|Pete Seeger performing in Israel in January, 1964|
In 2010, Seeger agreed to appear in a virtual fundraising event for the Arava Institute, an organization that brings Jews and Arabs together to work on environmental and sustainability issues in Israel's southern desert region. Immediately, the anti-Israel Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) movement, through the New York branch of the Adalah organization, began to petition Seeger to boycott the event. Seeger participated in the event, saying,
“I understand why someone would want to boycott a place financially, but I don’t understand why you would boycott dialogue. . . . The world will not be here in 50 years unless we learn how to communicate with each other nonviolently.”
After the event, in early 2011, Seeger met with the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, a pro-Arab group that claims that the JNF is driving the Bedouin out of areas that "belong" to them and that protests enforcement of Israeli law when it comes to illegal Arab squatting on government and JNF-owned land [see note below]. As a result of that meeting, Adalah announced that Seeger had signed on to support the BDS movement. The press immediately picked up the story and widely publicized it.
Only one news agency actually took the time to follow up with Seeger himself to confirm Adalah's announcement. JTA, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, is a Jewish news agency that supplies news stories to Jewish news outlets around the world. According to JTA correspondent Sue Fishkoff, who contacted Seeger days after Adalah's press release, "Seeger told JTA by phone Wednesday that he 'probably said' that, but added that he is still learning a lot about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and his 'opinions waver with each piece of information' he receives. The 92-year-old musician also said that contrary to the Adalah-NY report, he does not regret taking part in last November’s online peace rally 'With Earth and Each Other,' which was mounted in support of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies in southern Israel."
From all the evidence we can find, it seems that Seeger was not an outspoken or committed supporter of BDS, and merely considered supporting the anti-Israel initiative. Israelis who knew him claimed that he would not have endorsed a boycott, and he apparently did not ever publicly call for a boycott of Israel. While Seeger's politics were always with the "peace" camp and with the "social justice" movements, over the course of his life he appeared to be sympathetic to the Jewish people and the State of Israel.
I, for one, am willing to give Seeger the benefit of the doubt and to dismiss the claims of the BDS movement and Adalah.
Let's get our facts straight (without getting caught up in the ICAHD and Adalah propaganda): The JNF actually purchases land. Land ownership in Israel is based on the "Tabo" Land Registry system that has been in place since the 1800s, established by the Ottoman Empire, and kept in place by the British during the Mandate, and by the State of Israel to this day. Any person, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, or other, who has legal claim to the land he lives on will have records in the Land Registry office proving ownership. Israel only removes squatters who have settled the land illegally, and only a small minority at that.