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August 30, 2015 6:08 am

Communist China and the BDS Movement Have a Lot in Common

avatar by Lana Melman

Email a copy of "Communist China and the BDS Movement Have a Lot in Common" to a friend
Matisyahu. Photo: Twitter.

Matisyahu. Photo: Twitter.

The pandemic of artistic censorship spread last week, not only within China’s oppressive communist regime, but through the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) effort against Israel in the supposedly open, liberal societies of Norway and Spain.

On the blacklist are Chinese hip-hop artists; Matisyahu, a Jewish-American reggae artist; and The Other Dreamers, an Israeli film about disabled children pursuing their dreams. In both the East and the West, the intent is the same, to use art as a tool to control thought and advance a political agenda.

China compiled a list of 120 forbidden songs, primarily by underground hip-hop groups, with topics that touch on taboo subjects like sex and suicide — because they allegedly harm social morality.

A Spanish music festival cancelled a performance by musician Matisyahu when he stood his ground against BDS pressure to produce a personal statement in alignment with their position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and then subsequently reissued an invitation following a condemnation of the move by Spanish authorities and the United States Embassy in Madrid.

An international film festival in Norway will only exhibit films by Israeli filmmakers if the films are critical of that nation’s treatment of the Palestinian people.

While this use of artistic censorship as thought-control might be expected in dictatorships like China, its rising prevalence in the West provides a disturbing prognosis for the future of freedom of artistic expression.

Why reject Matisyahu, a musician who promotes “peace and compassion for all people,” and a tender Israeli documentary that celebrates the human spirit? Because the inflamed rhetoric of the cultural Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions effort against Israel is contaminating the judgment of art event organizers worldwide.

Proponents of the cultural boycott do not want international artists to perform in Israel, or global audiences to experience Israeli art.  Instead, they seek to forcefully propagate a litmus test designed to advance their sweeping agenda and use extreme pressure tactics to enforce it.

To pass this test, organizers of Rototom Sunsplash, a socially-minded Spanish music festival, initially succumbed to outside boycott pressure from BDS proponents and cancelled Matisyahu’s performance. The irony is as palpable as it is disconcerting, as a festival purportedly featuring open social forums for the discussion of human rights was unable to provide its only Jewish-American performer with his fundamental right as an artist: freedom of expression.

According to a report by The Times of Israel, the organizers blamed the local anti-Israel group BDS País Valencià, which campaigned to cancel Matisyahu’s invitation, for “pressures, threats and coercion” efforts that threatened to “seriously disrupt the normal functioning of the festival” and “prevented the management of the situation with clarity.”

In Norway, the symptoms of censorship’s contagion have progressed even farther.  Festival organizers there openly embrace the cultural boycott, declaring they will only exhibit films from Israeli filmmakers if the films focus on the “illegal occupation” or “the blockade of Gaza.” To leave no doubt that they will filter not just based on the country of origin and for subject matter, but point of view, the organizers added the qualifier, “or [films that are] otherwise about the discrimination of Palestinians.”

Like the Communist Party of China, boycott proponents discriminate against certain art and artists as a means to influence thought and behavior. Unlike the BDS advocates, the Chinese rulers are honest about what they are doing, and openly call it a “blacklist.”

It is not just artists who suffer at the hand of the cultural boycott, but art lovers. Disregarded on both continents is the ideal that it is the individual, not a politically motivated third party, who should decide what he or she wishes to experience, an essential linchpin of democracy.

Typically, when open, liberal societies place restraints on artistic expression, they focus on the appropriate limits of content to prevent abuse such as slander, fraud and incitement to violence, or to protect an unwilling audience.

There is not a shred of evidence to make that case for the recent censorship in Spain and Norway. There is no other possible motive other than politics.

As in many other countries, the Israeli government will often help fund the production or exhibit of art. According to BDS proponents, such funding justifies discrimination because, they claim, it helps the Israeli government present a pretty face to the world and whitewash its supposedly undesirable policies.

Lifting the veil on that pretense, the inspiring Israeli documentary about the most vulnerable among us was made with zero government funding or support. Matisyahu isn’t even Israeli.

The cultural Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions effort against Israel has turned the concept of artistic censorship on its head. When it comes to Israel, it is politically motivated organizations and individuals in free western societies, not repressive governments, that are seeking to expand the power of censorship to advance a political vision.

This blacklisting of Israel, a nation that guarantees freedom of expression for all, must end.

Martin Luther King dreamed that his children would one day be judged not on the color of their skin, but on the content of their character. Perhaps if he were alive now, he would dream of the day that Israeli artists would be judged not on the cover of his or her passport, but on his or her contribution to the world.

Lana Melman is the CEO of Liberate Art Inc., a commentator, speaker and expert on the misguided cultural boycott effort against Israel.

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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  • And yet Israel is doing great trade with China.

  • steven L

    China is playing a dirty game? No different from the West!
    What will Iran do if China does not buy their oil?

  • Les

    As a work of fiction this article is not too bad.
    The real question here is what exactly (without surrendering) can the Palestinians do to protect themselves and their people against a well funded, well armed military / state intent on murdering them?
    If they look for the protection of the international community, they are ignored.
    When Israel murders over 2000 of their people the majority of them women and kids, and calls it ” mowing the lawn” Nothing happens.
    Israel hides behind the skirts of the US each and every time to avoid the consequences of their murderous actions and spurts out ridiculous stories about protecting themselves.
    If anyone says anything at all, out comes the “you are anti semitic” card,
    BDS is a very good peaceful way of getting people with conscience to do something however small to try and help a people against a brutal and murderous oppresor.

    • Rin

      Question? If israel wants to get rid of the Arabs so badly why do 1.6 million live in the country?

    • steven L

      What about respecting women, what about no using their children as shield to protect terrorists. What about educating them?
      You support the coward terrorists who hide behind women and children. Great.

    • Talking about fiction. BDS is aimed at the destruction of Israel, not rights for the Palestinians. If you fight from behind women and children, these same women and children are being put in danger. Your figures are also exaggerated, even the BBC, no friend of Israel warns that accurate figures are hard to come by. Last, but not least, the Palestinians could have had a state in 1948, again in 1967 and then again in negotiations with both Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert.

    • belltower
    • Seems like you’ve drunk a full dose of Leftie/BDS kool-aid. “Brutal and murderous oppressor”? Try some other poster-children who fit that term more accurately – say, the Iranian Mullahs, Kim Jong-Un, the Hamas thugs who rule Gaza. I could go on. Your whole post is filled with outright lies – but then, I suspect you know that. Your leftie bunch conveniently ignore the fact that “Palestinian Resistance” to Israel is driven more by more than a century of general Muslim opposition to a non-Muslim state (Israel) in a Muslim neighborhood than it is by Palestinian nationalism. Your Leftie compadres would more readily see a failed Muslim-majority state that sees its citizens wanting to flee to a non-Muslim jurisdiction than a successful non-Muslim state that benefits all its citizens – like Israel.
      Quit insulting our intelligence, you Leftie ignoramus.