Saturday, 3 September 2011

The Disruption at the Proms

I am completely with Norm on this, when he says:

I'd like to ask when the musicians of any other country accused of committing 'violations of international law and human rights' were subjected to this kind of protest. If it's about Israel and not about Jews (as the partisans of these poisonous initiatives always claim), there are sure to have been some recent occasions when the performances of Russian and Chinese, and (while I'm about it) American and British, musicians have been targeted in a similar way; so I'm surprised I haven't heard about that.

Not Russian, not Chinese, not American, not British, not Burmese, not Rwandan, not Syrian, not Iranian, not Zimbabwean, not the North Koreans, not anybody in fact. Nor before 1989 the Romanian, the Albanian, the Bulgarian, or the Cambodian, no, just the world's only Jewish state, one of the smallest states in the region, one not recognized - in fact never recognized - by many of the states in the region.

There are those who say Israel is an apartheid state and there are those who compare it to a Nazi state. Some say both. They offer no proof of either, nothing in the least convincing. Some of those might mean well in their own heads but I suspect they know what they are doing. They are in effect saying that two evil deeds cancel each other out, the evil of the Jewish state in their heads being absolutely the equal of the German state of the Thirties and Forties, and so they'd like to send the Jews back into their vulnerable minorities everywhere in the world, just as things were before the war when the accusation was that Jews brought their disasters on themselves through much the same vices as the state of Israel is accused of, and, furthermore, that Jews were too cowardly to defend themselves when threatened. The debt of guilt, when people like them did nothing in the thirties and forties, has been paid, they think. And it's so much nicer and easier that way.

It's not much use saying you have nothing against the Jews when you use Jewish stereotypes against the only bunch of people you can use them against while feeling righteous at the same time.

To my mind such people are themselves the equivalents of the Fascists and Nazis of the Thirties. They are so by their own single selection. The Jewish state is the one evil they know, and the one evil they want wiped off the earth.

Thinking this does not mean believing the Israeli government, at any one time, to be good, or right, or honourable. It means thinking that the state itself is not peculiarly evil nor indeed more evil than many states that seem to me rather worse. Indeed, often much worse.


Gwilym Williams said...

I simply don't understand why they should protest in front of Zubin Mehta who is respected as a moderate voice in Israel. Have any people been arrested and charged with causing this breach of the peace and if so do we know their identities?

The time is leading up to the UN General Assembly vote on the recognition of the State of Palestine (1967 boundaries) and people should be aware that several of the forthcoming protests may be rent-a-mob or false flagged. Facts must be checked. Not enough to assume 'morons' during this potentially dangerous time.

Anonymous said...

There's no justifiable reason for it. It is just plain wrong to target an artist because of their religion or because of the passport they carry.


Do you go to Israel much?

I haven't been. I rely on the media for my opinions on Israel. It's tricky, because on one habd you have six million dead, and on the other you have a lot of people using them to justify their own agenda. Like Multi-millionaire Irish people who've never gone hungry in their lives, loudly proclaiming they know what hardship's all about because of their relatives who died in the Famine.

It's such a complicated issue, because there's so many conflicting claims, but there are a lot of people who seem to think Israel is heavy handed and some who even think that some politicians in Israel are just two-faced. For example, have you seen the video of the current prime minister being recorded telling a settler family that the Oslo Peace accord was an agreement they made with no intention of them ever sticking to it? To appear as peacemakers in public, but really carrying on the expansionist policies by violent means, hiding behind the shield of peacemakers?

He didn't know he was being recorded when he said it.

Also, there are lots of videos of Israeli settlers, who, are very belligerent when it comes to tolerating Palastinians and their claims to the land. Invariably, a lot of the most strident belivers in a homeland based on Religion, are first and second generation Europeans who just happen to be of a certain religion.

It's the day to day, petty, unreported privations, degradations and second-class citizenry that make the Palastinaina people vote for the radicals who lead them, I think. It's easy for us to sit here passing judgement, but should we go and live as a Palastinian, an innocent person who is condemed to a life of stateless poverty just because of the accident of birth, then we would see it differently, perhaps.

How would you feel if someone from Africa, say, moved into your back garden in Norwich, claiming it was promised to them a few thousand years ago?

A crude analogy, but that's how the Palastinaians, as far as I can tell, feel about it.


George S said...

Forgive me, Hannah. You talk about the Irish Famine. I talk about my parents, and all those of my family who did not survive. That is to say three-quarters of my family - people I would have directly known. No one remains on my mother's side. She was in two concentration camps, my father in a series of labour camps.

The history of the creation of Israel is in the public domain. You will then know that there were roughly as many Jews expelled or driven or fleeing from Arab lands as there were Arabs from the new state of Israel.

Israel wasn't just promised to the Jews it was historical Jewish land. Not that that matters too much. Point me to any place in the world where there has been no shift in population and possession. I don't think Norwich is a reasonable analogy. In any case the condition of the world and of Jewry after the end of the last world war were, you might agree, unusual and distressing. Jews have always known their existence in other countries was insecure - that they would be driven by more or less violent means from wherever they established themselves. Norwich was one of the first places in England to massacre and expel Jews in 1235 and 1238. They were expelled from England in 1290.

The Arab population of Israel is 20%. They vote and have full representation in the Knesset. They are not second class citizens. You will find cases of injustice in the system as you do in any system.

The refugee problem could have been solved back in 1948 had the surrounding states wanted to solve it. They didn't because they rejected Israel's existence and still do.

Some politicians in Israel are two-faced, you say. That's news? Are there not other nations with two-faced politicians. I don't propose to 'whitewash' Israel anymore than Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic did. I simply resent the charge of some unique evil that requires some unique, possibly final, solution as far as the country is concerned.

The great problem with the West Bank is that before 1967 it left Israel with an extraordinarily narrow vulnerable neck (look at the map), all but impossible to defend. I don't suggest Israel should hang on to it but I do suggest the surrounding countries recognize Israel's right to exist so the neck should no longer be vulnerable. Israel would then know that it was not going to be attacked.

Why are the Palestinians stateless? There was no state of Palestine before. It was unilaterally proclaimed in Algiers in 1988. Before Israel Palestinians were citizens of Transjordan. Then they became citizens of Jordan. It is just that Jordan doesn't want them. They could become citizens of the surrounding countries now if those countries let them. They don't because if they did they would in effect be recognizing Israel.

Why are they poor? Because they are in a continual state of hostility, and their best resources are diverted to military ends for one thing.

Nothing I say above is absolute. I am in favour of a two state solution under conditions of assured peace. The settlers were thrown out of Gaza. Under conditions of peace they could be withdrawn from much of the West Bank.

I remember the 1967 war quite clearly. I remember Nasser declaring that Syria, Jordan and Egypt would drive the Israelis into the sea. I remember the gathering of hostile forces on the Golan Heights.

Nothing of what you have said - and thank you for saying it - demonstrates why it should be peculiarly Israel, and only Israel, whose existence should be ended and which is to be the only country singled out for actions such as that at the Proms.

Anne said...

I'm with Norm too. The protest was outrageous. As well as naked anti-Semitism, there is a self-righteous mob element to it which is unthinkingly simplistic. There was a letter in the Indy on Thursday which quite unselfconsciously articulated this: "Many of us in Britain feel guilty that Britain unwittingly gave away another country..." (sixth letter down)

Gwilym, I don't think one need ascribe any false flag element to these protests. Occam's razor slices it neatly. There is enough passion in the PSC camp without the need to make anything up. The self-righteousness feeds on itself.

It is such a complex situation that any of us in our armchairs should think very hard before coming to a conclusion. There is no doubt that the blockade is causing terrible hardship. And there is no doubt that it helps prevent the smuggling of men and materiel that are intended to strike at the heart of the Israeli state. We shouldn't be surprised that Lorsqu'on l'attaque, il se défend. Hannah asks How would you feel if someone from Africa, say, moved into your back garden in Norwich, claiming it was promised to them a few thousand years ago? And I ask, how would a second- or third-generation citizen of Norwich feel if someone in Attleborough were launching rockets at them?

The refugees from Russia, Poland, India, Pakistan, Uganda, etc, don't languish in camps generations later. No matter how much they disapproved of their oppressors, friendly states took them in.

The Palestinian refugee problem is a tragic example of neighbouring states saying what Eric Berne called "See what you made me do."

Gwilym Williams said...

Anne, I'm not ascribing anything to anybody I'm only saying we should be aware of possibilities. As to Ockham's Razor I think by itself it's a too blunt instrument - we also need soap, water, face cloth for tackling a thickening beard.
The so-called day of rage in which 350,000 marched against the government on social issues is an important event - the biggest anti-government demonstration in Israeli history. The militarist government may now seek a diversion. We should be alert for that too.

Anonymous said...

This was not an anti-semitic protest - some of those who disrupted the concert are Jewish. It was a response to PACBI's cll for boycot:

George S said...

I know that very well, Anonymous. The fact that there were Jews among them doesn't make any difference to me. I don't doubt the sincerity of those Jews, but then I don't doubt the sincerity of fully qualified anti-Semites either.

And frankly I don't care about the labels. People can quibble over the term anti-Semitism as much as they want. I am concerned with a state that happens to be the only Jewish state in the world. I want it to behave well of course, but I want it to exist and to live in peace with its neighbours.

Anonymous said...

I remember the first time I watched this video of a young settler, drunk, roaring at an English person filming, that 'we killed Jesus', 'fuck you', 'fuck your mother' and 'this is my land. God gave it to me'.

I had intentionally kept out of the Israel/Palastine debate, but a few years ago stumbled across videos being posted up from illegal settler camps, which seemed to support the Palastinian position that they have genuine greivances with the settlers taking the law into their own hands. The deliberate obstruction of access to their land, the way the courts slowly grind things out to transfer ownership of land, in some ways not unlike the way the way the law was used in 30's Germany to take possession of Jewish property and land. The pulling up of olive trees, the illegal displacing off the land of people who had been their for generations, by, as far as they are concerned, European people, there because, as the European settlers in this video squatting on legally held Palastinian land, testify. They sound like the Travellers on Dale Farm, another persecuted 'race' with internatinally recognized ethnic status, who also have a propensity to set up home with little regard to the law of the land, and eventually getting possession of it after long protacted fights.

In many of the videos, what's striking is that some settlers throw around the word 'nazi' with abandon. Like the Travellers, they have their own logic, it's very black and white, if you don;t agree with them, you are somehow condoning the Holocaust, are a nazi.


George S said...

Essum, thank you for your comment - I have no doubt that scenes such as shown in the videos exist. I have never doubted it. I have no doubt that what the settlers are doing is wrong. Such settlers - often religious fanatics - were pulled out of Gaza and could be from other places, given the right circumstances. There are opposition groups within Israel who would like to see that happen. But there are other implied equations in your comment I am less sure about.

The first is that the settlers represent Israel as a whole.

The second is that what the settlers are doing is the equivalent of what Nazis did in Germany, ergo the settlers are Nazis. You do not go further and accuse the settlers of exterminating any particular ethnic group as a matter of policy. You do not in fact refer to any other part of Nazi policy. You take the first event in a set of events and rush to the end of it. Forcing people off their land, however bad, is not specifically Nazi. In fact it has characterised human history from its very beginnings. That does not excuse it, it simply argues that it is not specifically Nazi.

The third is that if some people in one circumstance make improper use of the Nazi or Holocaust charge (and you have implied the same of them, of course), then anyone else who makes that charge is to be identified with the settlers.

What you are performing - as you might realise yourself when you think about it - is a sleight of hand. Never mind. People perform such sleights of hand all the time. It's the stuff of life. Nevertheless it is good to be aware of it.

My post argues two things:

1. That demonstrations such as those at the Proms, unless they are held against every state that is guilty of some trespass against human rights (and of course it is only against Israel that such demonstrations and pleas for boycott, not to mention demands for the state's destruction are carried out) is wrong. The fact that it is only Israel shows that such people think that Israel is peculiarly evil. Of course the fact that it is a Jewish state might be a coincidence. It is just that Jewish history is full of such coincidences.

2. That to defend Israel as a state from those who would wish to put an end to its existence does not seem to be wrong to me. In fact, speaking for myself, I am all for preserving it, if only because it is necessary, in view of history (and in my case immediate personal history), to have one last place of refuge, and even if that place proves to be doomed, to die there with pride.

This may seem melodramatic to you. It seemed so to the Jews of Europe too. I think one may be allowed a little drama when the history that produced the drama is still rather fresh. It is not set in 1847 like the Irish Famine (the comparison the first Anon drew to my attention), but in my own parents' generation.

Anonymous said...

You are probably right about indulging in sleight of hand, and it has been an interesting bit of banter. I admit my kneejerk reaction on reading this post was: here we go again, another defender of Israel willing to ignore the duplicity and unfairness enacted against the Palastinians. Grr, I wanna wind him up.

I wrote off the cuff and now you point it out, I see that your 'sleight of hand' is what I would call a creative splodge; what ends up here after a mini-walk along the line of Letters ends; after surrendering to the inner lyrical flow and taking our chance elegance and/or eloquence may appear, and if it's meaningless, so be it something to bite onto for a voice on the 'other' side of the page.

Anyway, I'm slipping away from what I want to say, which is that at the end of it all, Israel/Palastine, for me as a messer in letters, is only ever remote and an excuse to exercise in writing, play with ideas. I have 'no dog in that fight' as David Leigh has taken to saying on Twitter now he and his Guardian buddies are desperately trying to ignore the reality of their blunder in publishing the password to the biggest encrypted cache of cables ever dumped online.

Drawn to your eloquent glide, the way you mix it up, a natural mind in full poetic attainment, writing where soccer and cerebrality co-exist, I am only ever learning from you, a wise old owl the neophyte can compete with as a secret hidden space of inward eye looking out, extempore, anything goes, and what I understand now you've put your case, is the human dimension. I sense you support Israel first and foremost because of who you are, or rather, who your parents were. Same as everyone. If you were born to Palastinian people, you could well be batting from the other side, but the fact that what you say is done with such imagination, sincerity and style, that's what I like about you Jorge.


George S said...

Thank you for the compliments at the end, Essu, though I am only sixty-two :) And indeed it might be that if I were born Palestinian I would think differently.

However, next to the videos to which you provide links, I could place a great number of videos in which Arab religious leaders distinctly call for the killing of Jews - Jews, not just Israelis. George Galloway once leapt up when one of these was shown, shouting that MEMRI (where such things are collected) was an Israeli website - as if that were proof of something. It says nothing about the authenticity of the videos, of course, just that Israel collected them. How surprising is it that a state should collect material that calls for its destruction?

That is, at least partly, what I mean by the need for a peaceful context. It means the Arab states recognising Israel (within the 1967 borders or whatever seems possible) and controlling propaganda - including in schools - that calls for its destruction.

That's a big ask. In the meantime the first step might be to stop the bombs lobbed over from Gaza. The reason for the separation wall, the various blockades, and the difficulty of crossing is the lack of trust because of earlier incidents of bombings and other attacks. But the bombs keep coming because Hamas wants Israel eliminated - sooner or later doesn't matter. If the bombs stopped and there was some sign of peaceful intentions from Gaza - from which, as you will remember, the Israeli government had forcefully to remove the kind of Jewish settlers to whom you refer - then various problems might be alleviated. I don't think Israel withdrew from Gaza so it should spend a fortune on more defences in a state of even greater tension than before.

But of course I wish the Palestinians - meaning the people who occupied and still do occupy that whole territory - happiness and security and the right to govern themselves as they would wish to be governed. Where there are clear individual cases of injustice and might be solved, I want them solved.

I am not an Israeli, nor can I imagine being one. I am only ethnically a Jew, not by religion. I didn't even know for sure that I was one ethnically until my mother died. If invited, I would go to Israel. In so far as I know the left in Israel I am sympathetic to them. Over the last twenty years I have hardly done any travelling bar to places where I was specifically invited. I would of course travel to Arab countries too if invited.

I don't obsess about this (as current parlance has it) - it is only such incidents as the recent attempt to disrupt the concert that bring me back to face what I cannot help knowing at the back of my own mind.

The world of my parents wasn't sealed off from me. I lived with them, I have some understanding of them and of their effect on me. They never ever discussed Israel with me, but of course I wouldn't be here at all if they hadn't survived what they did survive. I guess you could say in that sense alone their lives impinged on mine and go on impinging.

That thing at the back of my mind is not an idea - it's a place. It might as well be a proper place then.

And considering the vast extent and oil wealth of the Islamic Arab states it doesn't seem unreasonable that an area as small as Israel - a historically relevant area at that - should be reserved for a people that haven't had a secure place of their own at any time in history since the diaspora.

Redjen said...

Even if that involves nicking the land from another people? And then persecuting and oppressing them and punishing them for any any attempt to protest what has happened to them? How can Israel expect to ever live at peace when her conscience is so bismirched?

Redjen said...

This is an interesting exchange but there are so many inaccuracies in what you say, George. The claim that Palestinians living in Israel have equal rights, for example, is widespread, but simply untrue. They are discriminated against in many ways - e.g. far less (6 time less, I believe) spent on the education of Palestinian than Jewish children, restrictions on type of work they can do and what property they can own. And what about the way the Bedouin are treated? Their villages routinely destroyed. Have a look at this site:

George S said...

I notice that nicking is what Jews do. Other more noble people fight. That is a little telling, Redjen. And even if what you said was 100% true that still does not explain why Israel is the only country accused of such things time and again.