By Jesse Bacon
Full disclosure: I have been a Pixies fan since 8th Grade. Their final album had just came out, and it was a blast of noise that sounded like the tunes emanating from an alien spaceship, a particular obsession of the band. Their reunion tour made me feel I had become an adult, at the same time that my childhood was weirdly coming to life.
1989, the year of their last album, was also the height of the first Palestinian intifada, the “quiet revolution” that taught me there was such a people with a claim to the same land controlled by Israel.
So what is the connection between these two formative events in my own life? Well, the Pixies are scheduled to play June 9th in Israel. And the folks behind the Boycott from Within are asking them not to perform. As someone who grew up in the wilds of Wisconsin, I know how music can reduce people’s isolation. I also know that the Palestinian revolution is still looking for its freedom twenty years later. And that’s why I admire the courage of the Israelis, Pixies fans even! who are willing to say “Don’t come.”
My organization has not endorsed the full Boycott of Israel. I know many people have real concerns about unfairly targetting Israelis. But clearly something is needed. There need to be some consequences for a country where half the people under the control of a government lack even basic democratic rights. In my life, much of the willingness to sacrifice comfort has come from the right wing, who move to armed camps on Occupied land, to safeguard some ideals that I find immoral and deeply disturbing. Cancellling one concert is a small step. But it shows a willingness to forego a little pleasure, to be inconvenienced for one’s own ideals. To show that one can imagine a Palestinian fan of alternative rock or any other genre, unable to come to a show a few miles away because of checkpoints, arrests without charge, or any of a number of repressive Israeli policies. And even with all those policies, Palestinians are still protesting against this government, with their allies from Israel and the world. Boycott is not a magic wand that will end the conflict all by itself. But I challenge you folks who are opposed to Boycott of Israel, including many people I respect, to come up with tactics that are this personal and visible, that asks something of the people who benefit from the privilege of ruling over another people.
When I first heard this music, I thought it was all I needed to free myself. I was after all, a free citizen of the most powerful country of the World. I now know music alone is not enough, but that it can provide a soundtrack to a movement. Unfortunately, it can also drown out the cries of protesters, convincing us that everything is fine. Let’s hope the Pixies don’t allow themselves to be the latter.
Watch the Pixies perform a song that mentions the Gaza Strip, the site of some of Israel’s worst abuses.