Creative Community for Peace in Letter to Jose Feliciano: Healing with Music in Colonial Times, Building Bridges Over the Bodies of the Oppressed

August 22, 2013 § 2 Comments

Right: Jose Feliciano Left: Steve Schnur

Jose Feliciano is scheduled to perform in apartheid Israel on October 10, at Nokia Stadium. Already he’s being sent messages professing liberal language of equality and harmony for all, by that elite club for the endless cycle of war profiteering, whitewashing and violence, otherwise known as “Creative Community for Peace” (CCfP). Creative Community for Peace is a specialist in apartheid PR. They’re mere existence is about diverting attention from Israel’s systematic daily war crimes against the Palestinian population under its control, by abusing the word “Peace” and shooting the messenger- Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions activists (BDS), who connect the dots between Israel’s image of itself and the reality of its erasure of the Palestinian narrative and people.

Unfortunately, Jose Feliciano, for the time being, endorses the “Creative Community for Peace” statement that has been sent to him, and has posted it on the website. I’m assuming (and I do so without knowing any better) that the idea that music “heals” and “builds bridges” is flattering to Feliciano, and maybe even sits well with his own ideas of his profession and the way he’d like to perceive what he does. I don’t disagree that that is a noble goal. What I do disagree with, is that that isn’t the goal being achieved, by playing a concert in apartheid Israel.

I’ve argued this point endlessly, in my articles. In fact, I’d go so far as saying that my articles are written to make this point precisely. So today, I will be doing nothing out of the ordinary. I’ll just do it using “Creative Community for Peace”‘s mouthpiece, Steve Schnur in order to call on Jose Feliciano to boycott Israel.

Who Are the Music Lovers?

 …Music lovers around the world applaud Jose Feliciano’s upcoming performance in Israel.

I’d first like to say that I’ve never met a person who doesn’t love music. I’m not addressing this to be petty, I’m pointing out that the best way to create complacency is to wring the content out of context, depoliticization being CCfP’s modus operandi. The next sentence will create the false paradigm of anti-apartheid=anti-music. Not only is this petty and false, it creates a dramatic image of “artists against silencers of free speech”, when the true struggle is of a colonized people against a colonizing entity, which utilizes a well-oiled PR machine that uses artists in order to whitewash its colonization and subsequent war crimes. In the words of  Danielle Berrin of JewishJournal.com, who enthusiastically wrote about “Creative Community for Peace” last year: 

The presence of world-class entertainers, many of whom have large, impressionable audiences, can help make life there seem, and feel, more normal… CCFP was created to demonstrate to artists that Israel is a decent place.

White Man’s Burden: The Colonialist’s Struggle Against the Irrationality of the Colonized

Back to Steve Schnur and his war on those he perceives to hate music:

However, over the next few months you may be hearing from other voices calling for you to cancel your trip in protest of actions in the West Bank and Gaza. Unfortunately, these misguided groups are trying to use the forums of music and culture to make inflammatory and incorrect political points.  Their messages involve a type of dishonesty intended to trigger further hostility and dampens hope for rational discourse.

Schnur puts apartheid PR to work and deliberately omits the perpetrator of “actions” in the West Bank and Gaza- Israel. He also deliberately omits these territories’ legal designation as occupied. But hey, that would be “misguided” and “inflammatory”, wouldn’t it? It would also “trigger hostility” towards the colonizer and that would just be “irrational”, wouldn’t it?

Interestingly, Shnur doesn’t go for the usual rout of asking “what does culture have to do with politics?” in a kind of rhetorical manner, which asserts that the answer is “nothing”. Schnur goes further than the common Israeli misconception of culture’s only reason for existence is escapism. Schnur believes that culture should serve a very rigidly defined purpose. But I’ll get to that a bit later.

I am part of a group of like-minded people in the entertainment industry who have come together in an organization called Creative Community For Peace to encourage artists to keep their planned concert dates.  Members of our advisory board include a growing list of prominent media execs, artists, attorneys and agents…

Quick translation: I am part of a group of people who are at the top of a capitalist industry that exploits music, musicians and music lovers, turning the “forums of music and culture” and cultural workers into a consumer commodity, emptying culture out of its original meaning of expression of identity and belonging, and selling it for the highest bitter.

Some boycott groups have even gone as far to condemn Israel as “a colonial and apartheid state”.  We are not talking about South Africa here. Israel has never practiced or enforced racial segregation of any kind. There is no imposed economic exploitation by minority rule.

Yeah… that’s me. And this is Israel:

This is the point where I’d like to thank Steve Schnur for finally discussing politics, and allowing an opening for a kind of debate that rarely happens through the prism of colonialism culture:

In fact, Israel – the only democratic state in the entire Middle East – has always encouraged and legally enabled the integration of Arabs into all aspects of Israeli government. There are 12 Arab-Israeli Knesset members in the current Israeli Parliament. Arabs have been elected to the Knesset in every election since Israel’s founding. More than 14% of Israeli citizens are Arab Muslims, and the Israeli Supreme Court guarantees all Arabs equal rights and full protection.

Then again, maybe Schnur should have stuck to apartheid PR… Thank you, Mr.Colonialist, for “integrating” the indigenous into YOUR government, but what you take for granted is the indigenous Knesset members’ constant struggle to stay in Knesset, against Israel’s Basic Laws and constant Disqualification Motions by anti-indigenous Knesset members. Additionally, you forget that the majority of the Palestinian population is under separate military control. They do not have a say in who the colonizers vote into power. And even though it’s Israel’s last word that issues the Palestinian ID card, they are not allowed this right to vote for who sits in the ministry. In fact, their specially-colored ID card is there to deny them the right to vote (among the right to free of movement, the right to be protected from arbitrary arrest and torture and the right to life).

As for Palestinian citizens of Israel, you missed a few; “According to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, the Arab population in 2010 was estimated at 1,617,000, representing 20.5% of the country’s population”. However, don’t you worry about a thing, the recent revoking of citizenship from Jerusalemite Palestinians, will see the elimination of more than 300,000 Palestinian citizens of the state of Israel from the voting process.

As for the supreme court of the colonial regime, that’s also a matter of PR. Israel’s supreme court is in charge of balancing the costs of colonization to Israel’s image of the aforementioned “Only Democracy in the Middle East”, and maintaining the status-quo of control. So allowing MK Haneen Zoabi to continue participating in the Knesset serves this agenda, as it was an internationally high-profile case (and allows Steve Schnur to assert that democracy rains supreme in the colony). But allowing a single Palestinian prisoner to complete higher education while in prison, for example, is a low profile case, so they can get away with the violation of his right to education.

But as I said, this is more about population control, rather than individual violations, so when it comes to the right to live with your state-designated “enemy” wife, for example, that really cuts into the colonialist agenda of divide and conquer. And if we’re to come back to economic discrimination again, then apparently the supreme court has an agenda about that as well.

The White Man Saves the Oppressed Woman of Color

Furthermore, women of all nationalities are 100% equal by law and have played vital roles in governing, developing and protecting the nation…None of these freedoms exist in Israel’s neighboring nations or states, including the Palestinians.

So we already know that the Palestinian population, whether citizen, or “enemy”, isn’t quite as equal as we thought. Both male and female, and all those in between, are denied their nationhood by the state. While I myself dabble in statistics about the inequalities of my neighboring countries and undoubtedly recent events have shocked civil society the world over. I find it highly offensive that these atrocities may be used in order to justify and divert attention from Israel’s perpetration of apartheid, military occupation, ethnic cleansing and colonialism. As a music lover, I find it doubly offensive that these atrocities would serve to tip the moral scales of a cultural worker in a constrained and distorted context, in which they have to choose in favor of “Israeli’s right to be entertained” and against “Palestinians’ right to life”.

Additionally, nothing stinks to high heaven of colonialism more than the white male savior, coming to the rescue of the oppressed woman of color:

Culturalization not only lifts the responsibility from the criminal justice system to protect abused women, but also allows the Israeli system to position itself as superior, as belonging to a more “modern” and “advanced” culture. Scholars of colonialism remind us that colonizers will make any effort to destroy and fragment the internal cohesion and social structure of the colonized. Internal violence is an optimal way to destroy the “collective consciousness” of the colonized, keep them far from requesting freedom or resisting their colonization.

As a white, ashkenazi woman, designated-“Jewish”-by-the-state, I’d like to point out that Israel’s gender gap is a bad angle for propaganda. Firstly, because gender class in Israeli society is very much informed by racial politics (very much informed by hate of Arab peoples):

a recent study found the earnings gaps between Ashkenazi and Mizrahi men in Israel are higher than the gaps between White and African American men in the US. (Rubinstein and Brenner 2003). Since Arab men and all women groups earn less than Mizrahi men, the gaps in Israel appear to be greater than the US.

And secondly, because the gender gap in Israel is apparently only growing:

Israel’s position on the list, which benchmarks gender differences on economic, political, education and health-based criteria, has been deteriorating since 2007, when it was ranked 36th. The following year it plunged to the 56th slot.

It’s great to have women like Dorit Beinisch, Tzipi Livni, Galia Maor or Ada Yonat, but you have to examine the statistics to see the painful truth,” says Dr. Shlomit Yanisky-Ravid, head of the Women At Work project at Ono Academic College. A prominent woman who has managed to break the glass ceiling is merely a fig leaf concealing the discrimination against women, and their exclusion from senior positions.

The good doctor might as well have said “womanwashing”, because as a woman, I find it highly offensive that male music industry millionaires from abroad are touting the lie that I live in a post-sexist world in order to continue subjugating my sisters, who just happen to be less fortunate than myself because they’re not white, Ashkenazi, or state-designated-Jewish.

Artistic Fascism: Forms of Expression as Debate Silencers

Cultural boycotts based on political misinformation will not solve the problem, and may even worsen an already unstable situation by serving the destructive forces of propaganda. Ultimately, boycotts are an affront to Palestinian and Israeli moderates alike who are seeking to reach peace through compromise, exchange, and mutual recognition.

I must agree, here with Schnur, indeed “cultural boycotts based on political misinformation will not solve the problem”. That’s why the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement’s action-calls are highly research oriented. This article, for example, has not only been researched, I also supply the sources I’m basing my thesis on. So that information is open to the public, cultural workers such as Jose Feliciano, and detractors such as Steve Schnur and “Creative Community for Peace”, and we can all- finally- open up the debate on what has been for decades the sole domain of Israel. (All this public researching and calling for boycott, by the way, is not legal in Israel.)

Music can – and should – reflect politics, but must not respond blindly to it. “Musicians spread love and peace, and bring people together,” Elton John proclaimed this past summer at his Ramat Gan, Israel concert. “We don’t cherry-pick our conscience.”

Here you go again Steve, making me agree with you and all! Yes, “music can – and should – reflect politics, but must not respond blindly to it.” But this is pretty much where our agreement ends, because your idea of an eyes-wide-open response to politics is that cultural workers should be limited to expressing generic, depoliticized messages of “love and peace” to the beneficiaries of apartheid (those who can afford to buy a ticket, and those who have the freedom of movement to actually arrive at the venue), as they take money generated on the blood and sweat of the colonized.

Jose Feliciano’s concert, for example, is produced by Helicon Records [Hebrew], which’s clientele list include Poalim Bank, Leumi Bank, I.D.B., Celcom, Orange, Pelephone, Bezeq, El-Al, Teva, Superpharm, Strauss, Motorola, Elbit Systems, The Tourism Ministry and the Association for the Wellbeing of Israel’s Soldiers and many more. To keep it short, I link you to sources explaining how each and everyone of these companies (not including the Ministry and AWBIS which is a direct government connection, obviously) profit off the occupation.

We are glad that Jose Feliciano will be among the ranks of independent-minded artists who have performed in Israel including Elton John, Paul McCartney, Madonna, Rihanna, The Black Eyed Peas, Metallica, Linkin Park, Lady Gaga, Akon, Alicia Keys, 30 Seconds to Mars, REM, Kaiser Chiefs, Pet Shop Boys, Guns N’ Roses, Placebo, Chris Cornell, and many others.

Music is our shared common language, one that transcends words and hatred. And because music speaks its mind and knows no borders, it is vital that it be heard everywhere there are voices of support, dissent or need. “Peace,” Eli Wiesel once wrote, “is not God’s gift to his creatures. It is our gift to each other.” The same can be said of music. And it is a dialogue that must continue.

I wonder who on this list of shame is already regretting the choices they’ve made, even though they’ve been thoroughly well informed of what they are lending a hand to and how. And how long will it take them to give “Creative Community for Peace” a call, and demand their names be taken off the list, because they don’t want to be associated with the hatred that’s manifested in colonialism, in its racism and economic exploitation, and because they don’t want their music to serve the denial of the existence of such hatred?

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§ 2 Responses to Creative Community for Peace in Letter to Jose Feliciano: Healing with Music in Colonial Times, Building Bridges Over the Bodies of the Oppressed

  • Inari says:

    It seems to me like a lot of artists these days find it flattering when they are given a political context for their work (and especially such that involves notions as “Peace”, “Love”, “Equality”, “Bridges”, etc.- and establishes an indisputable supremacy of emotionally charged content over any spoken word or reasonable thought). It is almost as if it that provides them with a surrogate for a philosophical basis they had forgotten to create for themselves in the first place… sadly, it does not work that way; if you have not taken the effort to think before, it won’t help if others now do it for you.

  • […] to spray whitewash over its very real apartheid and oppression, adding artists and quotes to the propaganda site Creative Community for Peace that shamelessly lobbies artists not to cancel, the example given is […]

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