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Elton John - Culture and Politics on the Radio (transcription of discussion on boycott campaign)
Seder Yom (daily agenda) with Keren Noybach
-a discussion program on a major Israeli radio morning show-
Reshet Bet, Feb. 10 2010
[Translated transcript by Ofer Neiman]

Keren Noybach: Who is trying to convince Elton John not to perform in the country? This morning we will talk about culture, and politics.
Can I guess that there is a consensus around this table?

Yehuda Nuriel (Yediot Acharonot): Look, I don`t know, the boycott on Israel.

Keren Noybach: I see now an article, that Talab El-Sanaa is the last to join and also call Elton John not to come to the country, in addition to Prof. Bereshith.

Yehuda Nuriel: If I am not mistaken, there was supposed to be a performance of Carlos Santana, one of the legends of the 60`s, and he will not show up.

Keren Noybach: why? He was pressured to boycott?

Yehuda Nuriel: yes, you know, also Roger Waters, and Depeche Mode, and others. The call to boycott Israel is not something that was born today, it has been going on for a long time and it is done in public, out in the open, not secretly, by people who believe, for their own reasons, that it can be effective to turn Israel to a kind of South Africa of the past, and let every Israeli understand how much this country is doing bad things- in their eyes. And they do it through boycotting.
There were also very alarming suggestions to stop IDF soldiers or officers that participated, you know.when they go to the Mondial in S. Africa, that is like taking a prize from the poor, a guy goes to the Mondial and

Keren Noybach: what do we have left if they take soccer from us?

Yehuda Nuriel: Yes, there is a call to Elton John, my basic approach, not only regarding Israel, is that almost nothing should be boycotted, only if we are dealing with an extreme, evil regime. I also don`t like the local boycotts, like people who say: `I will not perform in the settlements`, and I am the first person to call these places occupied, and I am all for having the settlers return to Israel, so we don`t have a bi- national state with an oppressive regime. But do not boycott. The artists are ambassadors of the freedom of speech, of believing, of the ability to convince people and bring them closer together. Boycotting is using a very extreme weapon, and here I include the call for artists not to come to Israel.

Ben Dror Yemini (Ma`ariv): I am absolutely in favor to boycott as a weapon but in the right context. When there are real situations that political protest can bring change. And when the circumstances are real. In regards to Israel the story is totally different. There is a big industry of lies, and demonization and elements in side Israel, (you mentioned some), are part of it from within and from outside, that Prof. Bereshith sits in Britain , he is a veteran in boycotting Israel, he sits there and bad mouths the state of Israel many many years. I imagine that he wants the right to participate in the elections and vote for Azmi Bshara.

Yehuda Nuriel: we will give him the right to vote

Ben Dror Yemini: this is very severe. In cases when it is justified to do a cultural boycott, let there be cultural boycott, but for gods stake, I didn`t hear Bereshith or Tibi suggesting that some one does not travel to the Sudan or to Iran or to North Korea, on the contrary, they are fans of those dark countries. There is a problem with these crazy, hypocritical people who only talk about Israel. It is enough; we are fed up with the hypocrisy.
Excuse me but Talab El-Sanaa should say thank you that he is given the right to open his mouth, I am glad he is given the right to open his mouth but he should be put in his place, and also his hypocrisy . I say to him: sit quietly!

A third, female speaker: he enjoys immensely from the rights that are given to him here, to say what he wants in the parliament.

Ben Dror Yemini: I am all in favor of all of his rights, and I am all in favor of him having the right to speak up.

Female speaker: But he can not say that he is not supporting Zionism

Ben Dror Yemini: Let him say his words of abomination, and I am in favor of my right to say that his words are abomination, that is all.

Yehuda Nuriel: I only wanted to say one thing, too many times people say: `wait a minute, in Gaza they would not have let them speak up like this, and in Iran?` tell me, what are we talking about? This is a very common argument; it is as if they are saying lets behave like the Arabs behave. Lieberman said, lets talk with the Arabs in their language, and I say that I don`t want to talk to the Arabs in their language, for example, look what is happening with Iran when Iran wants to, sort of, speak in our language, but really what they are doing is being the bully in the neighborhood. I am Israeli, I am not Sudanese.

Ben Dror Yemini: Allow me to be blunt; I think there is some racism in your attitude. Because your attitude lets the others off the hook: the people of Gaza, the Iranians.

Yehuda Nuriel: I have freedom of speech; does this mean that because there is no freedom of speech in Gaza, there shouldn`t be freedom of speech here? Why?

Ben Dror Yemini: this is not what I am saying; I am saying that universal standards should be applied to everyone. If someone would come and tell me that in his country women are oppressed, or that there are mass killings, or genocide, only because his culture is different, I am fed up with this line of thinking, no one is exempt (from universal standards).

Yehuda Nuriel: the only thing that made Elton John ran away from Israel last time he was here was the media, not the Right, the Left, the Palestinians or the settlers, the media

And then they put on the air the beautiful song `Denial` by Elton John

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