In the recent article "Line Of Fire" by David Prince, Billboard reported on the growing - and alarming - trend of artists canceling performances in Israel in protest of actions in the West Bank and Gaza. While the piece represented both sides of an increasingly volatile issue, certain statements stood out as unnecessarily goading. In particular, Omar Barghouti's condemnation of Israel as "a colonial and apartheid state" is both incorrect and inflammatory. Worst of all, it is a type of dishonesty intended to trigger further hostility and dampens hope for rational discourse.

We are not talking about South Africa here. Israel has never practiced or enforced racial segregation of any kind. There is no imposed economic exploitation by minority rule. In fact, Israel - the only democratic state in the entire Middle East - has always encouraged and legally enabled the integration of Arabs into all aspects of Israeli government. There are 12 Arab-Israeli Knesset members in the current Israeli Parliament. Arabs have been elected to the Knesset in every election since Israel's founding. More than 14% of Israeli citizens are Arab Muslims, and the Israeli Supreme Court guarantees all Arabs equal rights and full protection. Furthermore, women of all nationalities are 100% equal by law and have played vital roles in governing, developing and protecting the nation. Lesbian and Gay citizens have the right to serve openly in the military, and married LGBT couples are ensured full adoption and inheritance rights. None of these freedoms exist in Israel's neighboring nations or states, including the Palestinians.

In this week's Los Angeles Times, Bill Van Esveld of Human Rights Watch – an organization usually critical of Israel - reported on a May trip to Gaza of "severe violations of personal freedom and repression of civil society," including "bans on women riding motorcycles" and spoke of a 19 year old man who has been in jail "without trial for more than a year because he is gay." There were various other accounts of how Hamas is "forcing people to live within the confines of a harsh moral code" as a result of an "Islamized Gaza."

Cultural boycotts based on political misinformation will not solve the problem, and may even worsen an already unstable situation by serving the destructive forces of propaganda. Ultimately, boycotts are an affront to Palestinian and Israeli moderates alike who are seeking to reach peace through compromise, exchange, and mutual recognition. Music can - and should - reflect politics, but must not respond blindly to it. "Musicians spread love and peace, and bring people together," Elton John proclaimed two weeks ago at his Ramat Gan, Israel concert. "We don't cherry-pick our conscience."

I applaud the many artists who have performed in Israel in the past two years, including; Paul McCartney, Madonna, Rhianna, Black Eyed Peas, Metallica, REM, Kaiser Chiefs, Pet Shop Boys, Peter Murphy, Macy Gray, Placebo, Chris Cornell, and many, many others. I urge all artists to continue to spread the message of "love and peace" that their music represents.

Music is our shared common language, one that transcends words and hatred. And because music speaks its mind and knows no borders, it is vital that it be heard everywhere there are voices of support, dissent or need. "Peace," Eli Wiesel once wrote, "is not God's gift to his creatures. It is our gift to each other." The same can be said of music. And it is a dialogue that must continue.

Steve Schnur
Worldwide Executive of Music and Marketing
Electronic Arts
Redwood City, Calif.

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