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August 23, 2018 4:52 pm

South African Music Duo Denies Israel Boycott Reports: ‘It Is Unfair to Make Us Spokespeople for BDS’

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A promotional poster for the 3-day Meteor Festival taking place in Israel this September. Photo: Meteor Festival.

A South African band that anti-Israel activists suggested was succumbing to pressure from the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign has pushed back against claims that they were taking a political stance.

The Black Motion house music duo was applauded on Tuesday by BDS South Africa following reports that they would withdraw from the Meteor Festival taking place in Israel this September. Organizers said the event has attracted more than 50 international acts.

“We thank them for both their willingness to engage and their decision to not perform in Israel,” wrote the anti-Zionist group, which says it seeks to redefine Israel “as a pariah state” until it complies with international law. Critics accuse it of opposing the Jewish state’s continued existence, a goal embraced by senior BDS figures, including co-founder Omar Barghouti.

Yet Black Motion’s spokesperson, Kutlwano Chaba, told the South African Jewish Report on Thursday that the band did not issue a cancellation statement. He said that while the musicians were concerned about traveling to Israel, he indicated that this was due to a fear of being in a conflict zone, “just like they are scared of travelling to Afghanistan or Syria, or like during the World Cup, when people were scared of coming to South Africa because of the crime.”

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“It was never about any particular country — it just happened to be that Israel is one place they are nervous to travel to,” he said. “We don’t have a stand, and we are just about music. We feel like we have been used as a ball between two sides. It is unfair to make us spokespeople for BDS.”

“If music is used to divide, there is no point,” Chaba added. “It must always be a unifier. Music unifies, music heals, it is a universal language. If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”

He said the controversy had encouraged the band to consider promoting dialogue between the BDS campaign and supporters of Israel.

As a rule, the BDS campaign rejects “normalization” efforts that bring together Palestinians and Zionists in a context that is not predicated on “resistance to and exposure of the Israeli occupation.”

“We are launching an album in two months’ time, and I would love to see both sides of this issue attend it, and enjoy the gift of music,” Chaba said. “I suspect there is no dialogue between the two groups. Music can bridge this gap.”

He said he would need to confirm whether the band was performing at the festival with its international agent.

The event’s organizer, Liat Turgeman, told the South African Jewish Report on Wednesday that she had not yet “received a cancellation notice from Black Motion. They are scheduled to perform at Meteor Festival as planned.”

“We have a contract signed by Real Tone agency on 4 June, otherwise we wouldn’t have announced it,” she added.

The festival is also set to feature singer and songwriter Lana Del Rey, who has come under criticism from BDS supporters including Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters, who has maintained that Israel is a “theocracy” and urged resistance to “Israeli anti-Semitism.”

In a statement shared online on Tuesday, Del Rey said she would “still be playing our show in Israel.”

“That being said, I understand the concern towards showing support to the Palestinians too,” she said. “So I just wanted to let you know when I’m in Israel I will be visiting Palestine too and I look forward to meeting both Palestinian and Israeli children and playing music for everyone. I want peace for both Israel and Palestine.”

She specifically responded to Waters’ call to submit to the BDS campaign’s demands by saying, “I totally understand what you’re saying and this is my action.”

In June, South African model Shashi Naidoo said she received multiple death threats after defending Israel and accusing the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas of turning the Gaza Strip into a “s**thole” on social media. She later said her comments — made in an effort to defend a South African DJ who was denounced by BDS for performing in Israel — were written on her behalf by a friend, and pledged to “re-educate” herself by visiting the Palestinian territories with the BDS campaign.

Naidoo announced last month that she had been banned from entering Israel, under a law barring entry to foreign supporters of BDS.

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