It’s effective because it empowers cultural figures – most recently Hollywood actor Danny Glover – to influence people against Israel simply by virtue of their celebrity.
Glover, best known for his films from the nineties, protested the inclusion of a documentary about the life of activist Grace Lee Boggs as part of the Tel Aviv Film Festival, known as DocAviv.
Glover and nine others issued a statement against the screening of the film:
We stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine, and support their call for cultural and academic boycott of Israel… we were shocked to find the film slated to be screened at the DocAviv festival in Israel on May 13th and 15th. This was scheduled without our knowledge.
The statement also said the group tried, unsuccessfully, to have the film removed from the slate at the festival.
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There is nothing powerful or original in Glover’s statement. And it did not bring about any change that would be notable in itself. But the statement received a modicum of press coverage entirely because Glover was a popular actor two decades earlier.
But other than manipulating the press and the fans of pro-BDS celebrities, there is no real logic or substance to a cultural boycott. Indeed, it stands only to punish the general public, not governments or policy-makers. In that sense, it is a form of collective punishment directed at the people of Israel.
And the best way to fight the power of celebrity is with the power of bigger celebrity. Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress said as much when he called on Hollywood to speak out against the demonization of Israel.
“It is time that those in Hollywood who stand with Israel come forward and speak out against the calls to boycott the only democratic country in the Middle East,” Lauder said, in response to Glover.
Image: CC BY-SA HonestReporting, flickr/Bart Everson, Wikimedia Commons/Nrbelex