The Jerusalem Post announced June 2 that Jello Biafra, one-time frontman for the legendary hardcore punk band Dead Kennedys and a longtime fixture in the San Francisco anarchist scene, will be playing Tel Aviv's Barby Club on July 2 with his current ironically named outfit, the Guantanamo School of Medicine. The JP notes approvingly that Jello's music is "confrontational," "provocative" and "menacing." But apparently this bad boy isn't edgy enough to honor the international boycott of Israel.
Taken to task by activists for this boycott-busting, Jello apparently offered to debate the sanctions advocates and have the affair preserved for posterity and global edification on video. The Kickstarter page to raise money for the project states:
We have learned that Punk rocker and activist Jello Biafra and his band The Guantanamo School of Medicine have accepted an invitation to perform in Tel Aviv, Israel at the end of their upcoming European Tour.
This decision is already stirring up controversy, as they suspected it might. It was a tough decision to make - to go to a country where a much-reviled segregation system exists and Palestinians are allegedly treated as second class citizens in what was once their homeland. Many bands are joining the current boycott being promoted by Palestinian Solidarity groups, one of which has already expressed dismay at the announcement of the concert.
We will follow Jello and his band around Tel Aviv, East Jerusalem and wherever they go on their fact-finding search for the truth of how Israelis and Palestinians live together and relate to each other. Jello has decided he needs his own take on the situation in the region before he makes comment on it.
The tone of neutrality and use of the wiggle word "allegedly" are pretty uncharacteristic for the anarcho-punk milieu. Jello also responded on his Myspace and Facebook blog with an open letter to his critics in the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, in which he pledges to visit the Occupied Territories on his trip, and equivocally states:
It certainly appears that both the Israeli Left and the Palestinian Left are divided right down the middle as to whether this kind of a boycott is a good idea at all. It is nowhere near as solid or as unified as the boycott against apartheid South Africa.
Actually, the global BDS Movement reports growing support on the Israeli left for a boycott. But more to the point, why should the "Left" wing of the occupied people and the occupying power be given equal weight?
Another icon of American alternative culture, the proto-rapper Gil Scott-Heron, who died last month at the age of 62, had one year earlier cancelled a scheduled Israel gig following a pressure campaign by activists and his own fans. Lets see if a similar groundswell will now sway Jello.