CulturEscapes and the Moral Duty of BDS Today


The neutral Switzerland is about to host a yearly Culturescapes festival. Every year the festival focuses on a different country. This year- the most successful for cultural boycott, yet- it just had to play into Desmond Tutu’s hands and focus on Israel.

A Word about Culture

Culture is a word I’ve been hearing a lot lately. Israel’s Brand Israel campaign is focusing on PR apartheid; Hiding it’s atrocities as best it can, and highlighting it’s “advantages”:

In the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 6 niches were identified in which Israel has a relative advantage… The 6 niches through which it is planned to promote Israel, in the world, are environment (with an emphases on desert agriculture); Science and technology (medicine, internet and hi-tech); Culture and art; Human variety and tradition; lifestyle and leisure culture; Tikun Olam [=Fixing the world] (support of populations of special needs).

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“Diplomatic Immunity” or Murder with Impunity? And Who’s a Diplomat Anyway?

triple murders, a suicide, and the unraveling of a spy and a covert war…

by Huma Dar

On Thursday, 27th of January, 2011, while the world was busy watching — or ignoring, as the case might be — the inspiring Egyptian Revolution, in broad daylight, in a very busy part of Lahore (Pakistan), in front of hundreds of eye-witnesses, American contractor, Raymond Davis, murders two or by some accounts even three people: Muhammad Faheem (aka Faheem Shamshad?) (age 26), Faizan Haider (age 22), and Ibad-ur-Rehman.  Davis shoots the former two, who had allegedly threatened to rob him, from within his locked car, with seven bullets — each bullet expertly and fatally finding its mark.  The windshield shows the piercing trajectory of the fatal bullets, but otherwise remains miraculously unshattered.  Davis, then, emerges calmly from his well-equipped car (see descriptions below), shoots Faizan from the back while Faizan was running away (how “dangerous” is that?! does the excuse of “self-defence” hold when one of the victims was running away?), takes photographs and videos of both his victims with his cellphone, gets back into his car, and drives off unruffled, to flee the scene.  Faizan Haider was still alive — he expired later in the hospital.  What an act of “responsibility” from a “diplomat” of the self-ascribed global policeman!

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Macy Gray, I Don’t Want a 4 Minute Peace!

Dear Macy Gray,

Macy Gray visits with Consul General of Israel, Jacob Dayan in Los Angeles, as BDS activists around the world plea with her not to entertain apartheid.
Macy Gray visits with Consul General of Israel, Jacob Dayan in Los Angeles, as BDS activists around the world plea with her not to entertain apartheid.

I’ve publicly declared that I won’t give up on you and I intend to keep to my resolution. You keep on asking how not playing in Israel will help the situation. You seem to believe that you are nothing but a 4 minute escape for people (the majority of which, as I explained in my last letter, are soldiers). I believe in each of our endless ability to change the reality around us. But in order to do so, we need to see the reality for what it is. This is what my letters to you are about. This is what the 20 Days to Macy Gray Facebook Project is about. It’s an opportunity for people to empower each other. I hope you’ll allow us to bring back your faith in yourself, that your voice matters, and that you can change this harsh world for the better, for the long run, and not only for the 4 minute duration of a song.

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Why Academic Boycott?

Last week I thoroughly dealt with the not-so-scholarly and o-so-fallacious Nobel Laureates’ statement on BDS.  In almost pure cosmic irony I just got a link from a friend to a Prime Minister’s Office “non-tender”: Request for information about improving Israel’s image on U.S.A campuses.

Now that those talkback-esque arguments are out of the way, let’s get into the direct cynical use the Israeli government makes of the academia, in order to further its propaganda.

[Limited by my translation]:

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“Only the mood music has changed”: Tariq Ali on Obama’s presidency

OK… here’s the PULSE exclusive I’ve been working on. Hope you enjoy.

Is president Barack Obama the change America has been waiting for or is he another corporate Democrat representing elite interests?  According to Tariq Ali, very little has chanced between Obama and former president George W. Bush.  In his latest book “The Obama Syndrome: Surrender at Home, War Abroad,” Ali argues that Obama is carrying on the reckless policies of the Bush regime.  If Obama continues down this path, the Democratic Party not only face the prospect of the House & Senate in 2010 but also the presidency in 2012.  This should be a cause for concern.

I caught up with Ali during his American book tour and here’s what he had to say about the Obama presidency.

Where did the idea for this book emanate from? Why did you want to write a book about “The Obama Syndrome” and what does that refer to?

The idea occurred because I speak a lot on the United States. People ask me questions after each talk and increasingly in the past two to three years, the talk has been about Obama.  I thought a short book which essentially provided a balance sheet from the left on the mid-term would be a useful exercise. Given that he’s being attacked nonstop for being a socialist, a leftist, being a Muslim and all this nonsense that comes from the Tea Party-Fox Television alliance, I thought it was better to have a hard-headed realistic account about who the guy really is.  So my book is a critique of him, but it’s also by implication a very sharp critique of people who claim that everything Obama is doing is so radical that they can’t take it anymore.

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Anna Baltzer: Palestinians “come second” at peace talks

This interview first appeared at iBrattleboro.com

Anna Baltzer on "The Daily Show"

A visit to the occupied territories of Palestine can change one’s perspectives forever. Such was the case of Anna Baltzer. Baltzer is a Jewish-American granddaughter of Holocaust survivors. In 2002, she was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to teach English in Ankara, Turkey and soon after volunteered with the International Women’s Peace Service in the West Bank. There she was exposed to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. She documented human rights abuses for the IWPS, returned to Palestine/Israel over the years, and published her experiences in a book called “A Witness in Palestine: A Jewish American Woman in the Occupied Territories.”

Baltzer is a leading human rights activist on the Mideast and travels across the country to raise awareness about the Israeli-Palestine conflict. Her appearance on “The Daily Show” with Palestinian human rights activist Mustafa Barghouti was instrumental in raising awareness about life under the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. I caught up with Baltzer and we discussed several topics including her “The Daily Show” appearance; occupation myths; Israeli apartheid and the boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaign; and the Mideast peace talks in Washington, DC.

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Rocking the Boat: A Brief History of Anti-Migrant Hysteria in Canada

In November, 76 Tamil refugees escaped Sri Lanka on a rusty freighter. They arrived in Victoria, where they were met by Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) officials, who promptly jailed them for three months on allegations of terrorism. It would be fully half a year before the CBSA would admit that it had never had any evidence… In 2008, the federal and provincial governments were forced to issue apologies for the Komagata Maru. Now, two years later, if those words are to mean anything, we cannot afford to repeat history: let them stay.

by Fathima Cader

"MV Sun Sea" Uncredited Photo at: http://www.edynews.com/top-news/18-almost-500-sri-lankan-migrants-are-in-canadian-custody.html
"MV Sun Sea" Uncredited Photo at: http://www.edynews.com/top-news/18-almost-500-sri-lankan-migrants-are-in-canadian-custody.html

They’re at it again.

In November, 76 Tamil refugees escaped Sri Lanka on a rusty freighter. They arrived in Victoria, where they were met by Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) officials, who promptly jailed them for three months on allegations of terrorism. It would be fully half a year before the CBSA would admit that it had never had any evidence.

By then, however, it was too late: anti-Tamil and anti-refugee hysteria had spread like wildfire. Now, mere weeks after that most tepid of mea culpas from the CBSA, the hysteria greeting the Tamil MV Sun Sea passengers is worse. As with the Ocean Lady, these migrants will be detained in Maple Ridge jails before their refugee claims are considered. The Conservatives have begun to create new rules to treat refugees who arrive by boat differently from others. Meanwhile, Paul Fromm, the infamous neo-Nazi, has been receiving uncritical coverage in mainstream media with his demands that the migrants be sent back.

As the paranoia grows ever more heightened, it becomes increasingly important that we resist it. The universal rights of safety and mobility must be upheld, not only for the Sun Sea migrants, but for all people fleeing violence.

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Boycott Israel? Amitav Ghosh & the Dan David Prize

The call for academic and cultural boycott is clearly a way to encourage civil society to play a broader political role—that is why it has the support of wide sections of Palestinian civil society. One of the most significant questions that call poses to us is simply this: How could those of us who oppose apartheid, occupation, and colonialism not support such a call?

Dear Amitav Ghosh,

We wish to express our deep disappointment in your decision to accept the Dan David prize, administered by Tel Aviv University and to be awarded by the President of Israel. As a writer whose work has dwelled consistently on histories of colonialism and displacement, your refusal to take stance on the colonial question in the case of Israel and the occupation of Palestine has provoked deep dismay, frustration, and puzzlement among readers and fans of your work around the world. Many admired your principled stand, and respected your decision not to accept the Commonwealth Writers Prize in rejection of the colonialist framework it represented.

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PULSE: 20 Top Global Thinkers of 2009

On 30 November 2009 Foreign Policy magazine published its ‘Top 100 Global Thinkers’ list. We were naturally skeptical since the selection included Dick Cheney, General Petraeus, Larry Summers, Thomas Friedman, Bernard-Henri Lévy, David Kilcullen, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Salam Fayyad, The Kagan Family (yes, all of them) and Ahmed Rashid among others.  We don’t consider any of these people thinkers, let alone having global significance, and we couldn’t help but notice that the main thrust of all their work aligns with the global military and economic agenda of the US government. In response we asked twelve of our writers and editors to nominate their Top 20 global thinkers of 2009.  Our criteria included choosing those who inspire critical thinking, as well as those who have been able to buck received wisdom and shape public debate.  Always agreeing with their statements and positions was not a requisite, but in all cases our selections involved nominating those who have spurred people to challenge or enhance their own thinking in different ways.  The following is our unranked list.

Update: See Foreign Policy’s response, our rejoinder, and our reflections on the debate. (Also see our 20 Top Global Media Figures of 2009)

Arundhati Roy

The top nominee when it came to number of votes among PULSE contributors, Indian writer and activist Arundhati Roy is as much known for her non-fictional political work as she is for her award-winning fiction. She is a spokesperson of the alter-globalization movement and a critic of hegemonial US foreign policy, as well as vocal on behalf of the anti-nuclear and environmental movements both in India and abroad. She is also a staunch critic of the repressive Indian policies in Kashmir. Most recently a contributor to We Are One: A Celebration of Tribal Peoples (October 2009), Roy continues to be passionately engaged and eloquently outspoken in building a social movement towards developing alternatives. Her latest book is Listening to Grasshoppers: Field Notes on Democracy.

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