Alicia Keys to Perform in Israel Despite BDS Pressure

— by Steve Sheffey

Alicia Keys confirmed that she will perform in Tel Aviv on July 4 as scheduled, despite public pressure to boycott Israel from Alice Walker (who refused to authorize a translation of “The Color Purple” into Hebrew) and Roger Waters. “I look forward to my first visit to Israel. Music is a universal language that is meant to unify audiences in peace and love, and that is the spirit of our show,” she said.

Walker called Israel an “apartheid country,” said that the Israeli system is “cruel, unjust, and unbelievably evil,” and called Israel the cause of “much of the affliction in our suffering world.” Walker refused to authorize a new Hebrew translation of “The Color Purple.” Waters, formerly of Pink Floyd, also urged Keys to cancel. Waters previously convinced Stevie Wonder to cancel an appearance at a Friends of the IDF event in Los Angeles.

More on the anti-Israel BDS movement after the jump.
For an excellent refutation of the canard that Israel practices apartheid, read this op-ed from Richard Goldstone, a former justice of the South African Constitutional Court.

The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel is condemned across the pro-Israel political spectrum, even by those who strongly believe that Israel should find a way to extricate itself from the West Bank.

According to J Street:

For some, the BDS movement has become a convenient mantle for thinly disguised anti-Semitism” and “the BDS movement fails to explicitly to recognize Israel’s right to exist and it ignores or rejects Israel’s role as a national home for the Jewish people. In addition, the promotion by some in the BDS movement of the return to Israel of Palestinian refugees from 1948 and their families indicates support for an outcome incompatible with our vision of Israel and incompatible with a two-state solution to the conflict.

A statement signed by the National Jewish Democratic Council and 60 other Jewish organizations opposing the BDS movement explained that “Criticism [of Israel] becomes anti-Semitism, however, when it demonizes Israel or its leaders, denies Israel the right to defend its citizens or seeks to denigrate Israel’s right to exist.”

So what do we do about it?

My view is that if an artist or scientist attempts to economically harm or delegitimize Israel, we should not economically support that person.

As much as I used to enjoy Elvis Costello’s music, I can’t listen to him anymore. I have a long list of books to read. Why read Alice Walker when there is so much other good literature? We certainly should not reject the scientific ideas of Stephen Hawking, but why buy his books? (If you must read him or Walker, use the library).

I’m not suggesting that we deny ourselves art based on the anti-Semitism of its creators. If we did, we would deprive ourselves of a large portion of Western culture. I also suspect that if we knew what was in the minds of some of our favorite artists, we might not be too happy. Rather, I am suggesting that we single out the subset of artists who have chosen to single out Israel for boycott. If they won’t play for Israelis, we shouldn’t pay money for them to play to us. So you won’t find Elvis Costello, Santana, or Stevie Wonder on my playlist, and you certainly won’t see me at their concerts.

Perhaps most important, we should visit Israel or buy Israeli goods — no matter where we are on the political spectrum.

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Mister Rogers and the Presidential Debate

In the video on the right from 1969, Fred Rogers appeared before the United States Senate Subcommittee on Communications. His goal was to support funding for PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, in response to significant proposed cuts by President Nixon. Subcommittee chairman John O. Pastore concluded “I think it’s wonderful. Looks like you just earned the $20 million.”

In this year’s first Presidential Debate, Governor Mitt Romney advocated defunding Public Television including Big Bird (Sesame Street) and moderator Jim Lehrer (PBS NewsHour).

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the entity created by Congress in 1967 to disperse funds to nonprofit broadcast outlets like PBS and NPR, is set to receive $445 million over the next two years….

This amounts to roughly .012% of the $3.8 trillion federal budget — or about $1.35 per person per year. (Some global perspective: elsewhere in the world, Canada spends $22.48 per citizen, Japan $58.86 per citizen, the United Kingdom $80.36 per citizen, and Denmark, $101 per citizen.) (Source: ProPublica)

In the second video, Jimmy Fallon (Late Night with Jimmy Fallon) parodies what “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” would look like with Mitt Romney gave it a makeover.

Sen. Paul Call to End “Welfare” to Israel Rejected by Senate Dems

— David Streeter and David A. Harris

A group of Senate Democrats has sent a letter to Representative Hal Rogers (R-KY), Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, and Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), Chairman of the House Budget Committee, rejecting Senator Rand Paul’s (R-KY) proposal to cut foreign aid to Israel. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Robert Casey (D-PA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) proclaimed in the letter that Paul’s “remarks are alarming and aim to weaken the decades-long bipartisan consensus on U.S. support for Israel.”

This is the second time in as many weeks that Paul has advocated this dangerous and irresponsible policy. This time though, Paul went further and ludicrously claimed that American assistance to Israel is nothing more than ‘welfare.’

American assistance to Israel is certainly not welfare. For decades, the U.S.-Israel relationship has paid significant dividends for America’s national security and has helped Israel to become America’s greatest democratic ally in a difficult and dangerous neighborhood. This is not welfare; helping our democratic ally Israel helps America on so many levels.

Some may claim that Paul speaks only for himself. But if that truly is the case, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and other Republican leaders must immediately speak out loudly and clearly to condemn the reversal in U.S. foreign policy that Senator Paul continues to advocate. They must do so before Paul’s disturbing and now weekly appeals for an end to American assistance to Israel become dogma among certain segments of the Republican Party’s base, threatening the bipartisan nature of the U.S.-Israel relationship.

The text of the letter from Senate Democrats follows the jump.
February 1, 2011

Dear Chairman Rogers and Chairman Ryan:

We write in light of recent statements that demonstrate the intent of certain Senators to eliminate foreign aid funding to the nation of Israel. Recently, Republican Senator Rand Paul suggested that the United States should “halt all foreign aid including its financial aid to Israel.” These remarks are alarming and aim to weaken the decades-long bipartisan consensus on U.S. support for Israel. Both Republicans and Democrats are committed to reining in the federal deficit, but assistance to Israel is not a matter of “pork barrel spending” – rather U.S. foreign aid to Israel demonstrates America’s rock-solid commitment to ensuring Israel’s right to exist.

Israel is the only democratic nation in the Middle East and one of our most trusted allies. A stable and secure Israel is strongly in our national security interest and has been a cornerstone of our foreign policy for over half-a-century. Using Congress’s bipartisan commitment to reining in government spending as a reason to abandon Israel is unacceptable and should be immediately rejected.

At a time when U.S. foreign aid is being utilized to strengthen our partnerships around the world, particularly in the Middle East where our relationships are more important than ever, we urge you to commit to maintain full foreign aid funding to Israel.  As members of the United States Senate, we will work aggressively to prevent any attempts to abandon one of our most trusted allies. We look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Senator Stabenow

Senator Nelson

Senator Menendez

Senator Cardin

Senator Brown

Senator Casey

Senator Whitehouse