Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Shakira Ya Hakira

Back when Al-Jazeera dropped the bomb on the Palestine Papers in January, we realized what absolute tools we had for Facebook friends. They had changed their profile pictures to a big red smoking ban ring on Al-Jazeera's logo, and statuses were were of slander toward the channel. The PA organized protests in Ramallah with one huge banner reading "Al-Jazeera = Sahyouniyeh/Zionism". It was pretty hilarious, but nothing compared to the catchy chants started up by the goons: Ya Jazeera Ya Haqira.

Haqir: /hackir/ noun, adjective; singular masculine form. A bastard, a lowlife, a scoundrel. Singular feminine form is haqira.

*The /h/ is the Arabic pharyngeal 'h' sound, not the English fricative. The /i/ is a long 'ee'. We may be showing our major here a bit too much.

Anyway, we've fallen behind on posting BDS successes or their targeted campaigns at the next entertainer to perform in the only democracy in the Middle East. Shakira, she of Columbian and Lebanese descent, ignored all the letters and attempts to educate her fluffy mainstream cougar head about Israeli occupation and Apartheid, and horribly splintered the hearts of millions of Arab men with THIS:

Grosssssss. And Pique, your hotness level definitely plummeted too. Thank goodness for Xavi and Dahhvid Villa.

In her speech, Shakira went on to spout some nonsensical blather about Israel being the mother of all cultures, apparently ignorant of the fact that Israel is only 63 years old.

Award winning actress and writer Najla Said penned a letter to the diva, which sums up everything we're too lazy to properly express:
Dear Shakira,
Since your trip to Israel this week was ostensibly one of “good will” and humanity, and since in your speech to the Israeli Presidential Conference you stated that you are “convinced…that investing in education is the best strategy for peace and global stability,” I am going to give you an education. In humanity and solidarity. 
Let me start by saying that I was a fan of yours before your mainstream American commercial success. I loved your Spanish albums, and I loved you for seeming like a rebellious little punk who dyed her hair funny colors and sang melodiously along to crunchy “rock ‘n’ roll” guitar riffs about how messed up you were over a boy. You reminded me of the Spanish Alanis Morrissette. When you released your first English language album, I was a little sad that the whole world would know about you, but I was also excited for them to, because you loved to talk about being Lebanese. So even though your English lyrics were laughable and you dyed your hair blonde and became a Britney Spears clone like they all do, you were still you, shaking your hips and banging your drums and telling the world that belly dancing was in your blood, because you are Lebanese. And when Wyclef Jean said, “Let me see you move like you come from Colombia,” as you did your famous hip gyrations, a few of us who are also Lebanese cringed, but we got over it because we were proud of you. 
Don’t get me wrong, Shaki, I don’t want you to go back to being your younger self. I am glad that you, like Alanis, grew up and discovered love, peace and happiness, but you might have thought a bit about what it means to be educated before you spoke publicly about how important it is. I don’t expect you to be “political.” I know you are an entertainer and it’s not your job to “be political.” But you made yourself political from day one by showing off your Lebanese-ness. 
Here is the thing about being Lebanese or Arab; you kind of have to love us for who we are and what we feel as much as you love us for our hummus and our belly dancing because for the first time in a long time we are proud of where we are from and are able to speak out about injustices that have been committed against us and our loved ones for decades. And here you are, making us feel shitty and hurt. You weren’t an Orientalist before because you seemed to be one of us, but now, my love, you are. 
The modern state of Israel shares geography, but nothing more, with the “Abrahamic” religions that may have originated there.
As a UN goodwill ambassador, you maybe should have thought about the hundred or so (give or take) UN resolutions that the State of Israel has defied before hugging their President, Shimon Peres. You might have thought of visiting Gaza instead of one of the rare schools in Israel proper, where Israeli and Arab children, who are fortunate enough to be allowed citizenship, learn together. In 2006, you spoke out against the Israeli war on Lebanon, and called for an end to the fighting. In your statement, you said, “We do not need leaders who create dispute, anger and hate, but rather leaders who care about the people and their needs.” Well, your lips lied on that one, honey. Again, I need only to point to your ridiculous love fest with Peres at the Israeli Presidential Conference yesterday to prove my point. People who actually believe in peace and goodwill do not ignore half the people in the equation when they set out to perform acts of peace and good will. They don’t hug former military leaders (even ones who have a Nobel Peace Prize), and they don’t say things like this: 
“I am very happy to be in Israel, because I believe this is the perfect place to talk about how urgent it is to make education a priority. Israel has been a great melting pot of cultures for so many centuries. It will continue to be. In my song ‘Waka Waka,’ I sang how we are all Africa. Today I want to say that as part of western civilization we are all the inheritors of an Abrahamic culture and a soul that has been forged here; therefore, we are all Israel, too.” 
We are not all Israel, Shakira, and that’s the point. The modern State of Israel shares geography, but nothing more, with the “Abrahamic” religions that may have originated there. Some of us are Palestinian and cannot be Israeli. Some of us are from Gaza and cannot even go to Israel. Some of us are Lebanese and have been bombed by Israel. Some of us are Jewish and don’t believe in what Israel says and does. That doesn’t mean it has no right to exist; it does, but so do we. 
And since you spoke of children and education, I’d like to leave you with something that Alice Walker said the other day about her decision to ride on the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza. It sums up everything I am trying to say much more beautifully than I ever could:
“I see children, all children, as humanity’s most precious resource, because it will be to them that the care of the planet will always be left. One child must never be set above another, even in casual conversation, not to mention in speeches that circle the globe. 
As adults, we must affirm, constantly, that the Arab child, the Muslim child, the Palestinian child, the African child, the Jewish child, the Christian child, the American child, the Chinese child, the Israeli child, the Native American child, etc., is equal to all others on the planet. We must do everything in our power to cease the behavior that makes children everywhere feel afraid.” 
Thank you for your time, Miss Mubarak (Hey, come to think of it, are you related to the dude who ran Egypt for a really long time? Because that would explain EVERYTHING!).

PS What in the name of flying fudgecrackers is up with her latest music video? We felt like 16 again when we used to get that nascent guilty feeling of watching something that starts with DO NOT WATCH IF NOT 18 OR OVER. Crap, no not porn dammit.

And now we move on to Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine. We're not even going to pretend to know who this is but a quick Wikipedia search tells us that he's an American singer, spoken word artist and leading figure of the Green Party. He's also an anarchist, supports various political causes, and advocates direct cause and pranksterism in the name of said political causes. Great, so where does that fit into his awareness about Israeli occupation and Apartheid? Oh, it doesn't. But the pressure was so great on him and his band. A petition was signed by thousands. His Facebook page turned into a spam-fest of Zionist trolling (and religious warfare by the "proper" Muslims) after activists appealed to him not to play in Tel Aviv citing reasons and resources and overwhelming evidence. He finally pulled out, and wrote the most wet blanket letter we've ever read:
Dear Friends,
Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine are not going through with the July 2 date in Tel Aviv. This does not mean I or anyone else in the band are endorsing or joining lockstep with the boycott of all things Israel.

I am going to Israel and Palestine to check things out myself and may yet conclude that playing for people in the belly of the beast was the right thing to do in the first place.

The toll and stress on the band members and myself has been huge, both logistically and as a matter of conscience. I can't drag anyone any further into rough waters without being better prepared than some of us thought we were. A responsible leader does not go, 'Hey, check out the storm at the top of Mount Everest. Let's go up anyway just in case we don't die.' Some members are angry with me for this decision, let alone how long it took me. I don't blame them.

It would have been so easy to quietly pass on the gig out of fear someone might get upset, and no one would have been the wiser. We could have flown under the radar, left the date off our tour postings and not bothered with a statement, but how honest is that?

Our intention in going was that we thought we could do some good , speaking truth to power, fans and impressionable young minds in a way that most bands don't. What about the people on the same side of the human rights fence we are who now don't get to see us play? Should they be boycotted too? What about the even larger atrocities of the Bush regime and by extension Obama? Should we turn off our mouths of anger and boycott our own country too?

We tried again and came close to landing a Ramallah show, but again, we needed to be better prepared. How fair is it to the organizers to demand a full-on rock show on a few days' notice with a type of music they may not be familiar with? More importantly, how much are we really doing for Palestinian rights if people there don't seem interested in our kind of music at all?

I've been doing this long enough to know better than buy into hardline absolutes such as playing in Israel automatically supports apartheid or Israel's government. That threat is ridiculous. I know far more about this issue than some people think I do, and I am not a poodle for Hasbara, Peace Now, BDS or anyone else.

The first people contacting us went out of their way to be diplomatic and communicate how they felt. Then our Facebook page went from eye-opening and educational to a childish bickerfest between a handful of people, to the point where we had to try something else just to reclaim our own Facebook page.

As the gloves came off, unfortunately so did some of the masks. Calling anyone speaking up for Palestinian rights a 'terrorist' is dumb. So are the blanket condemnations of everyone who happens to be Israeli that seem to be coming from the 'drive all the Jews into the sea' crowd. I also even got an invitation from a self-proclaimed fan to 'come meet the Israeli right' and see the settlements through their eyes, complete with a wine-tasting party. Whew!

Whoever started punksagainstapartheid.com now admits it was aimed solely at one person - me. It is obvious that not everyone signing the petition has any idea who I am, or knows anything about punk, possibly the majority. The last time I looked I could only find three names of people I actually knew. Some made it clear that I will be on their bad list no matter what I do because I dared to even think of playing in Israel.

I can't back anyone whose real goal or fantasy is a country ethnically cleansed of Jews or anyone else. Where people who think for themselves or talk to the wrong person are automatically a sell out. Speaking personally, I currently favor two democratic states in the admittedly naive hope that in our lifetime they can somehow evolve into one. Where race or religion does not matter because people have learned to work with each other.

I think back to last year when JBGSM played in Serbia. The locals we spent time with were not monsters, and filled me in on how they risked their necks for years opposing and demonstrating against Milosevic and were not down with ethnic cleansing at all. But they weren't too happy about being bombed by NATO for over 2 months straight either, and showed the ruined buildings to prove it.

I also heard comments like, 'The Croats killed my grandfather in World War II. I can't forget that...' and 'There's another war coming soon. I can feel it.' The most I could do from the stage is say that I do not know what I would do if the Croats or Serbs killed my grandfather, or a suicide bomber or occupying army killed my child. But I would hope I would be one of those people who could somehow say, 'Can't we have some peace?' The audience seemed to appreciate that.

The next day I laid out my thoughts and emotions to the person giving me a ride in Slovenia. She turned ice cold and said, 'Maybe next time you should play in Bosnia.' Good point. The nightmare continues.

Rise Above,

Jello Biafra

There is so much to criticize here. If he performed in Ramallah that makes it ok for him to play in Tel Aviv?


So the point missed him completely. Of course, he couldn't have followed the meek path of those performers who cancelled their gigs in Israel, citing "professional reasons" or something of the other. Nope, he had to be honest to his fans. It will be interesting to see what his impressions are after checking out 'Palestine/Israel' for himself.

Nora Barrows-Friedman, staff writer and editor for The Electronic Intifada, rolled her eyes at Jello's letter too:
Biafra’s decision to cancel the Tel Aviv gig is the right one, but he still seems under the impression that the boycott is a fringe movement that he has the right to ignore.

In his statement, Biafra also concludes quite naively that if he had also booked a gig in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, it would have put the entire debate to rest — as though playing a show in Tel Aviv and playing a show in Ramallah would have been an equitable move. However he doesn’t understand that playing a show in Tel Aviv in the first place is a direct violation of the Palestinian-led boycott call, no matter wherever else one happens to play. If an artist performs for money in Tel Aviv, he is crossing the boycott line. And Palestinians leading the BDS call will not be placated or amused by a token gig in a ghetto bantustan in the West Bank.

Read the rest of her article here.

And next time, we won't wait a week to finally type this up.

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