crowd of Chicagoans, including Jews, Christians, and Muslims, applauded an
Israeli export that, the next morning, Prof. George Bisharat argued should be
banned: musicians David Broza and Miri Awad. (“Applause
for the academic boycott of Israel”Chicago Tribune,Jan. 30,
Israeli Jew, and Awad, a Palestinian Israeli of Christian descent, together
performed energetic songs of love, loss, hope and peace with their fellow
Jewish and Muslim band members.
How do I know
there were Muslims in the audience? I invited Muslim friends to the show so
that they could witness a side of Israeli and Palestinian reality than Prof. Basharat
and other supporters of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel would
rather bar them from experiencing.
ago, I heard the brilliant Iranian musician Mohammad-Reza
Shajarian performing at Symphony Center. Chicagoans would have been deprived of
his genius also, had the kind of boycott the anti-Israel crowd desires been
applied to people holding passports issued by the butchers of Tehran. (Note
that no one proposes an academic or cultural boycott of Iran in order to end
that country’s nuclear program, let alone its gross human rights violations.)
favor such a boycott of Israel commit three wrongs that add up to something
that, to me, walks, talks and acts like anti-Semitism.
wrong is to distort Israeli and Palestinian reality and history. Like an image
seen in a funhouse mirror, the boycotters manipulate the century-old conflict
between Arab and Jew (for the conflict began before Palestinians or Israelis
referred to themselves as such), blowing Israel’s alleged crimes grotesquely
out of proportion while minimizing Palestinians’ vocal and violent rejection of
the Jewish right to self-determination. Were fair measures applied, the
resulting image of each side (part victim and part perpetrator) would appear
far different from what the boycotters portray.
wrong is to seek to deny the stage to those Israelis (Jewish, Muslim and
Christian) and Palestinians who have the temerity to proclaim their mutual
humanity and jointly cry for peace and coexistence. Hearing that cry incites
the boycotters, who masquerade as human rights advocates, even more than
Israel’s policies. Why? Because allowing others to see Israel’s human reality,
complicated and flawed as it is, undermines the boycotters underlying agenda,
which is to demonize and ultimately end Jewish sovereignty in the only nation
state of the Jewish people.
wrong is hypocrisy. The messages that Broza, Awad and performers like them
deliver are not universally embraced in Israel; some consider them naïve,
wrongheaded or even dangerous. Still, in Israel they are free to deliver those
messages. So too, should they be free to sing about peace and reconciliation in
Chicago. Were they or others to attempt to deliver those messages in Gaza,
Damascus, Baghdad or a thousand and one other places across the Middle East, a
price would be put on their heads.
voices of humanity in this troubled world is hardly the antidote to suffering
that Professor Bisharat and others claim to seek. Better to let the voices of
Broza, Awad, and Shajarian ring out.