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04 May 2012 - 05:13:50 pm

ISRAEL SNAKE-OILS A VENOM-LESS YARN. . . .

Dervish pull out of Israel tour after social media 'venom.'  Thus screeched a surprisingly short item in The Irish Times of April 4.* It took two skilled journalists to write it. The gist of the tale was that social media – mainly on Facebook – pressure had caused the well-known and highly-regarded traditional Irish music group to abandon plans to play in Israel. 'Cultural terror,' wailed the Israeli Embassy, presumably with diplomatically straight faces. On the group's website, singer Cathy Jordan had said she had not been prepared for the ' extent of the venom' directed at them over the proposed gig. I was one of those who expressed my – utterly venom-free – opinion that the band should do as others were doing and refuse to play in Israel. But The Irish Times, picking up on a story that is, in news terms, already old, risked conjuring up images of reptilian cultural killjoys threatening Israel's right to a good night out. Naturally, the Israeli Embassy chewed the bones of this opportunity. Balancing the article, however, was the information that “Irish artists have been prominent in the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel. The campaign started in August 2010 and, to date, 218 Irish artists have pledged not to perform in the country, including Damien Dempsey, Andy Irvine and Donal Lunny.” 

So it's not about reptilian pro-Palestinian types spouting venom, is it? It's about the fact that a called-for boycott has been working, and that a great number of major Irish musicians have snubbed Israel. The Dervish Incident is just a hanger upon which to drop some anti-boycott sentiment. In recent weeks we have seen The Sunday Independent row in with blatantly pro-Israeli features of one kind or other, one from a young Irish film-maker, Nicky Larkin, whose somewhat cyclopean documentary, 'Forty Shades of Grey,' was financed by The Arts Council. The Israeli authorities have long-snce understood that a patina of culture can obscure the nastiness perpetrated against the Palestinian people – and their culture – and they have sought before now to have Irish writers (for instance) scurry to help them. Now they're showing signs of panic. Sadly, one Irish novelist has at this time accepted an invitation to a prominent Israeli literature festival. 

The Israeli state has lost, and very quickly, any moral high-ground it might have possessed: 'Operation Cast Lead' cast up human rights violations and possible war crimes. Increased illegal settlement-building, imprisoning of Palestinian children, army brutality and arrogance in the face of world opinion – even some American opinion – has isolated Israel more than ever. Culture, often a weapon of panicking aggressive states, was pulled out and dusted down. Many Irish artists said enough is enough. It is difficult to see how Dervish, or any Irish writer or other artist, could have been unaware of the sentiment of their fellows. This topic, of course, would take a more detailed and extensive article than I can offer here. Suffice for the moment to opine that it is curious that any furore at all should arise from alleged pressure applied to an Irish artist or group of artists at this stage to acquire a reversal of a decision to perform in Israel. Or that the print-media should be hurrying to the task of headlining it. Surely the real story is that more than two-hundred Irish artists of  all stripes have said 'No' and loudly to Israel's demand for a cultural smokescreen. Besides, why should 'pressure' of any kind be required, when all of us have access to a TV these days? Israel is an aparthied state. Why would one even want to perform there? 

Then there are the predictable arguments hurting around the social media. Who are you to tell any artist where to perform? Artists have free will. Art crosses all boundaries. And so on and so forth. Well, Israel has shown us often that art does not cross all boundaries. Authors Henning Mankell and Alice Walker were on board vessels running to the relief of Israeli-induced Palestinian misery when the Israelis took, eh, exception, to such cultural exchanges. A slanted example? No. I don't think so. Israel knew of their presence on board and of their stature as artists. Israel didn't care. Walker was on Freedom Flotilla II, which the then Israeli ambassador to the UN deemed 'a provocation.' Henkell's diary of his trip contains the following passage: “The myth of the brave and utterly infallible Israeli soldier is shattered. Now we can add: They are common thieves. For I was not the only one to be robbed of my money, credit card, clothes, MP3 player, laptop; the same happened to many others on the same ship as me, which was attacked early one morning by masked Israeli soldiers, who were thus in fact nothing other than lying pirates." 

Let's remind ourselves, then, of what's really going on. Israel's new-found cultural appetite isn't about a night's entertainment in an Israeli concert-hall or theatre. It's about taking the world's mind off, and consequently her sympathies away from, the horrors being inflicted daily on the Palestinian people by the Israeli army and fanatical settlers. It is about the degredation and infamy of an apartheid regime; soldiers who can kill without answering to anyone, commanders who can commit potential war crimes and smile in the face of international law. It's about covering all of this up in tinsel. It's about promoting denial. 




See also: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jun/25/alice-walker-gaza-freedom-flotilla



* http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/frontpage/2012/0504/1224315593067.html


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Comments

Comment from: theserialfrozenlinearblog [ Visitor ] Website
A most eloquent argument. Of course being an artist doesn't mean that you can't be entirely reactionary in the way that Dervish are. Your conclusions here are bang on the money as regards what the cultural blockade represents to the Israeli elite.
   2012-05-06 @ 09:37:24 am

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