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Preventing Artists from Performing in Israel Prevents Peace

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The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement seeks to undermine Israel's legitimacy as a sovereign Jewish and democratic state. As a movement, it attempts to isolate Israel, condemn it as a pariah state and, under the guise of seeking peace, urges the rejection of a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, which is the established goal of the United States, European Union and United Nations.

BDS, in all its manifestations, serves to drive us farther from reconciliation by placing the sole blame for continuing hostilities on one side, and in effect, alienating both parties while pitting them against each other.

But to what end? What kind of peace can be born from inflaming hostilities?

In process and in outcome, BDS is no way to pursue a peaceful resolution. Which is why it was especially troubling to see a mainstream media outlet such as USA Today employ this aggravating discourse in its coverage of Grammy-winning singer Alicia Keys' recent concert in Israel.

Rather than reporting a fair and balanced story - drawing on facts and reflecting both the Israeli and Palestinian narratives - USA Today resorted to copying and pasting a press release, virtually verbatim, from the BDS organization U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, condemning Keys' choice to perform in Israel.

Journalists are obligated to present the facts. Therefore, I expect reporters to cover the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with a measured balance, and not simply regurgitate the self-described achievements of the BDS movement. While we at the Israel Action Network, an organization committed to achieving two states for Israelis and Palestinians, living side-by-side in peace and security, know that this is a misguided campaign, USA Today readers may not. The article, published last month, presented a biased and erroneous, one-sided attack on Israel encouraging artists such as Keys to boycott Israel.

News agencies engaging in this kind of faulty and irresponsible reporting do readers, who may be otherwise uninformed about the conflict, a huge disservice by printing false allegations that paint Israel as an apartheid state. For, in reality, apartheid-era South Africa was a state-sanctioned system of racial segregation that dominated nearly every aspect of daily life between 1948 and 1994. This is not remotely the case in Israel, where there is one law for all citizens, and minorities have full political rights under Israel's Declaration of Independence.

Other BDS claims that Israel denies Palestinians health care are also unfounded. Where is the mention of the fact that Israeli hospitals regularly take in hundreds of Arabs? In fact, the Israeli Defense Forces recently released statistics revealing that they treated more than 1,500 patients in the West Bank in 2012. Additionally, Israel sends approximately 6,000 tons of goods into the Gaza Strip every day including medical supplies, food and constructions materials.

In the face of misguided media coverage of musical artists performing in Israel, we urge news outlets to engage fairly with such serious issues at hand. We encourage anyone invested in seeing a peaceful resolution to the Palestinian-Israel conflict to promote peace and reconciliation over divisiveness and take a note from Ms. Keys herself. The singer publicly rebuked BDS activists in a statement to the New York Times, saying, "I look forward to my first visit to Israel. Music is a universal language that is meant to unify audiences in peace and love, and that is the spirit of our show."

Everyone could surely benefit from her message of unity by embracing both the Israeli and Palestinian narratives. Only then can we truly walk on the path to peace.

Geri Palast is the managing director of the Israel Action Network, a joint project of The Jewish Federations of North America, in partnership with the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, created to counter assaults on Israel's legitimacy.