When Pete Seeger, the veteran American folk-singer and campaigner, was announced as the main performer in an Israeli organised virtual worldwide online concert, With Earth and Each Other – A Virtual Rally for a Better Middle East, he made some of the people involved in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement apoplectic.
The BDS supporters just saw the small picture, which is that a number of generally non-political performers have bowed to pressure not to perform in Israel after no doubt having found themselves in unfamiliar territory. Surely Seeger would also see his mistake and toe the line.
By direct appeal to the 91-year-old Seeger himself, and online on Facebook and elsewhere, there were calls for him not to perform in spite of the fact that he would be playing from his New York home and wasn’t even visiting Israel.
They asked him not to perform in spite of the fact that he has been a longstanding critic of Israeli policies in the West Bank and Gaza.
They asked him not to perform even though the concert was in support of the Arava Institute, which works to build cooperation between Arabs and Jews to solve the region’s environmental challenges.
They asked him not to perform, perhaps forgetting that he had been put under far greater pressure not to perform in his own country some decades ago but proudly carried on in the face of McCarthyism.
They asked him not to perform in spite of the fact that his left-wing and internationalist credentials were better than theirs.
On Sunday Pete Seeger performed. Here is his opening of the concert.
And here he is singing the 1950 hit Tzena, Tzena, Tzena with the Weavers. The only Hebrew language song to ever hit the number 1 spot in the US charts.
And lastly, here he is singing in Hebrew again on Around the World with the Weavers.