A few weeks ago, while I was in al-Araqib after the 11th ethnic cleansing attempt (yesterday was the 15th), I was interviewed by the Israeli Channel 10 culture editor, about Vanessa Paradis’ cancellation of her performance in Israel. Only one of the sentences I uttered in the 15-minute interview was included in the segment, and the rest is somewhere on the Channel 10 editing floor. So in an act of preservation, I’d like to paraphrase a part of the interview:
Channel 10 culture editor: “OK, so Vanessa Paradis canceled, do you really think anybody cares?”
Myself: “You came all the way to al-Araqib to ask me that, I think it’s pretty effective.”
Macy Gray Draws The Picket Line
Macy Gray’s initial words of condemnation showed her to be someone who understands, to an extent, that Israel is practicing apartheid. This created a situation in which the international community expected her to act in moral accordance with her words. We all worked very hard to help her understand the meaning of occupation and apartheid, but we failed. We also failed to show her why she has a responsibility, beyond her performance, towards the Palestinian people. Though Gray had tried to offer a plethora of unacceptable “solutions” that would allow her to continue the show, (like doing the show in combination with going to the West Bank, as she published on her official blog) we had failed in getting her to do the one thing she had to do: Not perform.
Though I repeat that we’ve failed, I’d like to make it clear that due to her actions, it’s clear that Gray actually has no real understanding of the situation and how her actions, as innocent as they may seem, are in fact lending her face to injustice. As if performing in the “White City” wasn’t enough, Gray had followed up with a list of things that not only don’t help, but they actually exasperate the situation. I feel it’s important to follow these actions, so that maybe other artists will be more informed in the future (not to mention us “little people” who guide them in the process).
I’ve written about Gray’s meeting with the Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles. It’s most crucial to understand the international artist’s role in whitewashing of Israel’s atrocities and creating an illusion of “business as usual.” The Israeli government has always made an effort to bring international artists to Israel. The artist’s name gives the state a sort of unofficial sponsorship- a vote of support- which is good for “the market”. The D in BDS is about divestiture from Israeli companies that profit from the occupation, or from Israeli institutions that enable, forward, or whitewash the occupation. One way to achieve this goal is to directly inform international companies where their money is going, another way is to erode Israel’s “sexy” image, by taking away its star-studded aura, which artists such as Madonna, Paul McCartney, Elton John, and now Macy Gray, provide.
It’s important to add that Gray’s meeting with the Consulate is direct cooperation with the government of Israel. She has already violated the boycott, before she even stepped on the “holy soil”. However, even this could have been rectified, had Gray came out with a public statement that her good name has been used for Israeli state propaganda. As expected, this “seemingly innocent” meeting has made good use of Gray, as the Consulate proudly plastered a picture of gray and Consul, Jacob Dayan, on the front page of its website, accompanied by a press release and a Facebook release.
Not recognizing the pattern, after a sour experience with the Israeli government, Gray came to Israel and met a currently undisclosed member of Knesset, in the Knesset building. Of course the violation of BDS is obvious, but she furthered the propaganda on her Twitter page with these following statements:
Seeds of Illusion
If that statement wasn’t enough to get Israel a few more business deals, then we can look into her meeting with “Seeds of Peace”. I wonder who set this meeting up, because as we’ve seen in the case of the Cape Town Opera, meeting with Palestinian organizations after performing in Israel isn’t an option. More so, when the organization is an Israeli-Palestinian organization that promotes an illusion of balance, and more so, when the organization is American (government and corporations) funded, such as the case of Seeds of Peace.
On the face of it, the organization is impressive. A mixed population of children, both Israeli and Palestinian (and other conflict regions, but allow me to focus), are taught “leadership and coexistence skills” within the context of the “conflict”. It’s very exiting to see a program which teaches kids things like economics and gender within the prism of politics. However, with the sterilized language on the website (no “occupation” to be found) and the program’s focus on trust building games between strangers that fake mutual trust in a sterilized environment, one must ask, how will these kids be able to be effective in the real world, when their education was based on a fictional balance between their situations? I highly doubt that an Ashkenazi Israeli young woman faces the same economic problems and obstacles that a Gazan young woman faces, for example.
Beyond the questionable content and context of Seeds of Peace, there’s the highly dubious list of funders:
USaid- A US federal government agency “[extending] assistance to countries recovering from disaster, trying to escape poverty, and engaging in democratic reforms.” The question remains: Is this before, or after they give 3 billion dollars worth of military aid to Israel, on an annual basis? Before or after it brought democracy to Iraq? And this is what USaid, who’s busy donating to Gaza with one hand, is busy doing with its other hand:
The end of the year downturn [for the Israeli economy] was caused by a combination of factors. The violence in Israel and the West Bank and Gaza led to a steep drop in the number of foreign tourists. Construction and agriculture were hurt by the sudden loss of Palestinian workers, unable to travel to jobs in Israel because of closures imposed by the Israeli military. A drop in economic growth in the United States led to a lower level of exports. Finally, the steep drop on the stock exchange resulted in a decrease in the rate of new foreign investment in Israel.
How does USaid solve this?
THE USAID PROGRAM: The United States, acting through the USAID, will provide $720,000,000 in FY 2002 funds to Israel as a cash transfer. These funds will be used by Israel primarily for repayment of debt to the United States
Who would have ever thought masturbation can be profitable outside the porn industry…
ExxonMobil – I was once told by an ethical investing consultant that the biggest donators on the planet, are the most harmful corporations. Now this makes sense, if you just think about the sheer size of these corporations. This manipulation that these corporations practice is, of course, what allows them to continue destroying every green patch of this little earth (also metaphorically speaking). ExxonMobil, which I doubt needs an introduction, trades in fossil fuels and is ranked “sixth among corporations emitting airborne pollutants in the United States”. It’s responsible for catastrophic oil spills, endangering the wildlife and the funding of skepticism of global warming. In addition to environmental damage, ExxonMobil is neck-deep in human rights violations, from denying LGBT employees same-sex partner benefits, to it’s hand in oil-rich governments around the world, creating military unrest, leading to torture, murder and rape. Indeed, is this economics of politics taught to our precious seeds of peace?
Carlson Wagonlit Travel- CWT is a travel agency with branches all over the world. Its branch in Israel is run by the Israeli travel agency Ophir Tours, which exclusively provide travel services to the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel (AACI), which is sponsored by the Jewish National Fund, thus taking an active part in Judaizing Israel (“Aliya”), ethnically cleansing the Bedouin population from the south of Israel, and whitewashing Israel’s brutal past of ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.
Clean Like Pros – A cleaning company run by the Singer family. The Singers are active in the Jewish Federation of Ocean County, an offshoot of the Jewish Federations of North America, who’s top partner is the Jewish Agency.
Toll Brothers – A house building company who’s list of contributions could have melted my heart, had it not included that infamous excuse for idleness The Anti Defamation League.
The content and list of donors leaves very little room to speculate about Seeds of Peace using Palestinian youth (and other marginalized young people of color around the world, as well as in the United States) as tokens for a cynical game that furthers a capitalist, imperialist American agenda, which never doubts it’s commitment to its arm in the Middle East, Israel. Don’t believe me? Just check out the Seeds of Peace Advisory Board of Directors list:
T.H. George H. W. Bush
T.H. William Jefferson Clinton
Her Majesty Queen Noor
H.E. Shimon Peres
Dr. Sa’eb Erekat
(A word to Sa’eb Erekat: Who needs Al Jazeera leaks?!)
The Show Can’t Go On
Not only did Gray meet all the wrong people, she went on with her show and in it included a lavish donation of a motorcycle to United Hatzalah, an Israeli emergency medical organization, which also receives motorcycles from non other than the most notorious settlement in all of the occupied territories, Hebron.
Panic in the Knesset
Without a doubt, the combination of Vanessa Paradis (and Johnny Depp along with her) canceling and the possibility that Macy Gray may cancel, as well, propelled the Knesset into action. You’d think that the “Boycott Prohibition” bill ( that will be passed tomorrow), criminalizing BDS criticism and activity in Israel, would be enough for the only democracy in the Middle East, but it seems that they just can’t get enough of the BDS jive [limited by my translation]:
I don’t know what our legal abilities are to act against these boycotts, but if we’re silent, we allow these things to happen… it’s very important that we raise our voice against this issue, especially when we’re talking about organizations that come from within Israel.
These are the words of Kadima’s MK Ronit Tirosh. In this same meeting, she also said [limited by my translation]:
The problem isn’t with specific organizations that boycott Israel and try to have impact, but about the use of different social networks in order to pressure the artists themselves on a personal level and even the people around them, like members of the band and roadies. We’ve asked the ministry of culture to take the issue of utilizing social networks from the Israeli side, too, in the face of the pressure they are exposed to, and an artist, who needs fans, has to recognize the extent of his hurt he causes his fans in the state, and maybe, as a result he’ll reweigh the cancellation.
Tirosh may not know the extent of her legal abilities to counter the BDS movement, but not for lack of trying. She’s just one of the MKs to be behind the “Boycott Prohibition” bill:
…a proposal to outlaw any nongovernmental organization that provides information to foreign or international bodies that leads to war crimes accusations against the government or the army.
The proposed legislation would apply to NGOs that provide information directly to accusers, or to NGOs that put information in the public domain that leads to such accusations… For the lawmaker behind the bill, Ronit Tirosh of Kadima, it is a necessary move to “end the rampage” by organizations that are trying to “subvert the state.”
Other MK’s also had some bright ideas [limited by my translation]:
Yisrael Beitenu MK, Alex Miller, head of the Culture and Education Committee, is planning to create a cross-ministry committee of the Foreign Affairs, Culture and Treasury ministries, who’s purpose will be to create an insurance policy to compensate (with my tax money) the Israeli producers, that bring the acts to Israel, who’s act bailed on them for “ideological motives”. He also added that he’ll join MK Tirosh in a law proposal to ensure this. He also called on the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Culture to build a joint strategy in dealing with the “delegitimization phenomenon of Israel in the culture world”. Lastly, he called on the producers to use the services of the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Culture, let them know about cancellations, so that consulate representatives can apply pressure on the artists.
Alon Barr, Director of Culture Ties of the Foreign Affairs Ministry:
…the boycott phenomenon is well known from the fields of commerce, academia, and international jurisdiction [prosecution] of IDF officers. “The way I deal with it is with an effort to propagate Israeli culture abroad and to encourage cooperation between Israeli artists and artists abroad. If we had more funds, we could do more.
Beit El settlement establisher, founder of Gush Emonim, responsible for doubling the Jewish population beyond the Green Line, National Union member, Arutz Sheva executive director, and Law of Boycott Prohibition initiator, Ya’akov Katz, in his capacity as a fair and balanced media man had this to say:
There are a few dictators of the Israeli media… that systematically stand behind organizations that boycott artists in Israel.
Shas MK, Nissim Zeev, had little to add, except the word “incitement”.
Of course, no Knesset conference, dealing with threats to Israel’s existence, would be complete without a member of the Re’ut Institute. In his capacity of “National Security team leader”, Eran ShayShon added:
..our job is to create a differentiation between legitimate criticism and delegitimization.
The BDS movement has come a long way. Thanks to Macy Gray all the crazies came out of the woodwork. While the “Boycott Prohibition” bill was proposed last summer, only tomorrow will it be passed. From a movement of the most impoverished and oppressed, that for 60 years couldn’t get the time of day from the media, Palestinians of the Occupied Territories are now changing Israeli legislation.