Turn your back on Ziggy Marley’s sell-out

February 13, 2024
Image: Josh Adams/Green Left

The 1970s protest music many of us listened to was reggae: it began as the music of Rastafarians in Jamaica.

But with Bob Marley on the scene, with his “Get Up, Stand Up”, exhorting us to “Stand up for your rights” and “Don’t give up the fight”, reggae became an anthem for young people involved in struggle worldwide.

In 1981, when I arrived at dusk at Morocco’s fabled town of Marrakesh, the youth were in mourning. One sadly announced, “Bob Marley est mort”. He died at 36 from malignant melanoma.

Marley was adored by millions, but especially the youth of poor countries such as Morocco.

Millions of unemployed young people throughout North Africa felt hope and inspiration from Marley’s calls for a united Africa, where the oppressed would rise up against the European colonialism.

He called out apartheid in South Africa, supporting Nelson Mandela who had been arrested and jailed for his resistance.

These were the political and cultural leaders of my youth.

They were not pacifists; they were fighters for a better world and against injustice and discrimination.

Like others, I was horrified to find out that Ziggy, Marley’s son, is playing at the world music festival 2024 WOMADelaide — and being promoted as someone spreading messages of freedom, peace and love, is a Zionist.

Ziggy Marley helped raise US$60 million for the Israeli Defense Forces in 2018 and, last October, after four tours of Israel, signed on to a letter supporting Israel and condemning Hamas, along with 700 other Hollywood celebrities.

He has not condemned Israel’s war against the people of Gaza where more than 100,000 are either dead, injured or missing presumed dead.

How is it possible that in one generation the children of cultural icons, such as Bob Marley, can so badly sell out their parent’s rebellious, even revolutionary, history?

The answer is that music is now big business, co-opted by capitalism to make huge profits for record companies, festivals and, of course, the individuals themselves.

As we have seen in Israel’s war on Gaza, the imperialists, especially the United States, have bribed, cajoled, threatened or even bombed any group daring to stand up against genocide.

Meanwhile, they have reviled the millions’ strong, worldwide movement against Israeli genocide as “antisemitic” and “pro Hamas”.

Why wouldn’t those who see themselves as doing well out of the system support the “winning” side?

Ziggy Marley is a headline act at 2024 WOMADelaide, where equality and inclusivity are supposedly celebrated.

Several organisations have called on the WOMADelaide Foundation, a registered charity to help migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, to cancel Marley’s performance.

They have not had any success.

The Australian Friends of Palestine Association has written to Marley asking him to play a benefit for the children of Gaza.

They are asking people to turn their backs on Marley’s performance to highlight “the dissonance between Ziggy Marley’s sweet words and his actions”.

The establishment media has been silent on Marley’s support for Israel and the huge debate in Jamaica, where outraged supporters of his father say Ziggy’s sell-out would make his father “turn in his grave”.

Only in alternative media, like Green Left, will you find this reported because it does not just report the news, it takes a side.

I’m going to be one of those at WOMADelaide turning my back on Marley’s hypocrisy. If you aren’t going, why don’t you consider sending a donation to help us through 2024?

Green Left won’t give up the fight for Palestine; we will continue to stand up for all oppressed peoples’ rights.

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