November 12, 2010

Gary Moore supports the boycott: Is summer on the way?

As winter falls, some glimmers of hope. The news earlier this month from the Irish section of the cultural boycott is that Gary Moore, a name beloved - or at least vaguely familiar to aficionados of ‘70s and ‘80s hard rock/blues, is joining the boycott of Israel. On tour in Russia, he declared that he wouldn’t visit the ‘criminal state’ of Israel ‘because of its racist policies against the Palestinian people’ . This is one of the straightest statements of support for boycott from an artist. Nice in itself, nice also to add another name to the roster. But I think someone like Gary Moore joining the boycott has wider resonance. Here’s why:

1. Gary wasn’t contacted by boycott campaigners in advance. In fact he’s not even a signatory of the Irish Cultural Boycott Pledge. This might mean nothing – he might have a friend involved in Palestine solidarity or Palestinian friends. But he probably does live in a place far beyond the ‘normal’ parameters of Palestinian solidarity activism. Put simply, hard rock isn’t the cultural milieu in which one would normally expect to find expressions of solidarity. I’m not being snobbish here: it’s no coincidence that so many of those who signed the Irish pledge were traditional musicians because a. trad musicians have a long history of political engagement b. trad musicians are specifically involved in Palestine solidarity. Hard rock has (as of yet) none of those links. It shows that the boycott campaign is out in the ether and that people who aren’t in any way connected to the milieu it originated from are now responding to the call.

2. This is AFAIK the first ever political statement made by Gary Moore. I could be wrong here, but he’s not the type of guy to mouth off about global warming, the budget etc. That someone previously not involved in politics and coming from a not particularly political background makes this stance significant. Again it shows the broadening of the campaign. It’s when musicians like Gary Moore matter-of-factly support boycott, rather than when already-political ones do that we can begin to hug ourselves with glee.

3. The statement was made in Russia, which along with Eastern Europe seems to be Gary’s main stomping and moshing ground these days. This raises the question as to what Eastern Europeans think of the boycott. Do they see it as an import, as a new trend from Western Europe and the US? And will it affect them, will they think that supporting Israel is yesterday’s fashion? Or am I assuming a Western cultural dominance that no longer exists. Even if they see it as a Western trend, are East Europeans and Russians less affected by this trend than, well, I’d hope?

I might be reading too much into this. One swallow doesn’t make a summer, and one rocker saying he won’t tour Israel mightn’t presage the mainstream acceptance of cultural boycott. But then again, where’s the harm in hoping?

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