Rihanna, Get on the Virtual Tour-Bus: From Yarkon Park Tel Aviv, Around the World, to Occupied Palestine!

At the hight of the campaign to urge Alicia Keys to cancel her performance in apartheid Israel, the Jerusalem Post excitedly announced that “despite the bad investment” Israel is willing to “invest” in Forbes’ fourth most powerful celebrity of 2012, Rihanna. The mega-celebrity, holding the formidable position of most popular person on Facebook, 4th most followed on Twitter, and most viewed and subscribed musician on YouTube, is returning to Israel for a second time, on October 22.

Rihanna Unlike Alicia Keys, Rihanna is quite reachable, so make sure to go to her page at http://www.rihannanow.com/contact/ and respectfully explain why she should cancel her performance in Israel.

Since Rihanna is returning for a second time, it seems to me she may have missed the official celebrity tour by the Tourism Ministry. So I’d like to guide Rihanna on a virtual journey, from Yarkon Park Tel Aviv to occupied Palestine.

From Jarisha Village to Yarkon Park: Take a Walk Through Ethnic Cleansing

We start our virtual journey at Yarkon Park, where Rihanna’s concert will be held in front of 50,000 Israelis. The park, now under the municipal jurisdiction of Tel Aviv, was once known as Jarisha village. In 1948 the Zionist militias (later to become Israel’s army) depopulated the village of Jarisha, 1 of over 500 Palestinian villages, as part of its ethnic cleansing campaign in the year between 1947 and 1948, known as the Nakba. It must be, of course, noted that Tel Aviv municipality is involved in displacement, and the whitewashing of Israel’s warcrimes.

After this initial shocking stroll to the history of those that were and are no longer, and those that are, but are soon to be forgotten if we don’t do something about it, we get on the virtual tour-bus, to  takes us to the cozy offices of the local production companies, BlueStone, Peles Group, Bookmark Group and Rani Rahav Communications and Public Relations Ltd.

Peles Group- From Rishon Lezion to Eilat: Get on the Virtual Tour-Bus to a Racist No-Man’s Land

Peles Group mostly produces events for students. It is co-owned by the Student Union and the College of Management Academic Studies in Rishon Lezion. They’re the good ole’ boys, who divert our virtual tour-bus to the spring break festivities of “Funjoya” in Eilat , with the below unfathomably racist and homophobic promotional video, about a bus of “beautiful” and western Israeli students being kidnapped by ugly, primitive, lustful (so “indiscriminately”, that they turn out to be gay) Arabs:

BlueStone Productions- From Hertzeliya back to the West Bank to Gaza: Hopping the Train to Corporate Israel Through Checkpoints, Settlements and Occupying Army Bases that Just Want to Have Fun

BlueStone Productions is a private production company based in Hertzeliya, that often collaborates with Peles group on massive student events. They list their partners very straight forwardly on their Facebook page. So let’s look at some highlights:

Motorola has us hopping the Tel-Aviv-Jerusalem A1 Fast Train. Motorola was awarded the tender to install Internet access on 630 carriages and all train stations. The train will cut through the villages of Latrun; Imwas, Yalu and Beit Nuba, which were destroyed in the 1967 and are still a declared “closed military zone”, preventing the surviving refugees from returning, and through Beit Surik and the besieged Beit Iksa agricultural lands beyond the apartheid wall. We’ll also travel all the way alongside the apartheid wall, and get to see to between 20-47 settlements, and the fence surrounding besieged Gaza, to take a closer look at where Motorola virtual fences and radar detectors are installed as part of a deal with the Ministry of Defense.

When we pass through the checkpoints, let’s all look to our left, because we don’t want to miss Israel’s very controversial project of biometric access control systems installed in the checkpoints, provided by Hewlett-Packard (HP).

All these settlements we’re zooming by couldn’t have been made possible without the financing for housing projects and mortgages for homebuyers, financial services to local settlement authorities, and loans for Israeli businesses in occupied territories by Bank Leumi.

In correlation with academic boycott, we make a sharp U-turn and return to the Students Union and the College of Management Academic Studies in Rishon LeTzion. Adding to our list a visit to Bar-Ilan University, home to the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, who adorn themselves with a dove while banging the drums of war.

Speaking of doves, we must stop to adore the local fauna, among them Israeli’s- who are beneficiaries of their governments military occupation and apartheid policies- favorite mascot: The dove.

Posted by BlueStone Productions on Israel’s “Independence Day”: “BlueStone wishes all her clients and and the whole of Beit Israel [“The House of Israel”] a happy Independence Day!”

BlueStone, for example, posted the above image on Israel’s “Independence Day” along with quoted “holiday greetings”, neglecting of course to mention the repercussions of the establishment of Israel on the ruins of the indigenous Palestinians.

Another telling post takes us to a far off military base, where Israeli occupation soldiers, who just want to have fun, grace us with their own version of the Harlem Shake:

Bookmark Productions- From Italy to Al-Maliha: Fly with the 1% to the Hights of Ethnic Cleansing Denial

Bookmark Productions takes us up a notch, and we may just have to hop between a virtual limousine to a virtual plane that goes all the way to the top of Israel’s elite, those who profit directly from the occupation. Dedi Nitzani of Bookmark Productions provides entertainment services, not only for the Marie Antoinettes of Israel’s society, but also for American rich and famous. Between Tom Cruise’s secret wedding in Italy, Enrique Iglesias at shady capitalist and big Jewish Agency supporter, Arcadi Gaydamak‘s  Hanukkah party, there’s little room for exaggeration. (for more information on the Jewish Agency).

Aside from producing the Gaydamak Independence Day celebrations (which, again, serve to erase the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian population in 1948), Gaydamak is one of Nitzani’s central clients, and the owner of the Beitar Yerushalayim football club, which takes us to the realm of sports boycotts, and our virtual limo to Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem, in the Malha neighborhood. Malha used to be the Palestinian village of al-Maliha, which much like Jarisha, where we started, was ethnically cleansed by the Zioinist forces, who later became Israel’s army, in 1948.

While we’re at Teddy Stadium/al-Maliha we might catch a glimpse of Beitar Yerushalayim’s fan base, so legendary for their racism, there’s a Wikipedia entry about it:

The most vocal supporters of Beitar Jerusalem make up the controversial nationalist La Familia group.[6] These fans are well known for their hatred of Arabs and their pride in the fact that Beitar Jerusalem is the only team in the IPL that has never had an Arab player. Fans in and out of the stadium’s stands chant anti-Arab and racist slogans… Nigerian player Ndala Ibrahim, a Muslim, was on the team briefly in 2005, but left after being mobbed by its supporters.[9] In 2013 the team’s owner signed two Chechen Muslim players, Zaur Sadaev and Dzhabrail Kadiyev, which lead to protests from fans.. Fans of the club reportedly displayed a banner bearing the words “Beitar – pure forever” and “chanted anti-Arab slogans” at a match on the day that the players were signed, leading to four arrests. On 8 February 2013, unknown individuals set fire to the club’s administrative offices, apparently in response to the signing of Sadaev and Kadiyev… In 3 March 2013, Sadaev scored his first goal for Beitar during a league game against Maccabi Netanya, prompting hundreds of the team’s fans to leave the stadium.

Rani Rahav- From Tel Aviv to the Marshal Islands to Dimona: Surfing on a Nuclear Rocket

The presence of Dedi Nitzani in this production could explain something that to me, as a BDS activist, is the most interesting aspect of the Jpost article announcing Rihanna’s return to the apartheid state. The clear statement that boycott isn’t just a possibility, but a real liability on “investment”:

In light of boycott calls, Rahav admitted the Tel Aviv concert – like any concert scheduled in Israel – is a risky investment… Despite the political and financial risks, the widely anticipated concert – which will open with the lead single “Diamonds” – is likely to be an exciting show.

While some of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement’s opposition are still arguing “ineffectiveness”, this article makes it clear that Israel’s PR strategy of importing huge celebrity names, in order to normalize, glamorize, and divert attention from its military occupation and apartheid policies, is at risk of loosing its resources.

This in itself, may explain why the state sent out one of its most loyal publicists, this time, to deal with the crisis. We park our virtual limo back in Tel Aviv, where we’ll find the biggest PR firm in Israel, Rani Rahav Media and Public Relations Ltd. The firm represents approximately 120 companies, among them the aforementioned Poalim Bank and HP, but here are a few more those highlights:

El-Al is “Israel’s national airline” proudly takes part in official state propaganda, sponsors other companies that are profiting off of occupation (AHAVA below), and racial profiling. (for the answer to the question, what does it have to do with Jordache jeans? click here.)

We’re making a small stop in Australia, where people are already protesting, boycotting and divesting from Strauss Group:

one of Israel’s largest food and beverage companies. On its website, the Strauss Group has highlighted its support for the Israeli military, providing care packages, books, games and sports and recreational equipment for soldiers. In particular, Strauss has boasted of its support for the Golani and Givati brigades, who have a long record of human rights abuses against Palestinians and in Lebanon.

IDB Group  is such a big group that our virtual plane just has to detour at the WhoProfits website, just to get it all in:

A conglomerate of Israeli and international companies. Companies of the group control Cellcom (which operates in occupied territory), Discount Investment Corporation (the controlling company of Maxima Air Separation Center, which oparates a facility in the settlement of Mishor Edomim), Makhteshim-Agan Industries (the parent company of FiberTech, which is located in the settlement of Karnei Shomron), the Clal Group (the parent company of Nesher Israel Cement Enterprises, which most likely provided cement for the construction of the separation wall), Shufersal supermarket chain (which has branches in West Bank settlements), the Property &; Building Corp (the parent company of Mehadrin Group, which owns a packing house in the occupied Golan Heights) and many more.

Representing the top echelons of Israel’s occupation industry isn’t Rahav’s only connection to the government. Up on the virtual plane we go again, because Rani Rahav himself serves as the Honorary Consul of the Marshall Islands in Israel, thus himself becoming a government connection to all companies he represents. And Rahav is indeed a man on a mission:

“The fact that in all votes at the United Nations, the Marshall Islands had voted to support the state of Israel, has contributed to my willingness and motivation to take this role upon myself and fulfill it with curiosity and love.”

Not last, and not least (but definitely enough of the tip of the iceberg for one condensed tour of Israel-and-beyond), we’ve got a surprise that’s sure to end this trip with a bang! Our virtual flight lands straight in the Dimona nuclear reactor, and just this once, we’ll let you ride the big one! Because after all this reading about Rani Rahav, I couldn’t ignore my gut feeling that maybe, just maybe, Rani Rahav was behind (or in front of) the Presidential Gala, celebrating President Shimon Peres’ birthday? Star-studded with the likes of Barbra Streisand, Sharon Stone and Global Zero’s own confused anti-nuke spokesman, Robert De Niro, the event celebrated one of the 2 fathers (the other being Ben-Gurion) of Israel’s nuclear program, boasting over 100 nuclear weapons. Conspicuously missing from the event was Stephen Hawking, citing irreconcilable military occupation.

My Letter to Rihanna- From Tel Aviv to the West Bank to the USA: Landing on Earth

The Jpost article stated that “At Tuesday’s press briefing, publicist Ran Rahav said organizers have prepared the “Diamonds” star for the Facebook and Twitter anti-Israel backlash she will likely receive when news of the Tel Aviv concert breaks internationally.” I decided, promptly, not to disappoint him, and immediately sent my own letter to Rihanna:

Dear Rihanna,
My name is Tali and I’m an Israeli that opposes the military occupation and apartheid policies of my state against the Palestinian people. I understand you’ve been warned that you may start getting messages like this one. I only ask that you hear me out, as I’m dreading for the lives of my friends and loved ones.
I have no doubt you’re aware of the massive campaign urging Alicia Keys to cancel her concert in Israel. I worry though, that somehow, our messages have been drowned out by misrepresentations in the media. Rihanna, the reason Alicia Keys is being asked to cancel her performance is because a performance in Israel today, is akin to a performance in apartheid South Africa. 
There is ample documentation of how Israel holds almost 4 million Palestinians under a brutal military occupation, while approximately 7 million Palestinian refugees and their descendants are denied their right to return home. Another 1.4 million, while designated citizens of Israel by the state, are treated as second class citizens, in a discriminatory system and social status reminiscent of the USA in the 1950’s.
I want to place special emphasis on Palestinian children, as I know you are specifically aware of the need to empower and protect children, in a dangerous world such as ours. Only this past month, 2 UNICEF reports came out, documenting that on average, 700 Palestinian children a year will be arrested by Israel’s army. That these children are tortured and used as human shields by the army, on a regular basis.
I, myself have been present in Palestinian villages that underwent surprise night raids by Israel’s army. I’ve seen soldiers come in, masked, pointing their guns at women, children and the elderly. I’ve heard the horror stories of torture inside the Israeli prison from friends and loved ones.
These stories are just single stories in a whole system of abuse, normalized by Israel’s racist, discriminative legal system. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to make contact, because if there is one obligation I have, as a citizen of Israel, it is to speak out about this brutal system, operated in my name.
I want to also make it clear that Israel uses international artists to produce a glitzy image for itself, when it is in fact a colonial military regime. As such, unfortunately, your role in the local political arena becomes that of diverting attention from its war crimes. I ask you to please look into it, please engage with the many appeals that are no doubt coming your way.
You can speak directly with PACBI, the Palestinian coordination committee for the international boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign, pacbi@pacbi.org, for more information.
With much respect,
Tali Shapiro
Boycott From Within 
Tel Aviv, Palestine/Israel

I remind everyone that Rihanna can be reached on her official page at http://www.rihannanow.com/contact/ and I encourage you to respectfully explain why she should cancel her performance in apartheid Israel.

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