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Double-time standard

‘Boycott Israel,’ says Jewish rapper

Reggae musician Ari Lesser reaches out to college students with a hip anti-BDS message

Amanda Borschel-Dan is The Times of Israel's Jewish World and Archaeology editor.

Ari Lesser in a screenshot from 'Boycott Israel.' (photo credit: courtesy)
Ari Lesser in a screenshot from 'Boycott Israel.' (photo credit: courtesy)

New hasbara YouTube sensation “Boycott Israel” could only have been written by musician Ari Lesser.

A political science BA from the University of Oregon, the 27-year-old ba’al tshuva reggae rapper is probably the only musician around capable of undertaking the long hours of research involved in making the extremely informative, catchy six-minute song.

“Boycott Israel,” sponsored by the pro-Israel campus advocacy group Here Is Israel (with the motto “get HII for Israel”), is a fascinating, rhythmically rhymed exposure of the double standards involved in the global BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) efforts against Israel.

The fledgling organization, actively running since July, is trying to create content to appeal to US college students, says Lesser from his Cleveland home.

“The campus can be a rough place for Jews and Israel, I’ve experienced that first hand. There’s definitely some intense stuff out there.”

Lesser was commissioned by HII to create something that would reach college students and show how to defend against BDS claims.

Lesser decided to focus on showing what he calls “the double standard inherent in the boycott argument.”

In “Boycott Israel” Lesser raps about the obscene human rights failings of dozens of countries, from China to Saudi Arabia to the United States. Accompanying the straightforwardly shocking lyrics are graphic images of horrific events, some ongoing, around the world.

“Big props to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International for going to these countries and doing good reporting. I wouldn’t want to go to a lot of those countries; I’m glad someone else did it for me.”

He’s quick to say that while as a religious Jew he feels a deep connection to the Land of Israel, he doesn’t always agree with what the State of Israel is up to.

“It’s not to say that Israel is always right — I definitely criticize when I disagree — but I don’t think a boycott of the whole country is honest.”

“Really, you see if you’re not willing to boycott every major country — and minor country — in the world, then BDS is anti-Semitism, or anti-Israelism, or whatever.”

With some 40,000 views between Lesser’s YouTube feed and that of Here Is Israel in the past 24 hours, it seems many would agree.

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