Written by Jenna Dreisenstock
Last week, I wrote an article regarding the new campaign that has been created by DJs and electronic musicians alike – #DJsForPalestine, in which many musicians have refused to take part in festivals held in Israel as a sign of solidarity with the Palestinian people; who have suffered (and continue to suffer) horrific oppression and human rights abuse at the hands of right-wing extremist policies and the unforgiving, merciless Israeli military.
My previous article gave an in-depth look into the objectivity and statements made by the many artists who have refused to play in Israel for this very reason, and have pulled out of various festivals – as well as my own subjectivity as an anti-zionist, ethnically Jewish womxn. However, as I delved further into the comments and statements by fans of these artists (most of us know to leave the comment sections alone, as people can be truly awful especially when hiding behind a screen – however in this case, it was necessary for me.) I felt it necessary to comment on an issue that I felt was raised consistently and I feel it is an extremely valid concern.
I have wondered in the past whether it is a musicians’ duty to make political statements in the public eye – such as these artists participating in the boycott. Is it fair to place this type of pressure on those who are creating, and simply want to share their creations with the world? Personally, I believe the answer is yes. I believe that not only musicians who have this type of platform to speak out have these obligations, but creatives of all kinds in the public eye. I am often told, in backlash, that we ‘must not politicize everything’. Often, this statement stems from people who have immense privilege and are unable to relate to the fact that in this world, in this terrifying, beautiful world – everything is political. Everything. At this point in time, even talking about the weather is political! (Climate change deniers, looking at you.) So, my subjective opinion is that those in the public eye who are able to speak out against injustice – have an obligation to do so. Many may not agree with me, but that’s not my issue. It’s my personal opinion (disclaimer).
In response, as I mentioned before. I delved into the comments sections. It was awful. The racism (towards all peoples, whether they be Jewish or Palestinian) is horrible. Of course it is. The issue I want to comment on is – can we hold these same artists responsible as they pick and choose their political views when it comes to boycotts, when it comes to speaking out against injustice? Many a concern was raised regarding many of these artists, who have spoken out openly against the injustice that the Palestinian people face. Joining these campaigns with evidently good intentions to fight (peacefully) against human rights abuse. However, where are they when we speak about boycotts toward countries such as Russia? How can one refuse to support a blatantly nauseating, extremist right-wing and nationalist perspective – yet continue to support the same kind of injustice in another country?
I would like to know how one can stand against one form of oppression, whilst supporting another.
This is in no way an attack of the artists who have been fantastic in speaking out about these issues, who have been exceptionally respectful toward all peoples and who firmly stand for what they believe in. I admire each and every one of you. Thank you for speaking out. As figures in the public eye, you are truly making a difference with the platforms you are afforded.
Yet, I would like to ask those artists who stand against the abuse of the Palestinian people – who continue to play festivals and shows in my main example – Russia. How is it fair to pick and choose? Russia is known for their extreme human rights abuses. Their suppression of free speech. Hate crimes, propaganda. The nationalist right-wing dictatorship that rules the Russian Federation and – of course, the LGBT community in Russia who are in constant danger. In a law passed in 2013 refusing the ‘distribution of material that portrays non-traditional sexual relationships’ as a child protection law – many in the LGBT community have faced severe consequences: for just being who they are. It’s sickening. To further elaborate –
In February 2017, we saw one of the most unbelievable, terrifying acts of homophobia happen in the Chechen Republic (which is still considered a part of the Russian Federation) – in which men suspected of being gay or bisexual, were rounded up into what was noted as an ‘anti-gay’ purge. It was reported that men had been detained, tortured and murdered as a part of systemic homophobia. The journalists who reported the situation initially had to go into hiding. Although many Russians and activists spoke out against this horror, fought against it – and although we had Putin keep a poker face and agree to launch an investigation: these men who were ‘liberated’ were barely able to receive Visas in order to leave Russia – and it is exceptionally obvious that as Putin continues to suppress free speech, control elections in his favour, encourage extremism and systematically abuse the LGBT community: why is it that musicians who boycott Israel, continue to support the dictatorship that is the Russian Federation?
If we are speaking out against injustice, taking part in boycotts as a response to systemic abuse: we cannot pick and choose. This is in no means invalidating the decision to boycott Israel at all – we are not taking part in ‘oppression wars’. However, some very serious questions need to be asked – and answered. With the good intentions and decisions musicians have made in joining boycotts such as #DJsForPalestine, I have learned a truth that is a very difficult one to come to terms with. At the end of the day, our intentions do not matter. Our actions are what matters most.
If we don’t stand in solidarity for all, we stand in solidarity for none.