Anton Newcombe and The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Yet Another Example of the World-Class Music Available in Israel

Anton Newcombe of The Brian Jonestown Massacre, (translated from an interview published in Hebrew by Creative Community for Peace)

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…

~ B’tselem, Restriction of movement: Checkpoints, Physical Obstructions, and Forbidden Roads, Updated 16 Jul 2012

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.

4 thoughts on “Anton Newcombe and The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Yet Another Example of the World-Class Music Available in Israel”

  1. oh dear Tali, i am sorry you had to write this article. it is so very irrelevant, judging musicians (in general and BJM specifically) for playing in Israel. the moment man realizes when to speak, and when to keep silence, he takes his first step in the path of wisdom. i bet you would be in a better state and much more available for serving your goals if you spent sometime listening to the music of The Brian Jonestown Massacre. it could be very useful for soldiers who are serving in the checkpoints as well.. it may help you to raise your perspectives and get a good crucial view of THE BIGGER PICTURE: An aggressive attitude is leading from the empty into the void. nowhere. you seem to be holding a gun (or more like a couple) shooting in any random direction. you might be able to find better ways of making your important points. i do hope you try. please, try a more challenging way of making your point through. we must look to find the commonness, not the differences, as All the problems are born from there. this is more difficult.. if we wish to change something, we cannot think about it in terms of war ‘winning’ or ‘loosing’.. forcing.. i challenge you to ponder on OTHERNESS in a new way. and i will too.

    1. Hi Ronit,

      Would you also have supported a Brian Jonestown Massacre concert in Apartheid South Africa? Would it, in your mind (small as it may be), have been a ‘useful’ diversion for the oppressive Afrikaner soldiers too? I suppose you’re right. Time spent listening to music is time spent away from murdering natives.

      I believe it is you that has to ponder otherness, to see the bigger picture, instead of criticizing those that do.

  2. Dear Beloved Sister,
    Selective solidarity may be a stage on the way to real solidarity for some.. i didn’t criticize you by the way, my words were a warm suggestion.
    regarding supporting gigs of fantastic music, Tali, the ways of the Lord are magical.. we can choose not to jump to conclusions.. the picture is bigger – in TIME and in SPACE. the river of cause and effect always flows.

    Shalom to you

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