By Uri Yaacobi Keller for the Alternative Information Center
After the Boycott Divestment Sanctions campaign opened his eyes to the harsh reality of the occupation, British dubstep artist Joker cancelled his Tel Aviv show. The small but significant victory for BDS shows the inroads the movement is making around the globe.
Let”s start with the bottom line: the British dubstep performer Joker canceled his show in Israel. And it”s possible to say that he did so because of a campaign by Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) activists, who created a Facebook group and contacted Joker.
Compared to other artists who have cancelled appearances in Israel or have supported BDS – such as Devendra Banhart, Elvis Costello or Roger Waters – Joker is not a “big name.” But his cancellation is highly significant for a number of reasons.
A young English dubstep producer who hails from Bristol, Joker has become one of the genre”s biggest international stars and performed in Tel Aviv several years. But this time around, a cultural boycott campaign was waged in the UK, indicateing that the BDS movement has expanded and is now taking on lesser known artists and not just those who in the mainstream.
Joker”s cancellation exemplifies the power of new social networks. At a certain point, there seemed to be a “war of words” between those who support the boycott and those who are opposed to it, with Joker in the middle. In such a “battle,” which is a debate between activists, right and left, it is possible that boycott supporters have an advantage over officials or diplomats representing states or organizations.
The Israeli responses to the call for boycott have been almost solely based on the claim that “there’s no connection between music and politics.” Joker emphasized that he is, indeed, only a musician and that all that interests him – other than dubstep – is riding bikes and nothing else. His reasoning for the cancellation, as published on his Twitter account, was that the cultural boycott campaign opened his eyes to certain things. He said that while he had indeed appeared in Tel Aviv in the past, he didn’t have the information about racism that he does now, after the campaign.
Joker’s reaction is consistent with his non-political position. It should be a lesson to Israelis: Joker, as opposed to many Israelis, did not know about the reality which takes place in the Occupied Territories, just a short distance from Tel Aviv. The new information, however, led him to act in a non-political manner. Joker did not proclaim support for the BDS movement, but he also did not arrive in Israel. He apparently understood, unlike the Israeli clubbers who tried to fight the boycott with the “separation between politics and music” argument, that once the question of boycott was raised, a performance in Israel would become a deeply political act.
In the wake of the cancellation, the Israeli event organizers claimed that Joker had received threats on his and his girlfriend’s life. Since the Israeli organizers are the only source of this claim–Joker”s Twitter feed, the BDS campaign, and no news source hinted at this–it can be assumed that this is a lie intended to excuse the artist’s cancellation. The fact that someone – and an appreciated international artist at that – objectively chose to boycott Israel is apparently still a taboo that most Israelis cannot accept.
Translated by the Alternative Information Center. The author is an editor in the Alternative Information Center and also a DJ who takes an active part in the Jerusalem nightlife and had participated in the organization, amongst other things, of political nightlife even