After weeks of sustained pressure by boycott campaigners and his own fans in organizations like Punks Against Apartheid, famed rocker Jello Biafra on June 29 announced in a message posted to his Facebook page that he is canceling his scheduled July 2 gig in Tel Aviv. In some face-saving verbiage, Jello writes:
This does not mean I or anyone else in the band are endorsing or joining lockstep with the boycott of all things Israel. I am going to Israel and Palestine to check things out myself and may yet conclude that playing for people in the belly of the beast was the right thing to do in the first place.
Visiting Israel and the West Bank to "check things out for himself" without breaking the boycott by performing is exactly what campaigners had asked him to do, and we applaud his decision, even if it comes grudgingly. Jello continues:
Our intention in going was that we thought we could do some good , speaking truth to power, fans and impressionable young minds in a way that most bands don't. What about the people on the same side of the human rights fence we are who now don't get to see us play? Should they be boycotted too? What about the even larger atrocities of the Bush regime and by extension Obama? Should we turn off our mouths of anger and boycott our own country too?
Except the "people on the same side of the human rights fence" in Israel—in groups like Anarchists Against the Wall—were urging Jello not to come! And the notion that there is a double standard because there isn't a boycott against the planet's last remaining superpower, which controls more than a quarter of the total world economy (making a boycott meaningless and faintly impossible), is a complete red herring. More from Jello:
We tried again and came close to landing a Ramallah show, but again, we needed to be better prepared. How fair is it to the organizers to demand a full-on rock show on a few days' notice with a type of music they may not be familiar with? More importantly, how much are we really doing for Palestinian rights if people there don't seem interested in our kind of music at all?
Electronic Intifada calls this quip "quite racist," rejoining:
No, Jello. People are interested in your music "there." I happen to know quite a few Palestinian punk rock fans. What they’re not interested in is you deciding to take money to play a gig in Tel Aviv, therefore breaking the BDS call. That’s the big issue.
Jello Biafra may not understand the basic foundation of what's at the heart of the boycott movement. But at least he won't entertain an audience in Tel Aviv.
Principle, for the moment, prevails.