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Against the Israeli Boycott

Jacob Weisberg and Johnny Rotten make common cause

Marc Tracy
July 26, 2010
Johnny Rotten.(Robert Yager/Independent)
Johnny Rotten.(Robert Yager/Independent)

Slate Group Editor Jacob Weisberg makes the case against the Israeli cultural boycott:

That supporters of this boycott seldom focus on China or Syria or Zimbabwe—or other genuinely illegitimate regimes that systematically violate human rights—underscores their bad faith. Boycotters are not trying to send the specific message, “We object to your settlement policy in the West Bank.” What they’re saying is, “We consider your country so intrinsically reprehensible that we are going to treat all of your citizens as pariahs.” Like the older Arab economic boycott of Israel, which dates back to the 1940s, the cultural boycott is a weapon designed not to bring peace but to undermine the country.

A couple weeks ago, former Sex Pistols frontman Johnny Rotten announced that he would not cancel a gig in Israel next month despite hate mail he has received*. Rotten expanded on his stance recently:

I really resent the presumption that I’m going there to play to right-wing Nazi Jews. If Elvis-fucking-Costello wants to pull out of a gig in Israel because he’s suddenly got this compassion for Palestinians, then good on him. But I have absolutely one rule, right? Until I see an Arab country, a Muslim country, with a democracy, I won’t understand how anyone can have a problem with how they’re treated.

* At the time, by the way, I compared Rotten, the punk-rocker who plays Israel, to Pink Floyd, the overproduced classic rock group that makes gestures against Israeli policies; what I didn’t know then, but learned in the profile, is that Rotten was discovered by his promoter in 1975 while wearing an “I HATE PINK FLOYD” t-shirt.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.