“When people come to Israel, it gives a false sense of business as usual,” said Ofer Neiman, an Israeli boycott activist. “As long as this atmosphere goes on, the Israeli public will not be motivated to change things.”
Neiman is linked to the Global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement, which “urges a total boycott of the state of Israel until justice and the rule of law are reinstated in historic Palestine.” Neiman was among a small group of activists who heckled McEwan at a literary function Tuesday.
Activists connected to the group even produced a clip called “BDS Bieber,” parodying Justin Bieber’s hit “Baby,” with lyrics calling on the 16-year-old pop star to cancel his upcoming concert in Israel.
Israel accuses boycott advocates of capitalizing on artists’ ignorance.
“I doubt Justin Bieber would be able to tell the difference between Tel Aviv and Tashkent on the map,” said Eytan Schwartz, who has campaigned against the boycott movement. “I don’t hold Elvis Costello responsible for British troops killing people in Afghanistan and I don’t hold Justin Bieber responsible for what happens in Iraq. So why are concertgoers in Tel Aviv accountable for the policies of their government?”
Italian writer Umberto Eco, attending the same book festival as McEwan, said boycotting Israelis for their governments’ policies was itself “a form of racism” and “absolutely crazy.”
McEwan said that despite rejecting the boycott, he felt compelled to voice his opposition to Israeli policies, particularly because his award recognizes writing that promotes the idea of “the freedom of the individual in society.”
In his speech, he railed against Israel’s “confiscation, land purchases and expulsion in east Jerusalem” _ but he also credited the country with “extraordinary vitality” that manifested itself in an abundance of opinion and has produced an “amazing literary culture.”
(This version CORRECTS spelling of McEwan.)