A shame the boycotters could not have shared Edinburgh Fringe joy

THIS year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe had an Israeli flavour once again as the Underbelly put on a selection of eight mini-plays in response to recent BDS attempts to boycott Israel.

One such mini-play explored the relationship between a son interested in the arts who wanted to go to see an Israeli show, and his mother who forbade him.

Yet the most prominence taste of Israeli vibrancy was tangible at the showing of Five Kilo Sugar, tracking the story of Gur Koren, whose grandfather appears to him in the lives of people he knew.

This was the Tik-sho-ret Theatre Company's debut at the festival, having been established 10 years ago with the aim of promoting Israeli and Jewish drama, and fostering collaborations and understandings between different communities, using communication and co-existence as themes.

Israel was proudly represented in Edinburgh once again this year by Tik-sho-ret, and the morality of boycotting Israel was explored in the Underbelly.

Curiously, the Edinburgh fringe took place at the same time as BDS activists in Spain were calling for the boycott of Matisyahu from the reggae festival at Rototom.

Just as Gur Koren's grandfather spoke into his current life through the voices of his contemporaries, so too the voices of past generations were eerily present in the decision to boycott Matisyahu on the basis that he should - as a Jew who identifies with Israel - declare his public position on Palestinian statehood, and word it in a way that satisfied Rototom and satiated the boycotters.

The decision to boycott Matisyahu sparked global outrage - here was a Jew in Spain being forced to declare his allegiances and loyalties before a community looking to ostracise him.

Following outcries from the international press (including the editorial of Spain's El Pais newspaper) and even the Spanish government, Rototom reversed its decision and "reinvited" the American singer, who eventually performed in front of supporters and protesters alike.

Such a targeted campaign against Matisyahu betrayed the intentions of the bigoted BDS crowd.

More ghosts of the past were on display this month in Cardiff, as Israel geared up to play Wales.

A photography exhibition went on display in Cardiff's central library, promoting co-existence between Jews and Arabs in Israel, as they live and play football together.

The exhibition had been shown in The Guardian's offices; not political, but rather celebrating humanity and common decency as expressed through sport.

The library's decision to withdraw the exhibit prompted understandable outrage from civil society and politicians alike.

Israel's charge d'affaires Eitan Naeh stated: "Tolerance towards intolerance is cowardice, and this is the unfortunate sight we witnessed in Cardiff in the face of vile threats by a small group of thugs.

"It's these pictures of co-existence that intolerant thugs wish to erase, so that no one might realise that there is one country in the Middle East where such co-existence exists."

Taken together, what do the boycotts of the co-existence photo exhibition and the boycott of Matisyahu tell us?

We learn that the boycotters are not interested in co-existence projects; in fact, they see kinsmanship and joviality between Jews and Arabs as something they must oppose.

The only logical conclusion from this is that peace is not something the boycotters desire. The boycotters see peace and co-existence as a threat to their overriding aims of harming Israel.

Many football fans who turned up in Wales to watch Sunday's European Championship qualifier were simply perplexed at why anti-Israel protestors would turn up at a sporting event, just to try to spoil the day of football fans.

The boycotters are also curiously interested in what Jews think about Israel, and will publicly pressure a Jew outside of Israel to prove his correctness by making a public statement.

The boycotters probably think that by doing so, they prove their fair-mindedness.

Instead, the idea of Jews having to "earn" their acceptance in society by denouncing their fellow Jews in Israel has an uncomfortable parallel with some of the "ghosts" of Jewish history.

Voices from the past echo in the chilling idea that boycotters can target Jews once again in the 21st century, and ostracise them for their personal beliefs.

As a collective, these recent boycott initiatives paint an unflattering portrayal of their organisers. Without realising, voices of the past appear to speak to them.

Perhaps they would have enjoyed Five Kilo Sugar at Edinburgh, after all.

Joseph Weissman is the media analyst at the embassy of Israel in the UK


© 2017 Jewish Telegraph