Latest update: December 30th, 2013
A music video called “Boycott Israel” went viral last week. Stop groaning, this one exposes the hypocrisy behind the boycott Israel movement rampant on some campuses, and which is slowly seeping into the high schools.
This video, made by “Here is Israel,” goes to great length, cleverly, to expose the hypocrisy of all those anti-Israel “activists” attacking Israel, while ignoring scores of horrific, certified abuses in dozens of other countries.
The refrain is:
Boycott Israel, if you think that’s just/ But unless you have double standard you must/ Also boycott the rest of the nations/ With allegations of human rights violations/ We’re not perfect but if you think we’re the worst/ First take a look at the rest of the earth/ Don’t pick and choose to pick on the Jews/ Pick up the paper and read the news/
In perfect reggae cadence the hip hop/reggae/musician, spoken word performance artist Ari Lesser rat-a-tats and rhymes his phrases. He lines up what Israel does, and then challenges the Israel attackers to justify not focusing their laser beams of hatred on, oh, say, “North Korea, I don’t think you’ll see-uh a country unfree-ah,” or how about “Boycott Japan/ slaughtering thousands/Of helpless innocent whales and dolphins.”
Lesser goes after the expected villians such as Cambodia, China, Syria and Saudi Arabia. But how many who congratulate themselves for being up on human rights wrongs realize how shut down freedom is in Belarus, or the deaths caused by pesticides in beautiful Costa Rica, or that in Ecuador, the indigenous people have had the land confiscated?
And Lesser doesn’t allow his own home country, the USA, off the hook. The USA gets a dishonorable mention for the detentions at Guantanamo Bay.
So who is behind this incredibly catchy, well-researched music video that appeals to the very audience so likely to grab on to the global hate Israel craze, without demanding too much background information?
The Jewish Press spoke with those involved with Here is Israel on Monday, October 14. We wanted to know whether it made sense to title a video that actually opposes boycotting the Jewish State, “Boycott Israel.”
“There was some controversy around giving the video that name, yeah,” Chloé Simone Valdary, director of promotions, marketing and branding for “Here is Israel” acknowledged. “But here’s the thing, the BDS movement [economic and legal warfare movement against Israel] is growing on certain campuses in the Northeast and in the West.
“And what irks pro-Israel activists the most is the hypocrisy of all those promoting BDS without really having any understanding of what goes on in the world.”
“We wanted to attack the hypocrisy, but not in a preachy way. We knew it had to be edgy but still educational,” Valdary explained.
Valdary speaks from experience. An African American Christian student from the University of New Orleans, Valdary burst onto the national scene last year with her very visible activity and leadership of NOLU’s Allies for Israel. And she hasn’t stopped her dynamism on behalf of the Jewish State. She’s stepped up her activities and involvement with a broad range of pro-Israel organizations on campuses across the United States. She’s also visited Israel several times over the past year.
CREATOR OF HERE IS ISRAEL
The west coast’s Darin Weiss sought to utilize his expertise in film and production to support Israel in a way that wasn’t being adequately plumbed. What animates Here is Israel is the promotion of Israel through art, music and film. It is an Israel advocacy organization, but it will not just be fighting against anti-Israel propaganda. Some of its productions will simply be promotion and raw celebration of Israeli culture.
When Darin Weiss was putting together his concept for a new Israel advocacy organization several months ago, Valdary was one person to whom he turned. They connected in July, and “Here is Israel” went live in September.
For the lyrics, performance and musicality, Weiss turned to Ari Lesser and Yirmiyahu BenZion.
THE CREATION OF THE VIDEO
The song “Boycott Israel” was written and performed by Ari Lesser, an American musician with a long background in hip hop, rap and reggae music.
“Music has the power to catch people, to affect them, to allow them to step back and realize, Whoa! I’ve been brainwashed into thinking Israel is a demon among nations,” Lesser explained to The Jewish Press.
“I understand the ennobling feeling of taking up the causes of oppressed people,” Lesser continued. “But while many of the people promoting the anti-Israel mantra aren’t malicious, they really just aren’t aware of the facts.”
Those are the people Lesser hopes will really give a listen to “Boycott Israel” and think about the consequences of their activity. He hopes they will see that solely criticizing Israel isn’t just unfair to Israel, it is a betrayal of their best intentions. Lesser hopes the education provided through the video will arm them against turning into unwitting hypocrites, instead of advocates for just causes.
Lesser is a bal tshuva. He grew up in Cleveland and attended the University of Oregon – he really has seen the ever-growing demonization of the Jewish State from his college days, and is happy to be able to play a role in the Here is Israel effort Weiss has put together.
“My ‘gateway drug’ into Judaism was the psalms,” Lesser explained.
“When I began reading the songs of David, I recognized them as my family’s songs. King David’s messages have lasted 3000 years, what other musical messages have endured that long?”
“The psalms, the chumash, the tanach, these are incredible gifts we’ve been given, gifts to the Jewish people, gifts to all people.”
Lesser put one myth to rest. He is not Israeli. In fact, the first time he was in Israel was on a 10 day Taglit Birthright Israel trip in January, 2012. Of course, Lesser takes everything he does very seriously and explores it fully. He went on the 10 day trip and stayed for 10 months.
Yirmiyahu BenZion of Maameen Productions, is an accomplished reggae musician with whom Lesser also worked on an album, Tzfat Reggae. BenZion is the one who worked the music to Lesser’s lyrics in “Boycott Israel.” He put the reggae spin to the song.
In closing the interview, The Jewish Press asked Lesser who is his intended audience.
“I want the compassionate leftwingers to also find their compassion for Israel,” he said. That’s who he was thinking about when he wrote the song which packs an incredible amount of hard facts into a relatively short, catchy, rhyming paean to throwing off hypocrisy.
“But most of my songs are written for HaShem,” Lesser concludes quietly.
Next up for Here is Israel? A song addressing the mythic Israel as Apartheid State. It’ll be coming along in a few months. We’ll let you know when it’s here.
And here’s the video, “Boycott Israel.” Lesser and the Here is Israel team packs in more concrete information in this 6 minute video than most history professors bother to share with their students throughout a semester’s long hate fest with Israel in the dock as sole human rights demon.
Shame on them.
And many cheers for the entire Here is Israel team.
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the U.S. correspondent for The Jewish Press. A graduate of Harvard Law School, she previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools. You can reach her by email: Lori@JewishPressOnline.com
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