Boney M told to skip hit in West Bank gig

For me, Boney M’s ‘By The Rivers Of Babylon’ has special associations with musical bumps and musical statues. For others, it has unpleasant associations with Jews.

From the Associated Press:

“Lead singer Maizie Williams said Palestinian concert organizers told her not to sing “Rivers of Babylon.” The song’s chorus quotes from the Book of Psalms, referring to the exiled Jewish people’s yearning to return to the biblical land of Israel.

Palestinians often question the Jewish historical connection to the Holy Land. Organizers said they asked for the song to be skipped, deeming it “inappropriate.””

Yeah that’s right, weird Stalinist Palestinian concert organisers – fingers in ears, sing “La la la” and maybe those Jews will just go away.

An innocent ’70s hit which offends only hateful repressive morons whose rejection of any Jewish connection to the land of Israel eclipses just about everything else – censored. Which is symptomatic of a wider problem in some sections of Palestinian society (including Iman Hamouri of the Popular Art Center, apparently) of rejectionism, not only of Israel but of Jews who want to be close to holy sites in the Middle East.

And it does make you realise that, despite the pressures boycotters pile on artists, there doesn’t seem to be any much corresponding censorship at Israeli gigs. Jonny Rotten claims free rein to make his trouble musically.

I get the impression Boney M aren’t really into these politics but they probably need to be. I hope they perform the song anyway.

20 Responses to “Boney M told to skip hit in West Bank gig”

  1. Isca Stieglitz Says:

    If this was a new or old protest song, with deliberate ‘wind up’ intent, then I might say ‘fair cop’.
    There have certainly been some gritty anti-Israel protest songs of late & Israelis wouldn’t like them no doubt.
    However, this song ‘is’ Boney-M. A more-cheese-than-a-deli-counter song from the 70’s. It reminds me of a ban on ‘Sleeping Beauty’, because the prince’s horse was called Samson.
    I have a feeling there will be some disappointed gig-goers; Ma Baker & Rasputin just don’t cut it!

  2. Bialik Says:

    Are Bob Marley posters banned on the West Bank and Islington?

  3. Scotch-git Says:

    Dear Mira Vogel,
    Sadly, Israeli censorship does exist. At the Festival Bloomsday Concert in Israel on Sunday, June 20th 2010 the Irish folk singer Tommy Sands was asked not to include his song “Peace on the Shores of Gaza” in his set. Mr. Sands responded by refusing to compromise his artistic integrity and declined to participate in the concert.
    I find myself wishing that Boney M had responded in a similar fashion.

    • Mira Vogel Says:

      Sorry to hear that about Tommy Sands, and who can blame him. There’s nothing but peace in those lyrics.

      Boney M didn’t seem to realise that the request had been solely political, so their artistic integrity is unlikely to come up.

      • Thomas Venner Says:

        I’ve just read the lyrics to the song, and I see what you mean. It’s as much a message of solidarity with Israelis as it is with Palestinians, and I can’t imagine that any Israeli listening to it could genuinely find it in any way offensive. Who exactly did ask him not to sing it?

        Reminds me a bit of story I heard about what happened when the film A Clockwork Orange was released in Israel. Apparently, the film censors decided to edit out all the references to the Nazis and the Holocaust (which form part of the brainwashing sequence) in order to avoid it offending or upsetting people. The result was that audiences stormed out of showing of the film in disgust, as they felt they were being patronised by the censors.

  4. Thomas Venner Says:

    Just a question – is there any evidence that there were widespread complaints from the potential audience about this song, or is it a case of overzealous organisers deciding what’s best for people without asking them, like the various incidents where people in the UK have tried to discourage the public celebration of Christmas and attempted to change street names relating to pigs or pork because “it might offend the Muslims” without ever asking any Muslims (who for the most part just don’t care)?

  5. GideonSwort Says:

    “Sadly, Israeli censorship does exist.”

    So, when you say Israeli do you mean Government (local or Knesset) or are we talking about the promoters? Kindly clarify your assertion.

  6. Susan Says:

    The concert went on, but they did not play By the Rivers of Babylon. You can read about it at Ynet com.

    This is not an original thought, but the Arab world seems determined to undermine any historical Jewish connection to the land.

  7. Scotch-git Says:

    You don’t have access to a search engine?

    • Thomas Venner Says:

      Seeing as that’s from a site calling for a boycott of Israel, it might not be the most reliable source.

  8. zkharya Says:

    Rasputin is great. I once choreographed a set to that, combining 70s disco and Kozak moves.

    Re. banning BTROB. Hilarious.

  9. zumb Says:

    “Palestinians often question the Jewish historical connection to the Holy Land.”
    Forgive me the social scientists, but hard-science knows best.
    The lack of connection to Israel, the Khazar source and all this bullshit is just lousy propaganda.
    Jews from all parts of the world (Ashkenazis, Sephardic, Mizrahim etc.) are genetically linked to the Levant. A recent paper in Nature about this:

    So next time some moron tells you Jews don’t belong here, you may reply that the same science that builds a computer also shows that Jews came from the Levant.

    • Brian Goldfarb Says:

      Plus all the archaeological evidence accumulated by the likes of Yigal Yadin and reported (for the public, as well as in his academic papers) in his books of, for example, the Davidic and Solomonic occupation of Hazor in Norethern Israel; the various excavations all over Israel; the coinage struck during the Bar Kochba revolt against the Romans; the excavations at Sephoris, showing the occupation of the site by the scholars fleeing the Romans during this last war against the Jews by the Romans; the synagogue on the Golan Heights, dating to the 10th or 11th century CE (sorry, site forgotten, but seen by me): sure, no evidence of “Jewish historical connection to the Holy Land.”

      zumb, does that make archaeology a hard or a soft science? And I’m not an archaeologist, but a sociologist.

      • zumb Says:

        I was too harsh on social science, sorry.
        Use to think that social science cannot be scientific in the same sense the hard sciences are. That’s it, they don’t use the scientific method (hypothesis formulation, prediction, experiments etc) as a way to gather knowledge. Then I read “Denying History: Who Says the Holocaust Never Happened and Why Do They Say It?” by M. Shermer and A. Grobman. The way they explained the evidences of the holocaust most resembles the scientific method, except they cannot experiment.
        I guess archaeology is the most scientific way of studying history. In a sense, DNA sequencing of living beings is also an archaeological work, because you dig into the past to find out the marks left by evolution (common descent).
        Just a comment on archaeological findings in Israel: no one disputes there were once Jews in Israel. What some Arab and post-modernists revisionists say is that Jews alive today are not descendants of early Israelites, but from Europeans or Khazars. The Nature paper shows very good evidences that this is not the case. The majority of Jews alive today have a strong genetic relationship to people from the Levant.

  10. GideonSwort Says:

    “You don’t have access to a search engine?”

    No, not one that shows that “Israeli censorship” prevented the scratchy git from performing.

    My search revealed that organizers not wanting some performer scoring political points on their dollar’s worth of entertainment buck, apparently didn’t considering his posturing much of a loss to the line-up.

    So, it seems they respected his right to boycott himself off the stage, and on to gratuitous media pouting.

    • Scotch-git Says:

      Tommy Sands’ political views are not mine. More to the point, they are not a secret. He was invited to perform at Ramat HaSharon, then prevailed upon to drop a particular song from his set-list. I heard the song on local radio and am in no hurry to hear it again, but that is hardly the point. We cannot complain about Boney M’s treatment whilst ignoring that of Tommy Sands. It is censorship. Tommy Sands reacted as Boney M should have.

      • GideonSwort Says:


        I’ll reiterate the point made – There is nor was any “Israeli censorship”, the concert organizers set the croaker pedalling.

        Mira doesn’t talk about ‘Palestinian censorship’, she correctly refers to “concert organisers”. No nuanced, subtle, hinted nor implied reference to Palestinian censorship on Mira’s part.

  11. Mark2 Says:

    The sympathies behind the words of “The Rivers of Babylon” – longing for a lost land – are universal – and indeed could be said to apply to the Palestinians themselves. Verdi in setting the same words in “Nabucco”, had the Israelites stand in place of Italians oppressed under the Austrian heel, while the spirituals in which black American slaves identified with their ancient Jewish counterparts are numerous and famous.

    Isn’t the arttempt to exclude specific peoples from the unversal almost the definition of racism and isn’t that, as evidenced by this case, increasingly the stance of the anti Zionist movement?

  12. Susan Says:

    This is an editorial from Newsweek. You might want to post it separately.

    Don’t Boycott Israel
    The very idea is repellent.
    by Jacob Weisberg
    July 24, 2010

    If you follow the news closely enough, you might have caught a small item recently noting that Meg Ryan had canceled a scheduled appearance at a film festival in Jerusalem to protest Israeli policy. This was significant not because anyone should care what the nose-crinkling movie star thinks about the Mideast but precisely because no one does. Ryan, a conventional Hollywood Democrat, is a barometer of celebrity politics. Her sort of sheeplike, liberal opinion once reflexively favored Israel. Now it’s dabbling in the repellent idea of shunning the entire country.

    Support for the Israeli cultural boycott has been growing in surprising places lately. After the Gaza flotilla incident in June, rock bands including the Pixies canceled performances at a music festival in Tel Aviv. Elvis Costello announced in May that he was canceling two upcoming performances to protest the treatment of Palestinians. Unlike Ryan, Costello is a thoughtful person whose views are worthy of respect. So why, exactly, do I think he’s wrong, too? Why is a private embargo—which includes an academic boycott and the push for divestment on the anti-apartheid model—an unacceptable way for outsiders to protest Israeli treatment of Palestinians?

    One argument is that academic boycotts are intrinsically unacceptable because they violate the principles of free expression and the universality of science and learning. A parallel objection applies to cultural boycotts, which directly target the most forward-thinking members of a society. In the case of Israel, shunning writers like Amos Oz and David Grossman, who serve as national consciences, seems not only intrinsically vile but actively counterproductive. On the other hand, it would be hard to justify a blanket rule that cultural and academic sectors are always off-limits. In authoritarian societies, cultural institutions do tend to become ideological proxies—think of the National Ballet in Cuba, or the East German gymnastics team.

    An even weaker case against the cultural boycott is that it’s unlikely to work. While it’s certainly true that cultural sanctions on their own are more inconvenience than lethal weapon, they can have a real impact. In South Africa, cultural and, in particular, sports sanctions—banning the country from the Olympics and from international cricket and rugby competitions—were an effective form of pressure. When it comes to Israel, it’s hard to predict what effect cultural and academic isolation might have. Some Israelis take international rejection as an affirmation, concluding that amid a sea of hostility their only recourse is self-sufficiency. On the other hand, opponents of the Netanyahu government cite global opprobrium as an argument for a different political course.

    Perhaps boycotts should be off-limits as a tactic against democratic societies, where other means of peaceful protest exist. But here, too, it’s hard to come up with a blanket rule. The immediate resort to sanctions when an elected government—say, Arizona’s—does something objectionable seems extreme and disproportionate. Yet an elected democracy like the Milosevic regime in Serbia can oppress ethnic minorities or commit genocide as well as an unelected one. And, indeed, one could argue that only in a democracy are the people truly responsible for the actions of their government.

    The stronger case against a cultural boycott of Israel is based on consistency, proportionality, and history. That supporters of this boycott seldom focus on China or Syria or Zimbabwe—or other genuinely illegitimate regimes that systematically violate human rights—underscores their bad faith. Boycotters are not trying to send the specific message, “We object to your settlement policy in the West Bank.” What they’re saying is, “We consider your country so intrinsically reprehensible that we are going to treat all of your citizens as pariahs.” Like the older Arab economic boycott of Israel, which dates back to the 1940s, the cultural boycott is a weapon designed not to bring peace but to undermine the country.

    Because Israel is a refuge for Jews persecuted everywhere else, this kind of existential challenge is hard to disassociate from anti-Semitism—even if Ryan and Costello intend nothing of the kind. When people are trying to murder you because of your religion, it is difficult to credit the bona fides of those who merely want to shun you because of your government.

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