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Breaking: Pete Seeger endorses BDS, shuns Jewish National Fund

By +972 staff

Legendary folklorist, singer, songwriter and long time political activist Pete Seeger has officially announced his support for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel, a press release by the Israel Committee Against House Demolition (ICAHD) said today.

According to the press release, Seeger, 91, took part in a virtual rally sponsored by the Arava Institute in the Negev last November, despite requests from BDS groups not to participate. In January, he met with representatives of the BDS movement at his home, who elaborated on the relations between the Jewish National Fund and the Institute. After the meeting, Seeger said he  now endorses the BDS approach.

Seeger’s decision appears to be at least partly linked by the actions of the Jewish National Fund in the unrecognized village of Al Araqib. The JNF insists on planting a new forest on the village site, despite the fact the project causes state authorities to evacuate and destroy the village time after time – 14 times and counting.

“I appeared on that virtual rally because for many years I’ve felt that people should talk with people they disagree with,” Seeger is quoted as having told the activists.  “But it ended up looking like I supported the Jewish National Fund. I misunderstood the leaders of the Arava Institute because I didn’t realize to what degree the Jewish National Fund was supporting Arava. Now that I know more, I support the BDS movement as much as I can.”

ICAHD coordinator Jeff Halper is quoted in the press release as saying that “Pete did extensive research on this. He read historical and current material and spoke to neighbors, friends, and three rabbis before making his decision to support the boycott movement against Israel.”

We attach the full ICAHD press release for our readers and we’ll try to reach Mr Seeger for comment later today.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 28– Folk music legend Pete Seeger has come out in support of the growing Palestinian movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel as a program for justice for Palestinians and a route to peace in the Middle East.

Seeger, 92, participated in last November’s online virtual rally “With Earth and Each Other,” sponsored by the Arava Institute, an Israeli environmental organization, and by the Friends of the Arava Institute. The Arava Institute counts among its close partners and major funders the Jewish National Fund, responsible since 1901 for securing land in Palestine for the use of Jews only while dispossessing Palestinians. Although groups in the worldwide BDS movement had requested he quit the event, Seeger felt that he could make a strong statement for peace and justice during the event.

During a January meeting at his Beacon, NY home with representatives from the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) and Adalah-NY, Pete Seeger explained, “I appeared on that virtual rally because for many years I’ve felt that people should talk with people they disagree with. But it ended up looking like I supported the Jewish National Fund. I misunderstood the leaders of the Arava Institute because I didn’t realize to what degree the Jewish National Fund was supporting Arava. Now that I know more, I support the BDS movement as much as I can.”

Jeff Halper, the Coordinator of ICAHD, added, “Pete did extensive research on this. He read historical and current material and spoke to neighbors, friends, and three rabbis before making his decision to support the boycott movement against Israel.” Seeger has for some time given some of the royalties from his famous Bible-based song from the 1960s, “Turn, Turn, Turn,” to ICAHD for their work in rebuilding demolished homes and exposing Israel’s practice of pushing Palestinians in Israel off their land in favor of development of Jewish villages and cities.

The November virtual rally “With Earth and Each Other” was billed as an apolitical effort to bring Israelis and Palestinians together to work for the environment. Dave Lippman from Adalah-NY noted, “Arava’s online event obfuscated basic facts about Israel’s occupation and systematic seizure of land and water from Palestinians. Arava’s partner and funder, the JNF, is notorious for planting forests to hide Palestinian villages demolished by Israel in order to seize their land. Arava was revealed as a sterling practitioner of Israeli government efforts to ‘Rebrand Israel’ through greenwashing and the arts.”

Currently, the JNF is supporting an Israeli government effort to demolish the Bedouin village of Al-Araqib in order to plant trees from the JNF that were paid for by the international evangelical group GOD-TV. The Friends of the Arava Institute’s new board chair has recently published an op-ed in the Jerusalem Post that only cautiously questions some activities of the JNF, an organization whose very raison-d’etre is to take over land for Jews at the expense of the Palestinian Arab population.

Pete Seeger’s long-time colleague Theodore Bikel, an Israeli-American known for his life-long involvement with Israeli culture, recently supported the Israeli artists who have refused to perform in a new concert hall in Ariel, a large illegal Israeli settlement in the West Bank.

Seeger joins a growing roster of international performers who have declined to whitewash, greenwash, or in any way enable Israel’s colonial project, including Elvis Costello, Gil Scott-Heron, Roger Waters, Devendra Banhart, and the Pixies.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Jack

      “I misunderstood the leaders of the Arava Institute because I didn’t realize to what degree the Jewish National Fund was supporting Arava. Now that I know more, I support the BDS movement as much as I can.”

      The headline is a bit misleading. No where in his statement did he “slam JNF.” His statement appeared more like some comment about his participation in an Arava rally vis-a-vis JNF than some major dramatic statement of support for the global BDS movement. I suspect if you asked him whether the international community should impose sanctions on Israel or whether professors employed at Tel-Aviv University should be boycotted from attending academic conferences he would have a different answer. I’m not sure but thats what I suspect.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Dimi Reider

      Jack – noted and corrected.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Rabbi Tony Jutner

      Kol havavod to Mr Seeger.
      From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be Free
      Amandla!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      Reply to Comment
    4. Pam Siegel Zarte

      I wish the ICAHD could use their considerable talents to publicize the prejudice & inequality which mark the entire Arab world. A Jew cannot move to or rent/buy in most of the middle east outside of Israel.Arabs serve in the Israeli Knesset. How many Jews do you think are serving in the governments of any of the dictatorships/monarchies of the Middle East?
      I do not understand how the mainstream left became so enamoured of the “palestinians”. I’m sure they would have appreciated your interest when Jordan put them into “refugee” camps from which there is no exit.
      Jack, you make a good point about BDS and what Mr. Seeger probably intends. Rabbi Jutner, you are in a dream world.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Ben Israel

      Just goest to show…you can’t be a Leftist/Progressive and support Israel or Zionism anymore. You hear that people?

      Reply to Comment
    6. Ben Israel

      Pete Seeger was a supporter of Israel 50 years ago and more. The JNF existed then, the Nakba had already happened, Jews were immigrating to Israel and moving onto formerly Arab lands. Didn’t Pete know that then? All this proves to me is that “progressives” sort of shift their ideology around to keep up with the trends.
      The question is when are the “progressives” here at 972 going to draw the ultimate conclusions about their association with Israel and Zionism ?

      Reply to Comment
    7. EX ISRAELI

      Problematic issues with (practical) Zionism can originate from 2 sources: The first being religious/historical/cultural etc aspects within Zionist thought and the other being the objective conditions in the ‘homeland’ location. Given these 2 issues, it is not inconceivable to assume that the present situation could have been envisaged, (more or less) from the moment of Zionism’s inception, and so may have been used (and maintained) along the years as a tool for big geopolitical games by interests of power.

      Reply to Comment
    8. It’s such a shame that these people are doing all this effort to hurt productive organizations. AIES is a wonderful place where I met and studied with Palestinians and Jordanians, something that is very very rare in Israel. I guess that the JNF has a part in the funding of the institute, but I studied there for a whole year and never felt like anyone was interfering with the official or social curriculum. It’s funny to hear about the Bedouin issue and the JNF being the cause for this, remembering that we visited unrecognized Bedouin villages as part of the curriculum.

      It feels like this has nothing to do with the JNF, but rather with BDS’ unwillingness to accept alternative ways to deal with the political and social problems in the area. JNF wasn’t the target here. The target was AIES, which is doing something different for the cause of peace and justice. As much as it concerns BDS’ people, it’s their way or the highway. That’s just a shame.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Jack

      As much as BDS advocates claim otherwise – their goal is very simple and EXPLICITLY states on their manifesto. They support replacing Israel with an Arab state of Palestine that will encompass the territory from the Mediterranean sea to the Jordan river. This will happen largely through their demand that Israel must allow all the millions of Palestinian refugees around the world to return to Israel. Until Israel completely dismantles itself and transforms itself into Palestine – they will continue to advocate for BDS.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Marla Silverman

      Sounds like the BDS was telling some good fictional stories to get Pete Seeger on their side. It wouldn’t be the first time they did that. The BDS is just about getting rid of Israel altogether. They have stated so publicly. The Arava Institute does incredible things for peace and the environment. Talk to any of the students who study there. Or see this you tube video as an example of what they are doing http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DHt041xqQ1k&feature=player_embedded

      Reply to Comment
    11. David

      The article is, in fact, not true. I spoke to Pete personally this morning and he has not joined the BDS movement. Pete supports an artistic boycott of the settlements, as does his friend, Theodore Bikel. Pete continues to endorse the cross-border person-to-person work of the Arava Institute.

      Reply to Comment
      • David, the JPost, Haaretz and the JTA all report that Seeger has decided to support BDS. In the JTA piece, Seeger is quoted in the first paragraph as saying he regrets taking part in a peace rally with the Arava Institute. http://www.jta.org/news/article/2011/03/01/2743142/pete-seeger-says-he-regrets-taking-part-in-peace-rally

        I know the media gets things wrong, but it does seem a bit odd that three media outlets are reporting the same version of the story, while Jeff Halper of ICAHD says he met personally with Seeger and convinced him to support BDS.

        Reply to Comment
    12. David

      Lisa, you can see the JTA’s correction today, based on their conversation with Pete. Unfortunately, none of the news media had talked to Pete but instead simply took the ICAHD press release at its word, which was not factual and did not accurately represent Pete’s point-of-view, as the JTA discovered upon speaking with him.

      Reply to Comment