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Berger and Eno propose a cultural boycott of Israel - click opera
February 2010
 
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Sat, Dec. 23rd, 2006 12:35 pm
Berger and Eno propose a cultural boycott of Israel

"And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him," commands Leviticus, chapter 19, verse 33. "The stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt." In case there's any doubt about whose advice this is, verse 34 has a signature: "I am the LORD your God."

Perhaps the Israeli state is attempting to respect this advice by building a security barrier which ensures that the Palestinian "stranger" will never dwell with the Israeli people, and thus never have to be treated as equal to Israelis, and never loved as the Israelis love one another. It's one possible interpretation, anyway -- the most charitable we can muster. Others simply call Israel's treatment of the Palestinian "strangers-in-their-own-land" a new form of apartheid.

We saw earlier in the year how the young Gordon Brown (Britain's next prime minister) battled, as student rector of Edinburgh University back in the 1970s, to boycott cultural and intellectual exchanges between African apartheid states and the UK. When the more cautious University Secretary (the university's head official) found Brown's stance on excluding all Rhodesians from an Edinburgh University conference -- blaming liberal academics for their government's racialist stance -- a bit unfair, Brown replied:

"The argument for the continued contacts between South African and Rhodesian "liberals" and ourselves is based on the assumption that efforts of these University liberals will help the fight against apartheid, which seems to us dubious... Isolation -- rather than contact -- will stimulate fundamental change. The liberal dialogue... has failed."

Thirty years later, with apartheid defeated, in part, by exactly such outside pressures, including cultural ones, Brown's stance seems much more reasonable and orthodox than it may have done at the time. Bans and boycotts may have stymied Rhodesian liberal dialogue, but they contributed to the creation of democratic republics in Zimbabwe and South Africa. Despite their imperfections, both are better than what went before. Hard-line white settler minorities were displaced from the centres of power.

There's an increasing sense that something similar must happen in Israel, and that even artists might have a role to play. Last week a long-time hero of mine, the writer John Berger, wrote a letter to The Guardian newspaper calling for a cultural boycott of Israel. The letter was signed by about 90 artists, musicians, writers, film directors and intellectuals including another hero of mine, Brian Eno, the artist Cornelia Parker, the writer Arundhati Roy, and many others.

Berger explained that for him the boycott involved refusing to let his novels be published by Israeli publishing houses until the Palestinian question is satisfactorily resolved. Film director Ken Loach said he'd keep his films out of state-sponsored Israeli film festivals. "It could be a factor in Israeli policy changing," Berger said. "Of course its effects will not be gigantic but it is a way of not staying silent. It is a very personal call ... a way of encouraging the very courageous Israelis who oppose their government and an encouragement to Palestinians to somehow go on surviving."

As an article on American site Alternet points out, "surviving" is currently the best the Palestinians can hope for.

"The bleakness of life for Palestinians, especially in the Gaza Strip, is a mystery only to us. In the current Israeli campaign in Gaza, now sealed off from the outside world, almost 500 Palestinians, most unarmed, have been killed. Sanctions, demanded by Israel and imposed by the international community after the Hamas victory last January in what were universally acknowledged to be free and fair elections, have led to the collapse of civil society in Gaza and the West Bank, as well as widespread malnutrition. And Palestinians in the West Bank are being encased, in open violation of international law, in a series of podlike militarized ghettos with Israel's massive $2 billion project to build a "security barrier." This barrier will gobble up at least 10 percent of the West Bank, including most of the precious aquifers and at least 40,000 acres of Palestinian farmland. The project is being financed in large part through $9 billion in American loan guarantees, although when Congress approved the legislation in April 2003, Israel was told that the loans could be used "only to support activities in the geographic areas which were subject to the administration of the Government of Israel prior to June 5, 1967."

"But it is in Gaza that conditions are currently reaching a full-blown humanitarian crisis. "Gaza is in its worst condition ever," Gideon Levy wrote recently in the Israeli paper Ha'aretz. "The Israel Defense Forces have been rampaging through Gaza -- there's no other word to describe it -- killing and demolishing, bombing and shelling, indiscriminately. ... How contemptible all the sublime and nonsensical talk about 'the end of the occupation' and 'partitioning the land' now appears. Gaza is occupied, and with greater brutality than before. ... This is disgraceful and shocking collective punishment."

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basal_surge
basal_surge
basal_surge
Sat, Dec. 23rd, 2006 12:01 pm (UTC)

Somehow, I don't think Zimbabwe is particularly democratic at the moment...


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mcgazz
mcgazz
McGazz
Sat, Dec. 23rd, 2006 12:06 pm (UTC)

Careful, you'll be accused of being anti-semitic, which seems to be the standard tactic (and a very effective one) of the "Israel right or wrong" crowd.

It seems weird to me, that as Israel's behaviour becomes more and more fascist and genocidal, it's the people who criticise the regime who get labelled as "Nazis".


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nightspore
nightspore
Muster Mark
Sat, Dec. 23rd, 2006 12:30 pm (UTC)

Effective because true.

I'm as against Israeli intrasigence as anyone. But where are the complaints about Palestinian intrasigence? Why is the democratic election of a Palestinian government (a minority government, by the way -- which is one reason for the Israeli government not to blame the Palestinian people) of more moment than the democratic election of an Israeli government? And why are the English, in particular, so much more concerned with Israeli behavior than, say, with even more brutal behavior on the part of many other states -- states not in existential danger, as Israel is? Hating Israel is feelgood politics. I think almost everything Israel does is wrong, and that its brutality is coarsening and corrupting it. I might almost wish now that it had never been created. Almost. But I despise the English bien-pensant anti-semitism that takes as the banner of its righteousness its refusal to be intimidated by the moral claims of a people whose state doesn't strike them as good enough to its enemies. As has often been pointed out, the ratio of Palestinian dead to Israeli dead in the low-intensity warfare between them, something like 5-1, is remarkably low when compared to that in almost any other similar situation, including Britain's occupation of Northern Ireland. I hate what Israel is doing, but there's a reason it feels embattled and alone in the world, and this kind of boycott is another bit of that reason. As to "the most charitable interpretation" of the wall? I'm not charitable about it, but a more charitable interpretation is that it's supposed to make it harder for bombers seeking to provoke, by the indiscriminate slaughterof civilians, world-revulsing counterattachs (and the attendant one-sided condemnation of Israel) to sneak in.


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robotar
robotar
huckleberry conquest
Sat, Dec. 23rd, 2006 12:18 pm (UTC)

Yes!!!


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Dec. 23rd, 2006 02:20 pm (UTC)

If you're burning your Eno records, you might like to throw your Bible on the fire too, since it's full of similarly unpalatable liberal shit like "The stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself".


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uberdionysus
uberdionysus
Troy Swain: Black Box Miasma
Sat, Dec. 23rd, 2006 05:28 pm (UTC)

It's a thousand fold better for blacks then it was before. It was also completely corrupt before, and most African countries have a problem with AIDS and rape - those problems didn't magically appear after apartheid ended.


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(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand





(Anonymous)
Sat, Dec. 23rd, 2006 12:55 pm (UTC)

Jews are a money-hungry race, and always will be. They steal land and resources. I propose we take this a step further and punch any Jewish people we see out walking on the streets. They are not going to budge until we take extreme measures.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Dec. 23rd, 2006 02:03 pm (UTC)

If you punch Jewish people, you'll likely be punching many of the Jewish and Israeli signatories to this letter, people who support its goals, and people within Israel the boycott is designed to encourage. Let me quote John Berger's statement:

"The boycott is an active protest against two forms of exclusion which have persisted, despite many other forms of protestations, for over sixty years - for almost three generations.

"During this period the state of Israel has consistently excluded itself from any international obligation to heed UN resolutions or the judgement of any international court. To date, it has defied 246 Security Council Resolutions!

"As a direct consequence seven million Palestinians have been excluded from the right to live as they wish on land internationally acknowledged to be theirs; and now increasingly, with every week that passes, they are being excluded from their right to any future at all as a nation.

"As Nelson Mandela has pointed out, boycott is not a principle, it is a tactic depending upon circumstances."


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(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand


arpad
arpad
Impervious horrors of a leeward shore
Sat, Dec. 23rd, 2006 03:12 pm (UTC)

I can make lots of arguments here. But I won't.

Still it is kinda funny that pushing imperialists out of your country and getting freedom is considered a noble deed till they white, but suddenly become evil when they are of Arab origin.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Dec. 23rd, 2006 03:50 pm (UTC)

The Palestinians have an empire? Who knew!


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fascicle
fascicle
Doubting Pilate
Sat, Dec. 23rd, 2006 04:26 pm (UTC)
simulacrud


When did Berger start growing into playwright Beckett's skin?


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cheapsurrealist
cheapsurrealist
Dave Nold
Sat, Dec. 23rd, 2006 09:03 pm (UTC)

For invited actors, musicians, jugglers or poets it can be more complicated.

I'm glad Berger is including jugglers. But I hope it doesnt piss off puppeteers. It could cause a flareup in violence between the two groups.


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snosage
snosage
exploding plastik snosage
Sat, Dec. 23rd, 2006 10:09 pm (UTC)

That conflict is such a complex history tracing back at least to ancient Greece and the original split between clowns and mimes. I'm pessimistic they can ever live side by side.


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kineticfactory
kineticfactory
this is not your sawtooth wave
Sat, Dec. 23rd, 2006 11:43 pm (UTC)

Will you, personally, be boycotting cultural contact with Israel?


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(Anonymous)
Sat, Dec. 23rd, 2006 11:52 pm (UTC)
Wall as Weapon: Jerusalem; West Bank and Gaza Settlements

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict involves not only a territorial struggle between nations, but a struggle over the right to live a modern urban life. It’s to a point where you can call it urbicide – the killing of cities – with examples ranging from the WWII bombings of Dresden and Hiroshima, to the Bosnian War bombings of Sarajevo.

The more obvious, media-publicized urbicide is attributed to the guerrilla tactics of Hamas, with their suicide bombings in public areas, such as discos, cafes, markets, and busses, indiscriminately killing random civilians. Their acts of terrorism instantly transform the habitable public urban condition into a horrible and hazardous war zone, an act intrinsically hostile to the sensibility of urbanity.

The other side to the Hamas terrorism is the Israeli government reciprocation. The latest addition to the Israeli government urbicide is the two-hundred-seventeen-mile barrier, euphemized as the “security fence”. The wall’s implicit consequences have historical similarly to that of the Berlin Wall, bisecting and isolating, while disrupting circulation and displacing people from their homes, ultimately inhibiting urbanity. The wall, while violating international law for building a permanent structure on disputed territory, may stop some suicide attacks against Israelis, but the long-term effects of its construction will further isolate Palestinians, worsen living conditions, and perpetuate resentment that leads to terrorist recruitment.


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georgesdelatour
georgesdelatour
Sat, Dec. 23rd, 2006 11:53 pm (UTC)

When Ayatollah Khomeini offered a $3 million booty to anyone who would go out and murder the writer Salman Rushdie, Berger reportedly said that Rushdie only had himself to blame. It was Rushdie's fault Khomeini was offering payments for his murder!!!

Yet earlier this year Berger said it was wrong for others to censure Gunter Grass for concealing his membership of the SS. Even Grass's fiercest critics weren't offering $3m for his murder. Maybe if they had Grass would have only himself to blame...

And it is this dignified moral authority Berger has now brought to bear on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sun, Dec. 24th, 2006 05:09 am (UTC)

In fact, Rushdie and Berger both defended Grass, in very similar terms, in the same newspaper.

I think you'll find that the commentators who attacked Grass are also the kind of people who throw around terms like "feminazis" and "islamofascists". In other words, Amis - Hitchens types.



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(Anonymous)
Sat, Dec. 23rd, 2006 11:58 pm (UTC)

A tactic of the Nazis was to force the Jews into filthy ghettoes and withdraw essential supplies like water and food, and then invite people to look at them.... "Look at what filthy beasts they are... and how they fight amongst themselves for bread."

Now it's the Gaza Strip's turn.

But if you look at the capabilities of Palestinians, a much brighter picture appears. For instance, in South America, 3 or 4 heads of state are of Palestinian origin:
http://headheeb.blogmosis.com/archives/031858.html


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(Anonymous)
Sun, Dec. 24th, 2006 01:38 am (UTC)

It is of course profoundly depressing to witness the nation of Israel mete out similar treatment to the Palestinians as the Nazis did to the Jews of Europe.
There is argument for the cultural ban Momus - by way of Eno and Berger- is suggesting, however the inference that Mugabe's Zimbabwe is a democracy with some imperfections is at best a statement of quite remarkable optimism.
Should cultural bans be considered in the case of other nations with suspect track records on human rights and discrimination.
Mugabe's regime has- as today first contributor indicated- hardly an unblemished track record....
Thomas Scott.


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(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand

(Anonymous)
Sun, Dec. 24th, 2006 07:54 am (UTC)

Awesome. I'm glad you finally blogged this. My sister recently wrote a post on her widely read blog (miminewyork.blogspot.com)about the humanitarian work that was the subject of a film i made in palestine in sep... most of her readers are American, and the response was downright frightening. She was drawing attention to an american charity that provides medical care to injured and congenitally sick Arab children in the Palestinian territories, and yet there were readers hysterically freaking out about helping mothers wean 'potential suicide bombers' etc etc.

This is such an enormous subject.

Its a damned scary argument to refer to even 'shitter' regimes & states, and say 'hey well whatever we don't embargo blahblah(zimbabwe) so why bother with israel?'. Ummmm simple answer, because we care and we can? because we want to separate ourselves from the fallacy that is the UN- that has consistently failed to protect the Palestinian people from endless human rights violations like those experienced at Beit Hanoun several weeks ago (errrr with the help of the US, who flatly voted against a UN investigation, and the UK who very helpfully abstained on that particular vote). And because Israel is a rich, healthy and advanced democracy that values cultural inclusion in the international community (...sigh.. and is a nation made up of God's 'chosen' people of course..... so we expect better of them)

its not a question of being 'for' or 'against' the the state of israel and/or the Jewish people, or even 'for' or against' Hamas and Fatah. Its about standing up (with Jews, with Muslims, with Christians....) against yet another government... military state, that is blundering, selfish and cruel towards a bunch of normal people who desperately just want to get on with their lives.

To show solidarity with people who are oppressed is admirable and brave, not least because in this case it inevitably attracts the unsavoury & virulent 'antisemite' label - which quite frankly int gonna happen if you say 'hey things in Darfur are really bad arent they? i think i'll avoid the International film festival Darfur this yr...'

(hey. i think i'll avoid the international Film festival Darfur this year.... will they miss me you think????)

piupiu (www.tenminutesolder.blogspot.com still can't figure out myself a live journal account....)


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beketaten
beketaten
Juliet
Tue, Jan. 16th, 2007 11:22 pm (UTC)

No, your interpreting it that way is part of the problem.
Let me put it to you this way--sometimes it's helpful to realize that one's train of logic leads to consequences that they themselves would not want, and hence, correct themselves of such unintended fallacies.


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