SAN FRANCISCO (JTA) — Folk music icon Pete Seeger told a group of visitors he regretted taking part in a peace rally for Israel’s Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, but later recanted.
Last November, the 92-year-old musician appeared on “With Earth and Each Other,” billed as on online peace rally in support of the Israeli institute, which brings together an international student body to explore solutions to cross-border ecological problems, particularly those affecting Israel and her Arab neighbors.
A month before the event, Seeger told JTA that he was resisting calls from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement to call off his participation. He cited the need for dialogue to bring an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“I understand why someone would want to boycott a place financially, but I don’t understand why you would boycott dialogue,” Seeger told JTA. “The world will not be here in 50 years unless we learn how to communicate with each other nonviolently.”
According to Adalah-NY, an organization that supports BDS, Seeger met recently with representatives from the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, which he supports financially with proceeds from his music. He told them, the report claims, that he “misunderstood” the Arava Institute’s ties to the Jewish National Fund, which he criticizes for taking Palestinian lands for Jewish settlement.
“I appeared on that virtual rally because for many years I’ve felt that people should talk with people they disagree with. But it ended up looking like I supported the Jewish National Fund,” Seeger told the representatives from the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, they report.
“Now that I know more, I support the BDS movement as much as I can,” Seeger reportedly said.
On March 2, Seeger clarified those remarks in a phone interview with JTA. Admitting that he "probably said" that to his ICAHD visitors, he added that he is constantly learning more about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "My opinions waver with each piece of information I get," he said.
JNF provides scholarships for Arab and Jewish students, and funding for the institute’s infrastructure, according to Friends of the Arava’s new chair, Seth Morrison.
On Jan. 14, Morrison published an Op-Ed in the Jerusalem Post noting the JNF’s efforts to help the Bedouin and asking the organization not to take Bedouin lands in the South in order to plant trees.