Why the song and dance about an Israel gig?


By Jennifer Lipman
July 21, 2010
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When you start a new book do you choose it based on the author’s political opinions?

Or when you watch a film are you particularly comforted by knowing the director voted the same way as you at the last election?

What about when you listen to a CD? Is your enjoyment enhanced by the knowledge the artist shares your views on spending cuts?

Maybe you’d prefer it. But just as I don’t love Gone With the Wind because I share Margaret Mitchell’s curious views on American politics, I’m no more or less a Lady Gaga fan because of anything she might say about the release of Abdelbeset al-Megrahi.

I suspect I’m not alone in that. The personal may be political, but popular entertainment doesn’t usually come with a political disclaimer attached.

So it’s infuriating to hear of another pro-Palestinian run campaign against a musician playing in Israel – this time punk singer Johnny Rotten, aka John Lydon.

Today on the Guardian website, as across the web, there is inevitable outrage over his scheduled Tel Aviv tour date – as if, simply by performing in a place one automatically endorses its politics.

It’s not as if he’s performing for the politicians. Theoretically, a couple of Knesset members could hop along to the gig, but they’d surely be doing so as private citizens, not as representatives of a political party.

Fair enough, if he was giving a concert at the Knesset, or had handed Bibi a few backstage passes and an invitation to the after-party.

But Lydon is just singing in Tel Aviv, to an audience who in a country as politically diverse as Israel will almost certainly not all be supporters of the government. In fact, given that the former Sex Pistols frontman is known for his anarchist views, it’s unlikely many of them will be.

Admirably, Lydon has told those calling for a boycott to get stuffed. That’s as it should be, just as Elvis Costello’s decision not to play in Israel should have been a matter for his conscience alone and not determined by pressure from the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign.

Art at its best may be counter-cultural, but if Lydon has a problem with Israeli politics, let him get up on stage in Tel Aviv and say so.

In a democratic country like Israel, he has every right to do so.

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