December 25, 2012 § 5 Comments
Earlier this week, I found a message in my inbox by an Israeli, who’s a Jazz musician, who’s paying gig was canceled because of a successful BDS movement campaign to get Swedish Jazzist, Andreas Öberg, to cancel his gig in the Eilat Red Sea Jazz Festival. Usually, the extent of my response, when I get unsolicited mail from angry Israelis, is to take a screenshot and add it to my “Love Letters” albums on my Facebook profile. Call it an artistic form of exhibiting political repression, racism and sexism, if you will (but what does culture have to do with politics, I wonder…). This time, however, since we’re not talking about your typical angry Red Hot Chili Peppers fan, but someone who has lost a paying gig. I think it merits a response (even though, as I will argue below, I am actually not the address for cultural worker grievances).
You Don’t Know Me and I Don’t Know You
December 5, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Our friend Tony Karon joins Rashid Khalidi, Peter Beinart and Ethan Bronner on Al Jazeera’s Empire.
The dawn of a Palestinian state has been a long time coming. After 65 years of dispossession, 45 years of occupation, and 20 years of failed peace attempts, on Thursday Palestine took one step closer to joining the community of nations. With a final vote of 138 to 9, an overwhelming majority of nations at the UN General Assembly voted to recognise Palestine as a non-member state. This upgrade puts Palestine on par with the Vatican, and also could allow Palestinian claims to be filed in the International Criminal Court. This recognition came just days after another in the long line of catastrophes Palestinians have faced. Under a brutal Israeli bombardment of Gaza, nearly 200 Palestinians were killed and hundreds more were wounded. Empire asks: Must the Palestinian dream of a state be Israel’s nightmare? And what does the path to a just solution look like?
November 18, 2012 § 4 Comments
by Shadab Zeest Hashmi
At death you measure
no more than our arms
When we rise
to blow a prayer into your charred lung
we find resplendent
milling about — lapidary
punctuations of our time
(eleven months in all)
Horror turned honey
as buds of new fruit
November 15, 2012 § 1 Comment
Israel has launched yet another attack against the Gaza Strip, striking the densely-populated and besieged territory from the air and the sea, and as usual the United States, Canada and Britain have lined up in support of Zionist terrorism.
Speaking from a system poisoned by the Israel lobby, State Department spokesman Mark Toner says: “There is no justification for the violence that Hamas and other terrorist organizations are employing against the people of Israel. We call on those responsible to stop these cowardly acts immediately. We support Israel’s right to defend itself.” Confusing Zionist settlers for ‘the Jewish people’, confusing perpetrator with victim, and then parroting outmoded ‘war on terror’ propaganda, Canadian foreign minister John Baird vomits the following: “Far too often, the Jewish people find themselves on the front lines in the struggle against terrorism, the great struggle of our generation.” Then Britain’s foreign minister William Hague makes the following immoral and illogical comment: “I utterly condemn rocket attacks from Gaza into southern Israel by Hamas and other armed groups. This creates an intolerable situation for Israeli civilians in southern Israel, who have the right to live without fear of attack from Gaza.”
Two things must be said. First, this round of escalation, like the 2008/2009 slaughter, was started by Israel. It is totally mendacious to pretend otherwise. The Hamas government in Gaza refrained from stopping other groups from firing missiles as a result of Israel’s murder of a disabled man and of a twelve-year-old boy in Gaza. Here is a timeline of events. Second, the settlers of southern Israel do not have the right to live without fear of attack while the original inhabitants of ‘southern Israel’ are herded into refugee camps. Eighty percent of people in Gaza are descendants of refugees ethnically cleansed from their villages and towns by Zionist militias in 1947 and 1948.
October 19, 2012 § Leave a Comment
My friend Adam Shatz moderated this debate between Norman Finkelstein and Anna Baltzer at The New School in New York. For the record, I’m with Baltzer.
The New School for Public Engagement is a division of The New School, a university in New York City offering distinguished degree, certificate, and continuing education programs in art and design, liberal arts, management and policy, and the performing arts. | http://www.newschool.edu/public-engagement
July 4, 2012 § Leave a Comment
The new issue of the quarterly Critical Muslim is out. The theme is Fear and Loathing. It has my review essay on Gilbert Achcar’s great book Arabs and the Holocaust: The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives. Here are a few excerpts:
The treatment of Jews who have remained in the Muslim world is no better or worse than that of any other minority. Since the founding of Israel their numbers have dwindled. Except for countries like Iran, where a substantial Jewish population still remains, few in the Muslim world ever encounter a Jew. Most know Jews only through scripture or news reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. All Jews as a result have been cast unwittingly as adversaries by a conflict with which most of them have no connection, which many even oppose.
There is no point denying that anti-Semitism exists in the Muslim world today and that Holocaust denial is not uncommon. This is deplorable. But the anti-Semitism of the Muslim world is an epiphenomenon of a political conflict; it doesn’t have social roots. ‘It is functional and political, not social,’ says Yehoshafat Harkabi, the leading Israeli scholar and former head of the military intelligence, no friend of the Arabs. For most Muslims, anti-Semitism is a function of ignorance and unfamiliarity; it is also an abstract means of participation in a conflict where Jews have been cast as the oppressor by virtue of a state which adorns its instruments of war with Jewish religious symbols. In this respect it is quite different from European anti-Semitism; it does not involve any actual contact with a Jew. It is also different in so far as it comes from a position of weakness, whereas European anti-Semitism was born of strength and directed against a vulnerable minority. It is comparable less to the racism of the Ku Klux Klan than to the reaction of the Black Panthers. Both kinds of hatred were totalizing, but only the former existed without a stimulus. Harkabi again:
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Creative Community for Peace: Elite Club for the Endless Cycle of War Profiteering, Whitewashing and Violence
April 30, 2012 § 3 Comments
A month ago, I mailed the Red Hot Chili Peppers a letter, asking them not to perform in Israel. The campaign, of course, is much broader than myself; The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), a Lebanese group of BDS activists, the US Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI), and my own group BOYCOTT! Supporting the Palestinian BDS Call from Within have all made statements and called for action. International social media campaigns are spreading [1, 2], the petition based on my letter is constantly growing in signatures from all around the globe, and even Macy Gray (who’s been reaching some new conclusions) twitted a little word of support. All this noise isn’t going by unnoticed by the Israeli government, media, and corporate elite, and though it took them a while, they are beginning to take action.
Music Industry Fat Cats Profiteering off of Military Occupation: An Economic-Ideological Cycle
April 2, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Adam Shatz has a superb piece in the latest issue of the LRB on Claude Lanzmann, the maker of Shoah. I highly recommend it to readers. (It requires a subscription, which I highly recommend since LRB is by far the world’s best political-literary publication). Here’s an excerpt:
‘Everybody is somebody’s Jew, and today the Palestinians are the Jews of the Israelis,’ Primo Levi said after the massacres in Sabra and Shatila. The bitter ironies of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians – all too evident to Levi, who had seen men and women in Auschwitz reduced to ghosts ‘who march and labour in silence’, known in the camps as ‘Muslims’ – are invisible to Lanzmann. He is fond of quoting Emil Fackenheim’s remark that the murdered Jews of Europe are ‘the presence of an absence’, but refuses to see that the Jewish state was also created ‘in the presence of absence’, as Mahmoud Darwish wrote. Only a few years after the war, Holocaust survivors found themselves living in the homes of another people who had been driven into exile, and on the ruins of destroyed villages. The Ben Shemen forest, where Lanzmann spoke with survivors of the Sonderkommando in Shoah, is only four kilometres east of Lod, where tens of thousands of Arabs were forcibly expelled in 1948. The Nakba – Arabic for ‘catastrophe’, or Shoah – has yet to end [...]
Since the outbreak of the Second Intifada, the French Jewish community has been swept by a wave of communautarisme, or identity politics. Anti-semitism is one reason: clannishness is understandable in the face of incidents like last month’s killings in Toulouse. But anti-semitism alone can’t explain the Jewish community’s turn inward, or its drift to the right. A few years ago, troubled by the increasingly bellicose tenor of Jewish politics in France, Jean Daniel published a striking little book calledThe Jewish Prison. This prison, unlike anti-semitism, was self-imposed, and made up of three invisible walls: the idea of the Chosen People, Holocaust remembrance and support for the state of Israel. Having trapped themselves inside these walls, the prosperous, assimilated Jews of the West were less and less able to see themselves clearly, or to appreciate the suffering of others – particularly the Palestinians living behind the ‘separation fence’. Over the last four decades, Claude Lanzmann has played a formidable role not only in building this prison but in keeping watch over it. That a chronicler of the Holocaust could become a mystical champion of military force, an unswerving defender of Israel’s war against the Palestinian people and a skilled denier of its crimes, is a remarkable story, but you won’t find it in Lanzmann’s memoir.
March 5, 2012 § 1 Comment
On +972 magazine, IPCRI’s Dan Goldenblatt has invited “anyone who has criticism of how we at IPCRI try to advance this goal to tell us so, engage and challenge us, and help us and others improve.” As a long-time critic of the “liberal left” “peace industry” (I thank Goldenblatt himself for the latter term), I’m taking him up on his invitation, picking up from where PACBI left off. To start off, I’ll wonder whether IPCRI “brought [themselves] together” with PACBI to “meet, discuss, argue, build, take apart, share and cooperate”? Or did Goldenblatt just write up his public response to PACBI’s engaging and challenging critique of the organization?