A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Pete Seeger and Israel

Pete Seeger has died at the age of 94. Besides being one of the founding fathers of the American folk music revival of the mid-20th Century, he was a lifelong activist even during the depths of the McCarthy Era, and an avid advocate for peace, opposing the US wars in Vietnam, Central America, Iraq and Afghanistan. As various Israeli and Jewish appreciations of his career are noting, however, his views on Israel remained somewhat ambivalent. As Ha'aretz notes:
Three years ago, Seeger came out in support of a boycott against Israel, according to a press release from the Israel Committee Against House Demolition (ICAHD).
He later clarified his position, telling JTA that his position on Israel was constantly evolving.
Seeger told JTA by phone in 2011 that he “probably” made comments that supported a boycott of Israel, but added that he was still learning a lot about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and his opinions wavered "with each piece of information.”
Seeger also took part in a 2010 online peace rally “With Earth and Each Other,” in support of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies in southern Israel.
The Times of Israel also notes Seeger's shifting views.

He seems to have been attracted to the socialist ideals of the early Israeli state, but opposed to the occupation after 1967.

Ironically, as Richard Silverstein reminds us, one early 1950s hit by Seeger and his group The Weavers was an Israeli song, Tzena, Tzena, Tzena; there was subsequently a court battle over the rights in which the original Israeli author was vindicated. It was released as the flip side of Good Night, Irene, which rose to the Number One hit in the US.

Seeger (second from left) and The Weavers:

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