Steve Earle: “I’m Not Afraid Of Roger Waters; I Go To Israel”

American musician, record producer, author and actor Steve Earle was recently interviewed about his recent collaboration with fellow musician Shawn Colvin.

In the interview, Earle explains his views on boycotts.

steve earleEarle is a hero to many as well for his outspoken views on politics and social issues. The House Bill 2 issue here didn’t keep him from showing up.

“I don’t boycott anybody,” Earle said. “I don’t think cultural boycotts work. I understand why bigger acts do it, because they think they’re taking money out of the economy. But I’m not afraid of Roger Waters; I go to Israel,” he said, referring to the Pink Floyd co-founder who favors boycotts and sanctions against Israel.

And sure enough, after some Googling, I discovered this 2015 interview with Earle, in which he speaks more about his thoughts on Israel and boycotts.

ALTERMAN: You’ve been outspoken in opposition to the pressure on artists to boycott Israel. Why so?

SE: Putting Israel aside, I’ve always got to be careful about this, I’m the token guy in this situation. I don’t hang out with anything but Jews because I live in New York and I’m a lefty. Israel has become important to me. Israel is to me now what Ireland was to me in the 90s and what Mexico was to me in the ’70s and ’80s. It’s the other place in the world that I go. I really really love going there.

ALTERMAN: Could you describe why you feel the way you do about the place?

SE: I feel like I’m where Western civilization began and what I do has its roots deep in Western civilization—a form of literature. I love the food, I love the way the people live, I love…. I can’t eat hummus even in New York really anymore. There’s just something about it. There’s also a…and that’s what I encountered in a couple of other places in the world…. Vietnam’s one. The Vietnamese aren’t angry at us because they’ve been invaded over and over and over again. And it’s not because they’re that forgiving and we’re that cool. It’s because they’re not going to waste any time being angry at us because if the Martians invade they’ll go down the tunnels and kick their ass too no matter how long it takes. They just don’t waste time on that and I think there is some of that, believe it or not, to this day in Israel. I’m connected to it somehow. I was shocked. I’ve been there a couple times now, I can’t wait to go again. I hope to do a Masada concert with an audience. Look I got to do it once without an audience because it was the war. The first ceasefire collapsed and we had to cancel but we broadcasted over the internet to an empty amphitheater last year.

I boycotted Arizona because Tom Morello and some other friends of mine asked me to. I just did it because I was absolutely, categorically, opposed to those policies that the state government had—particularly the governor. I grew up in occupied Mexico, that’s my culture that’s where I come from. I saw it was a mistake because what happened was I didn’t play Phoenix, I played Tucson and I played Flagstaff, I played the places where there were public radio stations and they were the radio stations everybody listened to. What happened is the backlash was immediately, “You’ve abandoned your audience in Arizona. We’re opposed to this too and no one is lending us a voice.” Back to the job…So I decided and I think it applies to Israel and I don’t know Roger Waters so I don’t give a fuck. Cultural boycotts are meaningless.

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