eXing TEDx

TED is… TED is…. OK, I’m actually having a seriously hard time defining this… thing. And the site isn’t very helpful. So, as far as I can gather, TED was a conference in 1984, that brought together people from the Technology, Entertainment and Design industries for the Technology, Entertainment and Design industries people. It’s become a non-profit (owned by the Sapling Foundation), which holds double-annual conference, traditionally held in Long Beach and Palm Springs and Edinburgh, Scotland (but they’d rather say “Edinburgh, UK”, mind you). The goal of TED is to “spread great ideas”, they call those “ideas worth spreading”.

TEDx – The Image of a Perfectly Western World

Ironically, I fell in love with TED because of Ken Robinson. Now that is an idea worth spreading. I fell out of love with TED, because it generally has a Tech/Ent/Des approach to “doing good”, which tends to make its rather white and posh audiences (and founder and white dude, Chris Anderson, who grew up in Pakistan to medical missionary parents) feel good about themselves. And if this can be done by a person of color, well you got yerself the image of a perfect world. And all you had to do was tan in palm springs.

TED has a program called TEDx. The X apparently stands for “independently organized TED event”, and the idea is to “give communities, organizations and individuals the opportunity to stimulate dialogue through TED-like experiences at the local level.” It isn’t patronization, because TED has “Bias-free programming: Lack of any commercial, religious or political agenda.” You can “secure a TED license” to organize that TED-like experience, but you must be sure to not be “associated with controversial or extremist organizations”, and not to “promote spiritual or religious beliefs, commercial products or political agendas”. And they say centrists have no agendas…
But to me, TED’s messiest affair was the TEDxHolyLand event, followed by a string of other events such as TEDxTelAviv and others we will soon get to. TEDxHolyLand was a normalization disaster, as PACBI and UTAP stated:

This initiative is one more arrogant attempt to equate between; colonizer and colonized; oppressor and oppressed ;victim and executioner. The mere fact that TED’s Palestinian partner [Hannan Kattan] is unable to confront [Liat] Aaronson [the Israeli partner] with the reality of her displaced people is proof enough of the inequality and bias this program is based upon.

In a video on the TEDxHolyLand page, The Israeli Aaronson states:

This is not normalization, this is a chance to understand each other better, so that we can perhaps move beyond our preconceived notions and entrenched apprehensions.

And the Palestinian Kattan went on to say:

Basically, what we’d like to do is to build on TelXholyland to create an environment for Palestinians and Israeli speakers to come together to talk in a non-political environment and in a safe environment…

I don’t know what makes a non-political environment a safe one. It seems to me that a non-political environment is an environment in denial. And where there is silence, there’s an unmarked grave.

TEDx & The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Did we say Technology, Entertainment and Design?! It’s like the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ wet dream! Or more precisely, the ex-Consul for Media and Public Affairs at the Israeli Consulate General in New York (the arm of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in New York), David Saranga’s wet dream:

The Jewish Chronicle described him as “The man whose campaigns are rebranding Israel.”

A well oiled war-crime washing machine, in 2010 Saranga [Globes] was a consultant on social networks to TEDxTelAviv, on unpaid leave from the Ministry. But 15 years of service gets under your skin, I guess, which would explain the event’s Hasbara-Ministry-esque title, “Thriving on Turmoil”:

On April 26, Saranga will take this idea getting messages and ideas across through social networks a step further, when, together with the organizers of the TEDxTelAviv event, he will help to spread a list of Israeli ideas around the world via social networks. [Globes, above]

I stress that I can’t prove a direct connection between Tedx and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but I can prove a line of agenda and show a string of reoccurring characters (such as TEDxHolyLand’s Liat Aaronson on the TEDxTelAviv team, who most probably met Saranga in IDC Herzliya (where many of these people met), while he was in the Sammy Ofer School of Communications program). One only has to look at the list of partners of the TEDxTelAviv event to realize how profitable this event is for the occupation and its private business proxies (this is very shallow and partial investigation, which constitutes only small examples of connections to the occupation):

TEDx & The Jewish Agency

It seriously irked me when I heard there’s a TEDxTalpiot. Looking into the details, we see that the sponsor balance leans strictly towards the Jewish Agency:

The event itself was held at the Hebrew University, on occupied territory. By the looks of the venue, the websites and especially the sponsors, I’d say the TEDxTalpiot are not the same producers as TEDxTelAviv and TEDxHolyLand.

TEDxJaffa- Desire to Continue Not Seeing the Other

A lot of coexistence talk with TEDxJaffa“The Desire to Know the Other”:

With speakers including a doctor of neuropsychology talking about brain mechanisms that enable empathy, a grassroots community organizer bringing Israelis across the Green Line for encounters with their Palestinian peers, founder of an interfaith encounter association that uses faith as the starting point for cross-cultural dialogue and a diplomat speaking about knowing The Other via the framework of diplomacy, among many others, the evening’s program is sure to stimulate ideas worth spreading – and we invite you to join us.

We already know there’ll be a diplomat, maybe Saranga will make an appearance himself? There isn’t a lot of info about it online yet, but it seems to be going the way of TedxTelAviv. We know it will also be sponsored by TAI (The Actors Institute), which also sponsored TEDxTelAviv and TEDxHolyLand. TAI is basically a coaching for speakers program, which could have been occupation free if its client list didn’t include UBS and Bacardi, and of course, if its Israel branch wasn’t all about TEDx whitewashing events.

As I’m writing, another sponsor has been added, Portal Yaffo [Hebrew], a site promoting culture and tourism in Jaffa. Looks innocent enough, so I desperately looked into who’s behind the site. Here’s what I found:

So what is hayam.co.il? Well, it’s a real estate agency in the Mediterranean Real Estate. It’s located right in the  Jaffa area where the renewed ethnic cleansing- excuse me- “Judaizing”- is occurring via the- yup- Jewish Agency, selling “Old historic houses, wonderfully designed apartments with terraces facing the sea.” And all this over a plate of Hummus. Not to say that Mediterranean Real Estate works with Amidar (=the Jewish Agency), but it’s certainly ripping the rewards off of evicted Palestinians, as they serve as middle-person between the public and the Israel Land Administration [Hebrew] (more about the administration here and here) and Amidar[Hebrew], on the Yaffo Portal website, no less.

Arie Shefer is the manager and seems to think that government propaganda via the Magen David Adom (like Red Cross and Crecent, just with a David’s shield) will boost sales. Shefer doesn’t stop at Magen David Adom, and to the question of “problems between the Jewish and Arab residents, because the Arab Yaffoans don’t look kindly upon the “Judiazation” (and what about crime and personal safety?)” answers in unnecessary orientalism and claims ignorant of privilege and baseless in reality, in the forum [limited by my translation]:

Sent by: Arie Shefer
Subject: Personal Safety in Yaffo
Date: 24/6/2011 17:48:28
Indeed there is anger among some of the Arabs of Yaffo, because of rise in prices, which in many cases doesn’t allow those who were born here to acquire an asset for themselves. The tention exists, in my humble opinion it’s not nationalist, but as a result of economic gaps, that are very apparent in Yaffo.
Of course there are those that jump on the band wagon, on both sides by the way, but generally- there’s good neighborly relations, there’s no fear and the personal safety, as long as the local codes of behavior are respected, very good.


So, who profits from the occupation? Too many goddamn people without a doubt, including TED. Obviously I’ve got tons of criticism about TEDx events in Israel. I’ve also got tons of criticism about TED and I don’t like the “entrepreneurial approach” to solving problems in the world. I think TED creates a hierarchy of what’s “worth” spreading and what isn’t. That said, the BDS movement has appealed to worse, so here goes:

TED, revoke your license from TEDxJaffa, or demand that it not be used for whitewashing of warcrimes and profiteering off of occupation and apartheid.

2 thoughts on “eXing TEDx”

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