Having initially reported that Salif Keita, a singer-songwriter from Mali, had been swayed by the arguments of those calling for him to boycott Israel, Ali Abuminah has had to backtrack following the publication of a long and detailed letter from the star and his wife. This explained that he was totally opposed to a boycott, but was cancelling his concert because of threats and intimidation:
The reason for the cancellation is not one which was made by Mr. Keita, but by his agents who were bombarded with hundreds of threats, blackmail attempts, intimidation, social media harrassment and slander stating that Mr Keita was to perform in Israel, “not.for peace, but for apartheid.”
These threats were made by a group named BDS, who also threatened to keep increasing an anti-Salif Keita campaign, which they had already started on social media, and to work diligently at ruining the reputation and career that Mr. Keita has worked 40 years to achieve not only professionally, but for human rights and albinism.
There is a breathtaking illogic in Abunimah’s explanation for Keita’s letter.
Resort to unsupported claims of “threats” and potentially defamatory statements may be a tactic that some artists resort to when they do not wish to violate the Palestinian call to boycott Israel, but do not have the courage to take a political stance.
Keita very clearly did not wish to accept the Palestinian call to boycott Israel and did have the courage to take a political stance. I may not agree with their decisions, but I would not claim that artists who do claim to have been won over by BDS arguments, and articulate those views as clearly as Keita has done, are doing so because they have been threatened or coerced into that position.
I assume that very many BDS supporters would neither make, nor approve of, threatening messages, and Keita’s letter also emphasises the more mundane concerns for his reputation and career.
But the disclaimer Abunimah links to, on the subject of threats from BDS supporters, is inadequate:
We do not know if they are made up by media hostile to the BDS strategy, or by artists and/or their agents, or if they are inflated reports of remarks made by individuals who do not represent the movement.
Why assume the reports are inflated? There are extremists from all sides of the spectrum – why not simply acknowledge that among those who share your views there may be a few who will issue alarming threats of violence.