By Maya Mikdashi
I will be boycotting the Placebo concert in Lebanon, and the reason is simple. Art is not a-political, and it never has been. The organizers of this event were surely aware of the band’s touring schedule when they set the date for the Lebanon concert. The band Placebo, unless they are completely living in a hole, and that hole travels with them wherever they go, must have an idea about Israel’s occupation of Palestine, its criminal blockade of Gaza, and its apartheid regime. And if they really are living in a hole, ignorance is not an excuse, it is a luxury of power that contributes to violence against those that are not powerful. Boycotting a band that is playing a concert in Lebanon en route from Israel should not be controversial, and I am quite surprised that it is.
These debates were had in the 80s when it was a question of boycotting the South African Apartheid regime, and artists, business interests, politicians, and citizens all contributed. A hugely successful and comprehensive boycott campaign was initiated. In retrospect, I would ask people if they believe that the cultural boycott (as part of a larger boycott) of the South African apartheid regime was misguided or somehow politically or “artistically” irresponsible. Conscientious musicians, artists, filmmakers, actors, and writers decided to make a statement against apartheid by not visiting South Africa and lending the regime legitimacy or contributing to the normalization of apartheid. period. I would ask that “conscientious” people, be they businesspeople, artists, politicians, or regular citizens, to do the same when it comes to Israel. It is when we start splitting politics from the rythms of everyday life that we lose, and I don’t think that we can afford to be losing endlessly.
I must admit, I find it odd that we assume that we should be supporting a boycott of Israel only because of its policies in occupied palestine and its status as a settler colony. While of course this is, in and of itself, enough to convince many, myself included, do we forget the many wars and invasions Israel has launched on Lebanon? Do we forget that four years ago Israel displaced almost a third of Lebanese citizens and destroyed tens of thousands of homes? Or that it blockaded us, strangled us by destroying our infrastructure, and bombed civilian areas indiscriminately? Do we forget that Israel is still stealing Lebanese water, is still responsible for the 400,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, and still illegally invades our airspace whenever it wants to? In my short lifetime, I have experienced three Israeli invasions of Lebanon. We, as Lebanese, especially if we are nationalists (as many of the previous posts’ authors seem to indicate), should be the first (or maybe the second, after palestinians) to be boycotting Israel. We should be demanding artists, and everyone else, to step up whenever they can. Boycotts work. Just ask the South Africans and check out some of the statements issued by artists at the time. We should not expect less of the world. And we definitely should not expect less of ourselves.