Anton Newcombe of The Brian Jonestown Massacre seems to have a very formed opinion of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. Between the Palestinian-led organizations, the BDS National Committee and The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, and the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, and my own little campaign on Facebook which continuously appealed to them among many others, it’s unfortunate that it never occurred to the band to try and contact the people who asked them not to play in Israel. I hate to write a post-performance letter [1,2,3,4,5], and some may ask what’s the point, but I truly believe that while it may be too late to get you to cancel, it’s it’s never too late to get you to understand. So one more time with feeling: A post-performance analysis and response to the statements of Anton Newcombe of The Brian Jonestown Massacre [Hebrew].
Putting “Support” Into Local Context
Unfortunately, because of the de-facto realities of Israel’s military control of Palestinian land and the Palestinian population, support Netanyahu, his government and conservative organizations [like the aforementioned Creative Community for Peace], is exactly what Anton Newcombe and The Brian Jonestown Massacre did when they came and played music in Israel. As been explained to other artists before, the state of Israel- in an attempt to divert the attention of the world from its daily routine violations of the human rights of the Palestinian people- has been hard at work creating an image of “westernized normalcy” for itself. They call it Brand Israel. Getting artists to perform in Israel is one way in which the state creates this image, and like other bands, that refuse to see Israel’s military occupation and apartheid policies, The Brian Jonestown Massacre has ended up serving as “yet another example of the world-class music available in Israel”. [update 11/9/2012: Expecting the page to be taken off the Tourism Ministry website, I provide you with a screenshot I took beforehand]
Putting “People Who Want to Come and Listen to Music” Into Local Context
I don’t know one human being on this earth that doesn’t love music. But isn’t it convenient that we have the privilege to make generalizing phrases about the good of humanity, while discussing its particular ills? So let’s get particular. This is what an Israeli military checkpoint in the occupied West Bank looks like:
In February 2012, there were 98 fixed checkpoints in the West Bank. 41 of the fixed checkpoints are the last inspection point before entering Israel, although most are located a few kilometers east of the Green Line [=inside the occupied West Bank]… All these checkpoints are staffed regularly, and are closed when not staffed. In addition, the army erects hundreds of surprise flying checkpoints along West Bank roads. During the month of May 2012, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) counted some 256 flying checkpoints compared with c. 340 in March 2012. In addition, Israel has blocked the access roads to some of the main traffic arteries in the West Bank by means of hundreds of physical obstructions, such as dirt piles, concrete blocks, iron gates, and trenches… During the period January through May 2012, OCHA counted an average of 450 physical obstructions…
It’s true, the people in the video are hardly trying to get to the Brian Jonestown Massacre concert. They are trying to get to work, to their families, maybe even to a local cultural event with the kids. A great way to show solidarity with them is to heed the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions of Israel, which is supported by hundreds of Palestinian civil society organizations, groups, unions and institutions.
Putting “Isolation” Into Local Context
Here’s a map of the ongoing ethnic cleansing of a land once called Falastin.This map also explains who’s in military control of the land. You may notice that islands of sorts have been created, and that Palestinians are militarily isolated into these islands. This reality of shrinking territory, which is created by brutal military force, is why Palestinian civil society is asking not to cooperate with Israel, its institutions, and its propaganda, which demonizes Palestinians while aggrandizing the state and its achievements, with no mention of the fact that these achievements are made by the profiteering off of the military occupation and the captive Palestinian markets.
The least any of us could do, is try to figure out our part within the system and try our best to subvert it.
Putting “America” Into Local Context
Indeed the United States of America is very responsible for the realities in the region. Its yearly contribution of over 3 billion dollars worth of military “aid” to Israel is just one example of how the American government is responsible for the destabilization of the region. It makes sense then, that activists in the BDS movement are confronted with the question: Why not boycott the U.S.A?
This comes down to realpolitik and solidarity. Palestinians have analyzed their situation. They’ve reached a conclusion that there’s a system of apartheid which controls their lives, based on a loose racist notion of their Arab-ness. Their goal is to understand this system down to its smallest detail and start picking at these mechanisms one by one and dismantling them. They ask for international solidarity by way of global civil demand for local accountability.
What does this mean for the individual seeking “peace” in the Middle East? Especially the politically aware American who knows exactly what their state’s role is in Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian people?
The Palestinian analysis is that attempting to boycott the U.S., its institutions and corporations is damn near useless, due to the reality of wide-spread American military, political and economic control around the world. Thus they’ve chosen a very precise target: Israel. One may disagree with this analysis and chosen mode of action, and that is your prerogative. However, Palestinians, being the ones most directly affected by the situation, are asking that if you don’t agree, at least don’t cross the picket line.
Putting “the Border” Into Local Context
I want to put every bit of Anton Newcombe’s statement into context, because many artists don’t realize their privilege in making empty statements about the places they are payed cold hard cash to visit. Newcombe says “I was invited to perform”. As I’ve mentioned earlier in this article, indeed there is good reason why the border is open for artists to perform in Israel. In contrast, I think I’ve established fairly clearly that the borders aren’t open to Palestinians, primarily on basis of claim to land, but also on basis of race and religion. However, there is another population that isn’t welcome to Israel, or the lands it occupies: Foreign human rights defenders:
Israeli Ynet News reported that the Israeli Central Command Chief, Nitzan Alon, signed an order granting the Israeli Population and Immigration Authority “the right” to search for, and arrest, internationals illegally living in the occupied West Bank, in order to deport them”. Alon described the foreigners residing in the West Bank without a permit from Israel as “infiltrators’, and said that they all must be sent back to their countries.
So just to clarify to Anton Newcombe and the Brian Jonestown Massacre, and any other artist invited to perform for a wad of cash:
As long as you can make Israel look like a glitzy, “cultured” state, where expression via art is legitimate, you are very welcome. But if you’re just coming to witness Israel’s bloody back yard, then the ever-mobile border is closed.