Rickie Lee Jones on Dylan, Israel, and Boycotts

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Bob Dylan’s concert in Tel Aviv is scheduled for tomorrow night in Ramat Gan stadium. Today the Jerusalem Post has some quotes from two artists who are opening for Dylan: Asaf Avidan and Rickie Lee Jones. Both say nice things about Dylan and their anticipation of the show. (And, contrary to early reports, and just as I thought, Rickie Lee Jones is not scheduled to sing with Dylan and his band; although she indicates she’d be glad to do so if asked.)

These days, as soon as it’s announced that anyone is going to Israel to perform, they are guaranteed to be hassled by someone representing the global anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. Some cave in and cancel their gigs— a very high profile example being Elvis Costello about one year ago.

It being my impression that Rickie Lee Jones was a big lefty of some kind, I was curious as to how she would deal with this pressure. (I know that the left is not necessarily monolithic on issues pertaining to Israel, but it seems near enough lately.) She tells the Jerusalem Post that after the announcement of this year’s show (she has played in Israel before) she received an email from her “local left-wing radio station” asking her not to go through with it. She wrote a letter in response, which she said she is going to send to them, and which she shared with the newspaper:

“If I boycott all nations because of their government’s policies that I disagree with, I’d have a hard time working anywhere… surely my own country is guilty of the most grievous crimes against its own people (and other countries) and I don’t punish the people of the United States because of those crimes.”

“Please don’t mistake what I say as approval of Israeli domestic policies and social attitudes toward its non-Jewish residents,” she added, citing the country’s “terrible treatment of Palestinians under Israeli rule.”

“But to be frank, if I were to boycott any nations, it would be the Muslim nations for the practice of mutilating women, suppressing free speech and encouraging terrorism,” she wrote.


“For musicians not to come play in Israel is a publicity ploy that does more harm than good. Playing music is always good – it’s a magical creature wherever it goes.”

So there you go. I might not agree with Ms. Jones on much politically, but I do respect her for having the intellectual honesty to point out that Islamic regimes have the most egregious things to answer for in terms of violations of the rights of human beings, this side of North Korea. Of-course, as a female singer of popular songs, she would never be invited to any of those countries, unless it were to be stoned to death.

The YouTube clip below is of her singing the title track of her 1984 album, Magazine—an album which I actually still own on original vinyl LP (although the peppier “Juke Box Fury” would be my favorite track).