On Ari Lesser’s song – Boycott Israel

Ari Lesser, a Jewish artist from Cleveland, Ohio, has come out with a song that counters the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement with a very popular argument. This argument can be summed up as: “other parts of the world do much worse things, and we kind of help.”

The music video can be seen here:

The music video itself contains images of Israeli charity, IsraAid, helping people around the world. And that is true, it does help people around the world. Upon a glimpse on their website you will realise that this organization has projects all over the world that help other people, which is great! And that is why I won’t be attacking IsraAID by any stretch. But there are a number of other problems.

What do we mean by Israel? 

When someone says Israel, what do they mean? This applies to all countries when it comes to certain events. What do we mean by saying “France opposes the invasion of Iraq?” for example. Are we talking about all of the people as a whole? The Government? A particular department of the Government? It becomes clear that the answer depends on the movement and the action concerned.

This is why it is important to actually look at who the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movements are targeting – are they targeting IsraAID because they are evil? Nope. They have targeted organizations/companies that either benefit from internationally illegal settlement activity or practises that violates human rights. Off the top of my head, I remember:

G4S – A security company that provided security facilities in which Palestinian children were held without trial under military courts.

Ahava  – An Israeli company that was based in an illegal settlement, and benefited from it’s resources there.

Veolia – A construction/civil services company that was scheduled to build rail lines between illegal settlement blocs surrounding East Jerusalem and further dividing up the land as a result.

Note: I use the activist magazine, Electronic Intifada, which some may consider as a non-impartial news source. I am only using them as a source for reporting events, and not saying that they are 100% right about anything.

It is important to know that the BDS movement recognizes that Israel, as in the Israeli government and it’s settlement expansion programme, is what is to be targeted. It does not seek Israel’s destruction or condemn Israel in its entirety. But there are other things to note about the song itself

The song and it’s lyrics 

I will give Mr. Lesser some credit for acknowledging that Israel is “not perfect” – and since the song is about taking attention away from Israel’s own crimes, I guess it is also unrealistic to expect him to fire off on what those imperfections are. But he has a lot to say about the rest of the world. Yet I find it ironic how he mentions China stealing the country of Tibet, how Cambodia is confiscating millions of acres of poor people’s land and how Ecuador steals lands from Indigenous people. I guess if we must boycott these countries because of these actions, as Mr. Lesser claims, then that backs up our boycotting Israel. Why? Because Israel’s settlement expansion and land confiscation reflects those to the point.

He also mentions the Congo profiteering from blood diamonds and engagement rings – but guess where the majority of these materials are polished and actually made into saleable products? That’s right, Israel. So I guess we have to include it in that picture too.

And if Mr. Lesser is concerned about the deportation of refugees from Thailand, then he could also use reading the materials and works of Mr. David Sheen. An Israeli Jew who seems to be a lone voice in speaking out against Israel’s treatment of non-Jewish African immigrants and refugees.


Burma’s military dictatorship, which is also mentioned, is not that different from Palestinians under military rule in the West Bank. Especially those in Area C, who cannot even build anything without permission fro the IDF’s Civil Administration.

The chorus of the song, unfortunately, plays the much used and abused “anti-Semitic card” – where Israel’s critics are labelled anti-Semites off the bat.

“Don’t pick and choose and pick on the Jews 
Pick up the paper and read the news”

And that misses the point of the boycott movement once again. I have seen many supporters of it who are Jewish, and even the Boycott from Within group which has Israeli Jews. The principle behind it is not because these people feel like picking on the Jews, it is the moral actions of certain political organizations that are being challenged. Nothing is based on racial heritage.

The United State’s treatment of Guantanamo detainees reflects Israel’s treatment of prisoners, especially during the first Intifada of 1987 – I have a book full of personal accounts which I would love to share with you some time.

But what I also find odd is the apparent failure of Germany’s failure to pay reparations for killing more than half of the Jewish population in the world. That he mentioned that is astonishing simply because I had no idea that Germany has failed to pay any reparations. Yet Israel and Germany seem to enjoy a very friendly relationship, especially concerning arms deals. But I guess this is worthy of more investigation.

The important thing…

It is undeniable that what Mr. Lesser mentions does warrant attention. The world, even though it is as its most peaceful since the history of man, is still plagued with problems. That does not mean that Israel can be excused for it’s actions, but neither does that mean that other causes are not worthy of our attention.

And while I do not agree with Mr Lesser’s line of argument. It is good that he mentions other issues. From whaling in Japan, the Ivory Coast’s slave cocoa farms to Iran having the highest rates of execution.

But the thing that I am most thankful for is that the song, in its flow and catchiness, is not embarrassingly terrible.

So if Mr. Lesser does see this – your rhymes are good. But it is important to remember that being a critic of your own nation will actually make you a better citizen than being someone who will defend it endlessly. Shalom.


2 thoughts on “On Ari Lesser’s song – Boycott Israel

  1. The song is catchy and amusing, but the argument is really rather weak. The Japanese may be whaling, but that hardly compares with what Israel is accused of doing (not that I think all those accusations are true, by the way).

    Still, it’s well done and might make some people think. His song on Israel not being an apartheid state has a much stronger logic behind it.

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