts to bombard scheduled acts with e-mails, letters and Facebook campaigns urging them to cancel.
While most artists have withstood or ignored the pressure, some, like Costello, the Pixies and the late Gil Scott-Heron, have succumbed to the campaigns and scrapped their shows here. According to Schnur, many others likely don’t even bother to consider booking a show in Israel, to avoid the expected brouhaha.
He recalled his “aha” moment while attending the Elton John show in Ramat Gan Stadium last year in the shadow of the controversy over the previously mentioned cancellations.
“I was visiting Israel on behalf of the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles and giving a master class in Tel Aviv,” said Schnur. “It was shortly after the flotilla incident, and the Costello and Pixies cancellations, which were really exploited in the media as being part of an all-out boycott effort.
“It was really the first time I had heard the word ‘apartheid’ associated with Israel, and it really angered me. So I’m sitting at the Elton John show, and he comes out and makes his statement, saying, ‘Nobody’s gonna stop us from coming here’ and ‘We don’t cherry-pick our conscience,’ and it hit me over the head that I needed to do something.
“I’ve always been involved in Jewish and Zionist activities and I could have written a check, but I wanted to get my hands dirty and make a difference this time. The next day, I saw David Renzer [then-chairman/ CEO of Universal Music Publishing Group] at the master class and told him what I was thinking. Together, we decided that if we could help educate artists by having direct contact with them, we could change the grotesque bombardment of disinformation and threats coming their way so they could make decisions based on critical thinking and accurate information.”
Schnur and Renzer are joined on the CCFP advisory board by a growing list of prominent media execs, artists, attorneys and agents, including Idan Raichel; David Lonner, CEO of Oasis Media Group; Gary Foster, principal of Krasnoff Foster Productions; Doug Frank, former president of music operations for Warner Brothers Pictures; and the organization’s Israel point man, Ran Geffen-Lifshitz, CEO of Media Men Group, the country’s largest music publishing company.
“What we’re doing is to help people make the right decision on the question of boycotting Israel,” Geffen-Lifshitz said this week.
“Music should be separated from politics; this whole boycott issue is a slippery slope.
Once an artist gives in to boycott pressure and cancels an appearance here, his fans begin to think that boycotting Israel is legitimate.
From there, what’s to stop a boycott of Israeli products? We have to say ‘stop’ now.”