The Case against Punishing Celebrities Who Boycott Israel

March 14 2018

In December, the New Zealand-born singer known by the stage name Lorde canceled an upcoming concert in Tel Aviv, citing the “overwhelming number of messages and letters” encouraging her to boycott Israel and “a lot of discussions with people holding many views.” A member of the Florida House of Representatives is now urging his state to use its anti-BDS laws to prevent Lorde’s upcoming performance in Florida. Adam Shay suggests that this might not be the best use of anti-boycott laws:

When the BDS movement targets artists to pressure them into canceling a performance in Israel, the artist is bombarded with hate mail and explicit threats. These threats are sent not only to the artist but to anyone who appears to be part of the decision-making process. This includes the artists, their accompanying musicians, producers, promoters, managers, and sometimes even relatives. There is no shortage of artists who have publicly stated that they have received such threats. Paul McCartney publicized one such threat: [the] Islamic activist Omar Bakri Muhammad said in an interview with the Sunday Express in 2008: “If he values his life, Mr. McCartney must not come to Israel. He will not be safe there. The sacrifice operatives will be waiting for him.”

In response, McCartney said, . . . “I have no intention of surrendering. I refuse to cancel my performances in Israel.”

If this type of threat can be made publicly, just imagine what the back-channel messages—cloaked by the cover of virtual anonymity—look like. . . . However, many artists prefer not to make these threats public. Why? If an artist decides to succumb to boycott pressure, he or she has no interest in explaining that this decision was made out of fear, especially if the alternative is to appear to be taking a moral stance. . . .

[Trying to retaliate against] artists who have canceled concerts in Israel does not help battle this phenomenon. If we give into a visceral demand for revenge, the result will be a strengthening of the so-called “silent boycott”—artists who refrain from contact with Israel to avoid a heated public dispute. . . . The way to face this problem is not by alienating artists, but rather by working with them. The artistic community is looking to Israel for a solution to this problem. [It’s necessary] to create the conditions for artists to perform in Israel and assist them in coping with boycott attacks.

Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: BDS, Israel & Zionism, Popular music

The Danger of Hollow Fixes to the Iran Deal

March 20 2018

In January, the Trump administration announced a 120-day deadline for the so-called “E3”—Britain, France, and Germany—to agree to solutions for certain specific flaws in the 2015 agreement to limit the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. Omri Ceren explains why it’s necessary to get these fixes right:

[Already in October], the administration made clear that it considered the deal fatally flawed for at least three reasons: a weak inspections regime in which the UN’s nuclear watchdog can’t access Iranian military facilities, an unacceptable arrangement whereby the U.S. had to give up its most powerful sanctions against ballistic missiles even as Iran was allowed to develop ballistic missiles, and the fact that the deal’s eventual expiration dates mean Iran will legally be allowed to get within a hair’s breadth of a nuclear weapon. . . .

A team of American negotiators has been working on getting the E3 to agree to a range of fixes, and is testing whether there is overlap between the maximum that the Europeans can give and the minimum that President Trump will accept. The Europeans in turn are testing the Iranians to gauge their reactions and will likely not accept any fixes that would cause Iran to bolt.

The negotiations are problematic. The New York Times reported that, as far as the Europeans are concerned, the exercise requires convincing Trump they’ve “changed the deal without actually changing it.” Public reports about the inspection fix suggest that the Europeans are loath to go beyond urging the International Atomic Energy Commission to request inspections, which the agency may be too intimidated to do. The ballistic-missile fix is shaping up to be a political disaster, with the Europeans refusing to incorporate anything but long-range missiles in the deal. That would leave us with inadequate tools to counter Iran’s development of ballistic missiles that could be used to wipe Israel, the Saudis, and U.S. regional bases off the map. . . .

There is a [significant] risk the Trump administration may be pushed to accept the hollow fixes acceptable to the Europeans. Fixing the deal in this way would be the worst of all worlds. It would functionally enshrine the deal under a Republican administration. Iran would be open for business, and this time there would be certainty that a future president will not act to reverse the inevitable gold rush. Just as no deal would have been better than a bad deal, so no fix would be better than a bad fix.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Donald Trump, Europe, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy