The legendary 82-year old folk singer Pete Seeger, an icon of the folk movement of the 1950s and 60s, told an Israeli organization that he supports the movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions of Israel ‘as much as he can’.This position is a shift from Seeger’s earlier stance in support of an online event sponsored by the Zionist Jewish National Fund in support of the ‘Arava Institute’, a graduate institution in Israel. Seeger supported the event when it took place last year, but later critiqued his own decision to support it, saying that he had not fully understood the extent to which the Jewish National Fund provided financial backing for Arava.
After his appearance in the online event, Seeger became the target of a campaign by the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions movement, which called on the folk singer to ‘join the growing list of artists who have respected the Palestinian boycott call’ and cancel any future events in Israel or connected with Zionist entities.
The Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions movement aims to pressure Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian land and adhere to its obligations under international law and past signed agreements. The movement, led by hundreds of Palestinian non-governmental organizations, calls on artists, academics, businesses and governments to stop doing business with Israel, to divest from companies doing business with Israel, and to impose sanctions on the government of Israel in order to increase pressure on the state.
Pete Seeger’s decision to support the BDS movement is consistent with his past actions and political stances – he has long given the royalties from his song ‘Turn-Turn-Turn’ to the Israeli Coalition Against House Demolitions, a group that brings Israelis and Palestinians together to rebuild Palestinian homes that have been destroyed by the Israeli military.
Many of Seeger’s songs are political, and opposed to war and oppression of people and the earth. According to Israeli activist Jeff Halper, Seeger changed his mind about the boycott after a serious study of the issue.
Halper said that Seeger ‘read historical and current material and spoke to neighbors, friends, and three rabbis before making his decision to support the boycott movement against Israel.”