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Soldier of Love and Hate

I had one of those moments back in July when the lead singer of my all-time favourite band spoke out against Israel during a concert in the UK. The singer was Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam.

While he never mentioned Israel by name, he declared, “I swear to f—ing god, there are people out there who are looking for a reason to kill… They’re looking for a reason to go across borders and take over land that doesn’t belong to them. They should get the f—out, and mind their own f—ing business.” (I note that Vedder is yet to rant about the very real genocide taking place in Syria or Iraq)

I have never believed in the idea of boycotting artists but on the other hand, I have never been faced with this feeling of absolute betrayal.

Was he not aware that on a daily basis Israel has to deal with violent and indiscriminate attacks on its civilian population from terrorist groups like Hamas which is dedicated to eliminating Israel and killing all Jews everywhere? That by attacking a country and a people in this way, he actually gives succour to and encourages more violence? To my mind, Vedder was no longer a soldier of love but wittingly or unwittingly, he had become a soldier of hate.

I remember the first concert I went to when I was 14. How my friends and I sparked up lighters and shouted, “I will light a match this morning… So I won’t be alone”.

I remember not being able to make a Melbourne show and instead got off a 26-hour flight from Israel and travelled to New Zealand for less than 24 hours to see them with my husband back when he was just my boyfriend. I remember going to three concerts in four nights with my brother because we could not bear the thought of missing a single song.

That old VHS tape of MTV Unplugged, a guitar pick thrown out to the crowd, countless CDs, bootlegs – the memories go on and on back to the first song I heard and the first concert I ever attended.

Many of us have had to face this over the years, whether it was Roger Waters of Pink Floyd fame, and a list of others with misguided views (except for my father who must be lucky because his favourites are Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary who had some sweet Hebrew songs in her repertoire, the Beatles and Dylan. Paul McCartney and Bob support Israel).

I struggled to articulate why it bothered me so much until a friend sent me a picture of a singer named Cat Power. I have never heard of her but she posted a picture on her Instagram from last month with Eddie Vedder and she captioned it with #peaceinthemiddleeast #Gaza.

It was then I realised exactly that this is all about the very thing I have been advocating ever since I began my first project when I started working for the Zionist Council of Victoria in 2003. I was doing some research on Hanan Ashrawi and some of her public statements before her Sydney Peace Prize award. I had not entirely been in the camp that believed Ashrawi should not be awarded the prize. There was plenty of evidence to suggest that Ashrawi wasn’t exactly a woman of peace but I believed at the time that peace was about a partnership and it seemed disingenuous to award a peace prize to only one side. My suggestion at the time was that there should have been an award for Ashrawi (although there were other more suitable Palestinians) alongside an Israeli like Amos Oz.

Incidentally Oz, a founding member of the peace movement, declared just last month, “I have been a man of compromise all my life. But even a man of compromise cannot approach Hamas and say: ‘Maybe we meet halfway and Israel only exists on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays’.

That is exactly what Waters, Vedder and others ignore. Peace is about compromise, but above that, it is about partnership. Boycotts and public statements against Israel will not bring two opposing sides together but will drive them further apart.

If you really do believe in peace in the Middle East, you need to unite and not divide. You need to see #Israel in the picture. You need to ask yourself if you are helping the cause of peace by supporting/ignoring Hamas or are you just allowing both Israelis and Palestinians to suffer by prolonging the end game?

Emily Gian
Media & Advocacy Director
Zionist Federation of Australia