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Metropolitan Opera Censors Masterpiece by Renowned Composer John Adams

12:53 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

An actor leaps through the air on stage as two others in robes watch

A look at a great operatic composer’s most controversial work.

Every serious list of America’s greatest living composers has neo-Romantic post-Minimalist composer John Adams at or near the top. His 2002 commemoration to victims of September 11th, 2001, On the Transmigration of Souls, won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for musical composition. He has won five Grammies for recordings of his work. His most important orchestral works, Short Ride on a Fast Machine,  Harmonielehre, The Chairman Dances and Tromba Lontana are performed on a weekly basis all around the planet by the world’s top orchestras. His three full-scale operas and four other opera-like works are regarded as the most significant contribution to that genre by any American.

His three operas, Nixon in China (1987), The Death of Klinghoffer (1991) and Dr. Atomic (2005) are all held to be major masterpieces. His unique approach to opera, by basing them on real events and combination of real utterances by historic figures and fictional dialogue are all deep collaborations with poet and playwright Alice Goodman. Although all three are regarded as iconic in terms of the post-Minimalist music Adams created for them, one has stirred controversy because of its subject matter.

Since its premiere, The Death of Klinghoffer has had its detractors. The subject of the opera is the 1985 hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro, and the murder of one of its passengers, the disabled, wheelchair-bound Leon Klinghoffer, who was Jewish. The hijackers were members of the Palestine Liberation Front. The Metropolitan Opera has a production of Klinghoffer scheduled for the upcoming season. However, on Tuesday, their management announced they will not broadcast the performances of it, because of “rising anti-Semitism in Europe.” You read that right:

The Met decided to cancel its planned Nov. 15 Live in HD transmission of Klinghoffer to movie theaters and a radio broadcast after discussions with the Anti-Defamation League. The league praised the Met’s decision, saying that ‘while the opera itself is not anti-Semitic, there is a concern the opera could be used in foreign countries to stir up anti-Israel sentiments or as a vehicle to promote anti-Semitism.’

Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, said that he remained a champion of the works of Mr. Adams, and that he does not believe the work is anti-Semitic. But he added that he was reacting to the concern among Jews that the live transmission to theaters around the world ‘would be inappropriate at this time of rising anti-Semitism, particularly in Europe.’

The composer is understandably upset: 

Mr. Adams, one of America’s foremost composers, said that he did not understand why the cinema transmission and radio broadcast were still being canceled if Mr. Gelb and the Anti-Defamation League agreed that the work is not anti-Semitic, though some critics have said otherwise. And he said he had been concerned by what he called ‘the really completely unjust charges’ about his opera, especially by people who have not heard it.

‘The really ironic and sad fact is that the content of this opera is more relevant in 2014 than it was even in 1991, when it was premiered,’ Mr. Adams said. ‘I think the people that are inflamed and upset about its production are people who are intent about trying to control their message. By canceling it, the Met has yielded to that intimidation.’

Mr. Adams, who praised Mr. Gelb’s support of his work and his ‘grit and determination’ to stage ‘Klinghoffer,’ said that he feared that without the global transmission, which is often followed by television broadcasts, many thousands of people would be deprived of the chance to see the work and make up their own minds about it.

‘I’m just afraid that most people will have a sort of Wikipedia opinion about this opera,’ he said. ‘They’ll say, “Oh, that’s the opera that’s been accused of anti-Semitism,” and leave it at that. And that’s really very sad — it’s very hard when something’s been stained with an accusation like that, it’s almost impossible to wash it out.’ [emphasis added]

I have tried to follow the performance history of Death of Klinghoffer since its premiere in 1991. At the time, I was seriously considering writing an opera about Edward Teller’s role in Project Chariot, a late 1950s plan to use four hydrogen bombs to create a new harbor in northwestern Alaska. I wanted to model it somewhat after John Adams’s first opera, Nixon in China, so was interested in how Adams’s voice was developing in his second opera.

All through its history, some individuals and Zionist organizations, and members of the Klinghoffer family have objected to one aspect of the opera or another. The first objection to which Adams responded was his depiction of some of the Klinghoffer’s friends, and his creation of fictional characters to portray them. They were perceived to be caricatures of some sort of Jewish stereotype. Adams deleted the scene. At least two scholarly papers have been written about how this deletion marred the opera’s form and balance.

The most authoritative person to claim the opera is anti-Semitic and romanticizes terrorism is the curmudgeonly Richard Taruskin, now a professor of musicology at Cal Berkeley:

Does The Death of Klinghoffer romanticize the perpetrators of deadly violence toward the innocent? Its creators tacitly acknowledged that it did, when they revised the opera for American consumption after its European premieres in Brussels and Paris. In its original version, the opening ‘Chorus of Exiled Palestinians’ was followed not by a balancing ‘Chorus of Exiled Jews’ but by a scene, now dropped from the score, that showed the Klinghoffers’ suburban neighbors gossiping merrily about their impending cruise (‘The dollar’s up. Good news for the Klinghoffers’) to an accompaniment of hackneyed pop-style music.

That contrast set the vastly unequal terms on which the conflict of Palestinians and Jews would be perceived throughout the opera. The portrayal of suffering Palestinians in the musical language of myth and ritual was immediately juxtaposed with a musically trivial portrayal of contented, materialistic American Jews.

As recently as last winter, the LA Opera pulled out of a co-production of the opera, leaving Long Beach Opera to produce it alone, which was a heavy financial burden for the company.

The most often-performed extract from the opera is a set of choruses, depicting displaced Jews and displaced Palestinians, in turns. They are choral masterpieces. Before September 11th, 2001, the Boston Symphony and chorus had programmed the work to be performed that fall. They cancelled after numerous complaints that the choruses “romanticize terrorists.”

The composer’s responses to criticisms and cancellations over the work’s 23-year history are studies in restraint. The opera is more like an oratorio or passion than what we generally consider an opera to be. More opera-like than most of those by fellow minimalist Philip Glass, Adams really does succeed in having a neutral point of view. Apparently that isn’t enough for some who are upset whenever Palestinians are treated even-handedly in comparison to Israelis or to Jews.

No doubt there will be new developments between now and the November production. Will any of the number of other living Pulitzer Prize winning American composers come to John Adams’s defense? There are at least 30 of them.

Or are they concerned about ruining their futures?

John Adams said he learned that the Metropolitan Opera was scrapping plans to transmit his opera The Death of Klinghoffer to movie theaters around the world when the Met’s general manager, Peter Gelb, told him on Sunday by telephone that he had gotten ‘unimaginable pressure’ from some Jewish groups that oppose the work. [emphasis added]

The Chorus of the Exiled Palestinians, from Penny Woolcock’s film of the opera:

Photo by Robert Hubert Smith released under a Creative Commons No Derivatives license.

Firedoglake Book Salon Preview: The Battle for Justice in Palestine by Ali Abunimah

10:13 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Author Ali Abunimah

Please join us Sunday for Ali Abunimah’s The Battle for Justice in Palestine. I’ll be hosting. Of the FDL book salons on the subject of Palestine-Israel that I have hosted, I’m looking forward to this one the most. Ali has been in this battle for a long time. We will get to witness him explain the book’s bold opening sentence, “The Palestinians are winning.” And much more.

I.  2014 is a year seeing rapid changes in how the world views and reacts to relations between Israel and Israelis, and their co-inhabitants, in the so-called “Land Between the River and the Sea.” Terms used to describe Israeli policies and laws, words such as “racist” or “apartheid,” for instance, are quickly gaining more currency, more acceptance. Pushback against use of such terms by ardent Zionists seems to get less traction in the public at large by the day.

The main reason this is the case is simply grounded in abundant examples of racist and apartheid incidents, rules, policies and actions perpetrated daily in that land. The very recent assignment of blame on the breakdown of the Peace Process™ talks supervised by the U.S. State Department, between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli Foreign Office on the Israelis, by Secretary of State John Kerry, lead negotiator Martin Indyk and others is unprecedented.

Every week more organizations become leery of dealing with Israel as if everything is normal there. Pension funds divest. Professional associations pass resolutions to cut ties with their Israeli counterparts. Churches pass resolutions of condemnation or divestment, even an unblushing published study guide labeling Zionism as “false theology.” College student government bodies debate the utility of the Global BDS Movement, and vote to participate in it – or not. The list of professional associations of college faculty boycotting Israeli institutions grows monthly. This trend will only accelerate, as Israel is plummeting over the edge, no longer able to hide the true nature of the country’s vision of Jewish supremacy at the expense of non-Jews. Just this Thursday, Israeli Economic Minister Naftali Bennett proposed, once again, to Prime Minister Netanyahu, to annex Area C, 74% of the West Bank:

Bennett has presented his plan in recent weeks to foreign diplomats stationed in the country. The proposal includes removing IDF roadblocks in the territory left under Palestinian control, Areas A and B, as well as investing in infrastructure there and pursuing massive economic development.

Annexing Area C, Bennett has said, will secure Israel’s vital interests by creating a buffer zone for Gush Dan and Jerusalem. It will also preserve Israel’s “vital” national heritage sites.

According to sources close to the Bayit Yehudi leader, he will push forward with the plan regardless of whether Hamas and Fatah implement their unity agreement, and regardless whether Israeli-Palestinian talks start anew. Bennett, according to sources close to him, believes those talks will ultimately fail.

Europe and the United Nations – which have indicated they view Area C as vital for the viability of a future Palestinian state – have in the last few years increasingly focused on shoring up Palestinian development there, including with financial assistance.

This annexation would result in the remainders of Palestine being something that looks like nothing in the world more than the former Bantustans of South Africa: Read the rest of this entry →

(Late) Saturday Art: Remembering Rachel Corrie on the 11th Anniversary of Her Murder

8:41 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Rachel Corrie - February 2003

I have posted my cantata, The Skies Are Weeping, here before.  It is my 2003-2004 tribute to the memory of Rachel Corrie and Tom Hurndall, killed by Israeli thugs in Gaza, during the run-up to the opening of the Iraq invasion, when the world was distracted elsewhere, and Brits and Americans could be murdered callously and with impunity.

Rachel was murdered 11 years ago Sunday.  Remember her.

More information on The Skies Are Weeping.

My denunciation before a joint session of the Alaska Legislature for having written the cantata.

You can donate to the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice here.

New Presbyterian Study Guide: Zionism is a “false theology”

1:51 am in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Palestine_www.palestineremembered.com_NK10355

Palestine


In mid-January, the Presbyterian Church (USA) announced publication and distribution of a new package titled Zionism Unsettled: A Congregational Study Guide.  The 74-page booklet with accompanying CD-ROM is intended to be a “how-to guide for class leaders and focused discussion prompts make it an ideal resource for multi-week exploratory education programs in churches, mosques, synagogues, and all classroom settings.”

I first read about the booklet and some of its endorsements back on January 15th, in a post at Mondoweiss by Annie Robbins.  Surprisingly, in the two-plus weeks since the announcement, the tract has apparently not been denounced as anti-Semitic by any leading Zionist organizations, such as the Anti-Defamation League, for instance, which has vehemently attacked the church’s leadership in the past.

I haven’t ordered the booklet yet.  At the church’s mission network web page, the manual appears to be very well done – scroll down.

So I’ve been waiting for reviews of the material to show up.  On January 31st, Joe Catron published a sort of review for Electronic Intifada.  Catron has read the booklet and taken notes as he viewed the material on the CD.  He notes that the main issue the Presbyterian Church (USA) takes with what Zionism means is its mixing of selected religious beliefs, dogmas, passages and so on, with politics.  Catron quotes from the CD:

“With Zionism Unsettled, we are hoping to shine a light on the effects of Zionism as a political ideology that is justified by appeal to selective biblical texts,” Walt Davis, co-chairperson of the IPMN’s education committee and Zionism Unsettled project coordinator, told The Electronic Intifada.

“There’s a good deal of examination of various theologies in Zionism Unsettled, but through the lens of how they have been affected by a nationalist ideology,” Davis added.

“The problem now is that the issue is no longer just a secular political ideology; it has become an ideology infused with biblical and theological justifications. Therefore it now needs to be examined through a theological lens too.”

Apparently, the guide approaches Zionism as a sort of myth, similar to what led many Southern U.S. Christian churches to justify slavery before the Civil War, and led Afrikaaner Calvinists to embrace political apartheid as being warranted or even mandated by biblical teachings.  Catron quotes on myths:

“Israeli and American myths of origin are similar and derived from the same biblical sources,” Zionism Unsettled says, noting that “the history and ideology of settler colonialism have been so central to the political history of the United States that it is not surprising the political and religious leadership in the US has been predisposed to uncritical support for the Zionist movement.”

The publication and dissemination of this educational packet in the months before the church’s 2014 general assembly may or may not have been intentional.  I haven’t read anything indicating it was:

The 221st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will be held from June 14 to 21, 2014 at the COBO Center in downtown Detroit, Michigan.  This biennial meeting brings together commissioners and advisory delegates from all 172 presbyteries, as well as other delegates and observers from around the world.  We begin and end with worship, and in between there are celebrations, deliberations and inspirations for everyone. See the proposed docket.

Detroit, a city rediscovering its future and celebrating its rich diversity will play host to the assembly and provide inspiration to the church.  All of the general proceedings and worship will be streamed live, but you are invited to learn more here or to join us as we seek to hear scripture calling us to “abound in hope” (Romans 15:13).

In 2012, the assembly narrowly voted down a motion to divest from Caterpillar, Motorola and Hewlitt-Packard, but passed a motion to divest from any business with or investment in Israeli interests in the Occupied Territories.  At the time, an attendee noted:

It was interesting to watch the 2012 General Assembly debate concerning divestment. The Presbyterian Church has youth advisory delegates who don’t count on the final vote but vote before the voting delegates. The divestment motion for the Presbyterian Board of Pensions barely failed but the youth delegates nearly unanimously supported it. Generational overturn inside the Presbyterian Church will ultimately change things.

The list of Christian churches worldwide who view the “facts-on-the-ground” applications of Zionism with increasing concern is growing rapidly.  It is hard for wikipedia to keep up.

Catron concludes his EI review:

With divestment set to return to the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s agenda in Detroit this summer, two years of dialogue, e­ducation, and organizing by activists within the church may be nearing fruition.

Meanwhile, members, perhaps young delegates, will be studying the dangers of a myth called Zionism.
Read the rest of this entry →

Scarlett Johansson Breaks Up with Oxfam, Leaves Note on Pillow

8:32 am in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Scarlett Johannson in a shoulderless black dress, hands on hips.

Johansson chooses Sodastream over Oxfam.

Wednesday evening, actress Scarlett Johansson brought the nine-day dilemma over the conflict between her seven-year relationship with the global relief organization, Oxfam, and her new commercial relationship with the Israeli company, SodaStream, to a conclusion with this announcement:

A statement released by Johansson’s spokesman Wednesday said the 29-year-old actress has ‘a fundamental difference of opinion’ with Oxfam International because the humanitarian group opposes all trade from Israeli settlements, saying they are illegal and deny Palestinian rights.

‘Scarlett Johansson has respectfully decided to end her ambassador role with Oxfam after eight years,’ the statement said. ‘She and Oxfam have a fundamental difference of opinion in regards to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. She is very proud of her accomplishments and fundraising efforts during her tenure with Oxfam.’

Earlier this month, The Avengers and Her actress signed on as the first global brand ambassador of SodaStream International Ltd., and she’s set to appear in an ad for the at-home soda maker during the Super Bowl on Feb. 2.

Oxfam announced late last week that it was in discussion with Johansson:

While Oxfam respects the independence of our ambassadors, Ms Johansson’s role promoting the company SodaStream is incompatible with her role as an Oxfam Global Ambassador,” it added.

‘Oxfam believes that businesses, such as SodaStream, that operate in settlements further the ongoing poverty and denial of rights of the Palestinian communities that we work to support.’

Johansson responded to Oxfam without directly addressing the most pressing of Oxfam’s problems with the conflict:

SodaStream is a company that is not only committed to the environment but to building a bridge to peace between Israel and Palestine, supporting neighbours working alongside each other, receiving equal pay, equal benefits and equal rights.

The workers do not actually enjoy equal rights with their Israeli employers:

One mid-level Palestinian employee who spoke to Reuters outside the plant, away from the bosses, painted a far less perfect picture, however.

‘There’s a lot of racism here,’ he said, speaking on condition of anonymity. ‘Most of the managers are Israeli, and West Bank employees feel they can’t ask for pay rises or more benefits because they can be fired and easily replaced.’

snip:

Israeli labor watchdog Kav LaOved says a lack of oversight over enforcement of minimum wages and worker rights in West Bank factories reflects Israel’s pro-settler policies.

‘The government wants incentives for Israelis to come and build and expand there. The government has demonstrated very clearly that companies in the West Bank will be allowed to have cheap labor,’ Kav LaOved head Hanna Zohar told Reuters.

Early this morning, Oxfam responded to Johansson’s pillow note, changing her page there to reflect that the relationship is over, while at the same time saying nothing new.  A row developed over the early part of this week, with Oxfam America concerned that putting pressure on Johansson over an issue concerning Israel might hurt fundraising activities in this country: Read the rest of this entry →

Is Scarlett Johansson’s SS Super Bowl Deal Blood Money? – UPDATED

11:27 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Scarlett Johansson endorsing Apartheid

Actress Scarlett Johansson‘s next premiere will be in an ad aired at Super Bowl XLVIII, on February 2nd, during the 4th quarter.  The sponsor, Sodastream, is an Israeli company whose main facilities are illegally located in Area C of the Occupied West Bank of Palestine, in the industrial zone known as Mishor Adumim.  Her involvement with a company being boycotted by the Global BDS campaign and others has garnered some attention since the relationship was announced earlier this month.  Most criticism has centered around Johansson’s volunteer role as a spokesperson and activist for Oxfam, a 72-year-old NGO that works to “find solutions to poverty and related injustice around the world.”  Oxfam regards Israeli industrial activity in the Occupied West Bank as illegal.  Such conflicts with Oxfam volunteers have come up in the past:

Oxfam objected in 2009 when another ambassador, the American actress Kristin Davis, agreed to endorse Ahava, an Israeli cosmetics company that also has a factory in a West Bank settlement. After a wave of negative publicity, Ahava and Ms. Davis quickly parted ways.

 Oxfam is in touch with Johansson about the conflict.  Her niche at the NGO’s web page had this added late Wednesday:

We are proud of our relationship with Scarlett Johansson who has worked with Oxfam since 2005 to support Oxfam’s mission to end poverty and injustice. As an Oxfam Global Ambassador, she has travelled to India, Sri Lanka and Kenya to highlight the impact of traumatic disasters and chronic poverty, and she has helped to raise critical funds for life-saving and poverty-fighting work around the world. We deeply value her support.

Oxfam respects the independence of our ambassadors. However Oxfam believes that businesses that operate in settlements further the ongoing poverty and denial of rights of the Palestinian communities that we work to support. Oxfam is opposed to all trade from Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law.

We have made our concerns known to Ms. Johansson and we are now engaged in a dialogue on these important issues.

Up until late Thursday the story hadn’t been covered by any major U.S. media outlets. The Electronic Intafada and Mondoweiss have both run a number of articles on this through the week.  But Thursday, the New York Times posted a detailed article on-line about the controversy.  Super Bowl commercials are big deals in the advertising and endorsement worlds.  Sodastream has posted Youtube and other media promoting the upcoming commercials:

I have a number of questions on this that haven’t yet been answered:

1.  Was Johansson aware of the true state of affairs for the Palestinian workers at the Mishor Adumim factory when she signed on with Sodastream?  Last year, Sodastream posted a video touting the boon Sodastream’s illegal facility is for Palestinians who are employed there.  An anonymous worker refuted the claim at Electronic Intifada:

A professionally-produced video recently appeared on YouTube, taking the viewer on a carefully-constructed tour of the production facilities for the Israeli companySodaStream, manufacturer of carbonated drink machines.

The 8.5-minute video focuses on the firm’s factory located in Mishor Adumim, the industrial zone of the illegal Israeli settlement Maale Adumim in the occupied West Bank, and its Palestinian workers. The underlying message throughout the video is that the company’s settlement factory is a “fantastic sanctuary of co-existence” and, despite being built on stolen Palestinian land, is beneficial to the Palestinian economy and workers.

The video was recently shown to M., a Palestinian employee of SodaStream who has worked on the assembly line at Mishor Adumim for a long time and lives under Israeli occupation in the West Bank. M. spoke to The Electronic Intifada on condition of anonymity.

His immediate reaction to the blissful setting presented in the video was one of shock.

“Lies”

“I feel humiliated and I am also disgraced as a Palestinian, as the claims in this video are all lies. We Palestinian workers in this factory always feel like we are enslaved,” M. said.

2.  Was Johansson aware that this lucrative product endorsement would most likely lead to a severance of her relationship with Oxfam?

3.  When working with Johansson on coming into a contract, was she informed by Sodastream’s agents, who must have been aware of a potential hazard, of the huge possible liability to the actress’s future career being their spokesperson represents? They certainly should have done that.  Johansson may be under pressure from her team for more public exposure, but Sodastream is under intense pressure.  Partially from BDS effectiveness, partially because the company’s model may have flaws, their stock is down 50% for 2013.

I’ve been a fan of many of Scarlett Johansson’s roles since The Horse Whisperer and Lost in Translation.  If she had better agents she might have won a major film acting award by now.

Whether or not she was a victim of people running her career here or knowingly has become a major spokesperson for Israeli apartheid will probably become known within the next ten days.

Too late to pull the ads.  Can Scarlett handle this upcoming blood money role well enough to actually do something positive for Palestinians living under apartheid in the weird zone her employer exploits 24-7?

UPDATE:  Friday 3:20 pm Alaska Time:

Scarlett Johansson has issued a statement which has been printed at Huffington Post.  It is brief and quite vague.  She does not appear to be ready to back away from SodaStream:

While I never intended on being the face of any social or political movement, distinction, separation or stance as part of my affiliation with SodaStream, given the amount of noise surrounding that decision, I’d like to clear the air.

I remain a supporter of economic cooperation and social interaction between a democratic Israel and Palestine. SodaStream is a company that is not only committed to the environment but to building a bridge to peace between Israel and Palestine, supporting neighbors working alongside each other, receiving equal pay, equal benefits and equal rights.

That is what is happening in their Ma’ale Adumim factory every working day. As part of my efforts as an Ambassador for Oxfam, I have witnessed first-hand that progress is made when communities join together and work alongside one another and feel proud of the outcome of that work in the quality of their product and work environment, in the pay they bring home to their families and in the benefits they equally receive.

I believe in conscious consumerism and transparency and I trust that the consumer will make their own educated choice that is right for them. I stand behind the SodaStream product and am proud of the work that I have accomplished at Oxfam as an Ambassador for over 8 years. Even though it is a side effect of representing SodaStream, I am happy that light is being shed on this issue in hopes that a greater number of voices will contribute to the conversation of a peaceful two state solution in the near future.

I’ll provide any further updates in the comments.

Thank You, Ariel Sharon

1:50 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

sabra_shatila_massacres

Thanks for turning me from a Zionist into a post-Zionist.

It was late November, 1982.  I had been at sea on one tug boat or another since early July.  As we pulled into Puget Sound, headed toward Elliot Bay, towing our barge and its stacked and lashed down cargo of auxiliary C-130 fuel tanks, which we were bringing south from the air force base on Shemya Island, I called my closest friend in Seattle on the radiotelephone.  He agreed to pick me up in a few hours at the Crowley dock on Harbor Island.   I was more than ready for my first beer in three months.

When Jim Acord picked me up at the pier, he said “We’re going to an art exhibit in Fremont.”

I replied, “Is it close to a bar?”  This was a decade before Fremont came back to life, and there were only one or two seedy bars in what was then one of Seattle’s most neglected neighborhoods.

Jim was a struggling sculptor, and a couple of Fremont’s pioneer artists, most notably Richard Beyer, were allowing Acord to use their sheds and tools to carve granite.

“Sculpture?” I asked.

“No, kids’ art.  Orphans, actually – Palestinian orphans from Beirut.”

“From the massacres?”   Even though I had been at sea in the north Pacific, Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort Seas for months, we had kept up with the news via our boats’ excellent radios in the bridge cabin.  We listened avidly to BBC, Radio Moscow, U.S. Armed Forces Radio, and NHK.

Jim answered, “Yes. It’s a collection of impressions by Palestinian refugees from Sabra who lost family members or parents.   Put together by people in the Seattle area Palestinian-American community.”

“That was fast.”  The massacres of thousands of Palestinian refugees residing in the fetid, overcrowded refugee camps in Beirut’s outskirts had occurred in mid-September, just over two months earlier.  The massacres had been inflicted during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, that had commenced on June 6th, 1982.

We went to the impromptu exhibit.  Here, my close associate introduced me to some of his Palestinian-American friends, who walked me around to others, and to the show’s organizers.  I was as warmed by their genuine geniality as I was chilled by the images of guns, blood, mangled bodies, Stars of David, helicopters, tanks and tears.  I wrote ten years ago:

This Seattle exhibit opened my eyes to sociological aspects of the growing Mid-East tragedy for the first time. My previous interests in subjects like “Israel’s defensible borders” or fascination with the Battle of the Chinese Farm during the Yom Kippur War were completely overshadowed by developing friendships with Christian and Muslim Palestinian Americans.

Up to the time of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, and this exhibit, I had been very supportive of Israel.  After this experience, and my gaining Palestinian friends, I ceased to accept Zionist explanations for Israeli actions uncritically.

Ariel Sharon, who left his eight-year-long persistent vegetative state yesterday for his eternal place, deep in the depths of Hell, has long been reviled for his role in these massacres:

Sharon was found by the Kahan Commission to be indirectly responsible for the Sabra and Shatila Massacre of over 3,000 Palestinian refugees by Israel’s Lebanese allies, the Phalanges, and was made to resign – although he remained in the cabinet as minister without portfolio. Attempts to bring him to trial in international courts over the massacre went to no avail.

That this unrepentant thug went on, after having enabled such massacres, to become Israeli prime minister says as much about how sick that society is as it does about Sharon’s own relentless drive for personal power.

Saturday Art: Will 2014 Be the Watershed Year for Cultural Boycotts of Israel?

11:29 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Moddi

I.  On December 27th, Gaza’s University Teachers’ Association and the Gaza Palestinian Students for the Academic Boycott of Israel wrote to young Norwegian songwriter, Moddi, asking him to cancel his upcoming 2014 concert, in Tel Aviv on February 1st.  Friday the young and rapidly upcoming artist responded, in a Facebook post that links to an article Jello Biafra wrote after he had cancelled an Israeli show, with his band, the Guantanamo School of Medicine, back in 2011.

The Gaza letter is an openly emotional plea.  It recounts some musicians who have recently decided to cancel appearances in the militant expansionist Zionist state:

We call upon your free soul that has been adding uplifting music into this disenchanted world of ours, to join those courageous people of conscience, artists like Elvis Costello, Annie Lennox, Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, Massive Attack, Gil Scott-Heron, Faithless, Carlos Santana, Vanessa Paradis, Natacha Atlas and Devendra Banhart.

And directly confronts the notion of an Israeli performance being appropriate, from a Gazan perspective:

We ask you now, like so many people of your nation have stood with the oppressed in the past, to stand on the right side of history, to respond to our call from the Gaza ghetto to not turn your back on us. If you play in Israel, then we will be a short distance away from where you are playing. But your beautiful tunes will break our wrenching hearts and not sway our souls.

I’ve watched a few of Moddi’s Youtube videos over the past year, after a student turned me on to his art.  Here is what the Gazan suppliants meant when they wrote “your beautiful tunes.”  Moddi, rendering Smoke, with Katrine Schiøtt, in Istanbul:

Moddi’s Facebook response to the Gazans is as poignant and defiant as his song, Smoke:

I have chosen to cancel my performance in Tel Aviv on February 1st. This is without comparison the most difficult decision I have ever made as an artist, and one that hurts almost as much as it feels right.

The reason for my decision is the situation in Israel and the areas it controls. Although music can be a unique arena for public debate, the debate over these territories has been misused for a long time. Discussion and dialogue creates an impression of constant progress. The realities of politics are very different. An example: as we speak, John Kerry is negotiating peace talks between Israel and Palestine, while at the same time Israel announces the construction of 1400 new settlements on occupied land. While everyone speaks about a two-state solution, the constant scattering of the West Bank through the building of new control posts, security fences and walls are making such a solution practically impossible.

The discourse of peace creates a thick veil, concealing the increasingly tighter besiegement of Gaza, the ongoing fragmentation of the West Bank and the continuing discrimination of Arab-Israeli citizens. By encouraging ‘dialogue’ and ‘tolerance’ as ideals, I am afraid that my voice will do nothing but to increase the already dysfunctional divide between words and action in a conflict where no one seems to trust each other’s intentions.

I know that I disappoint many of my Israeli listeners and I am truthfully sorry that it has to stay like this for now. I believe that you will understand, although you might not agree. Again, I encourage you to read Jello Biafra’s article, which provides many perspectives and no clear answers to the questions he has been faced with. Like him, I am overwhelmed by the complexity of the situation. Therefore, I will be going to Israel and to the West Bank to see things with my own eyes, meet some of the people who have joined the discussion and try to understand the situation better.

As long as ‘dialogue’ continues to be a goal in itself and not a means to solve one of the deepest, most intense conflicts of this time, I will not lend my voice to it. For now I’ll keep away, hoping that things can change for the better and that one day I can carry through with my very first concert on an Israeli stage.

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How Many Times Will Kerry Let Netanyahu Kick Him in the Nuts?

10:48 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

We don’t know yet.

Kerry & Netanyahu

“Netanyahu’s doing it because over the years he and most high-ranking Israeli officials have come to loath Americans.”

I.  Upon his return to do whatever he does in Israel and Palestine to push for some sort of a deal that both the Israelis and Palestinians can accommodate (an utterly impossible task), U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was treated to this tirade by the Israeli Prime Minister:

Welcome back to Jerusalem, John. I want to use this opportunity to express once again my personal appreciation and the appreciation of the people of Israel for your unremitting personal efforts to advance peace between us and the Palestinians. I know that you’re committed to peace, I know that I’m committed to peace, but unfortunately, given the actions and words of Palestinian leaders, there’s growing doubt in Israel that the Palestinians are committed to peace.

A few days ago in Ramallah, President Abbas embraced terrorists as heroes. To glorify the murders of innocent women and men as heroes is an outrage. How can President Abbas says – how can he say that he stands against terrorism when he embraces the perpetrators of terrorism and glorifies them as heroes? He can’t stand against terrorists and stand with the terrorists. And I’m wondering what a young Palestinian would think when he sees the leader of the Palestinian people embrace people who axed innocent men and women – axed their heads or blew them up or riddled them with bullets – what’s a young Palestinian supposed to think about the future? What’s he supposed to think about what he should do vis-a-vis Israelis and vis-a-vis the state of Israel? So it’s not surprising that in recent weeks Israel has been subjected to a growing wave of terrorist attacks. President Abbas didn’t see fit to condemn these attacks, even after we learned that at least in one case – I stress, at least in one case – those who served and are serving in the Palestinian security forces took part in them.

Netanyahu is referring, in part, to the record of some of the imprisoned Palestinians whose release is being celebrated in the Occupied Territories of the West Bank. What he was doing, in the statement, was paying Kerry back for his moment of candor, when, back in early November, he warned:

John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, warned Israel on Friday that it faced a third intifada if peace talks with the Palestinians failed.

During a visit to Israel aimed at putting the faltering peace process back on track, Mr Kerry told Israeli and Palestinian television that the alternative to success was a potential eruption of Palestinian violence.

‘The alternative to getting back to the talks is the potential of chaos,” he said. “I mean, does Israel want a third intifada?’

It was strong language from America’s top diplomat, clearly frustrated at the lack of progress in a process in which he has personally invested considerable effort.

Using the Arabic word for uprising, it recalled the first and second Palestinian intifadas which ran from 1987 to 1993 and from 2000 to 2005. Each period of escalated violence claimed thousands of lives, with the toll particularly heavy on the Palestinian side.

The so-called “Peace Process” talks seem to be entering new levels of absurdity:

‘We’re not expecting a breakthrough on this trip,’ Martin Indyk, the State Department’s mediator on the conflict, said today in a supposedly-anonymous briefing on this week’s urgent round of peace talks in Ramallah and Jerusalem.

Indyk said there is no ‘agreement’ between the parties, but Secretary of State John Kerry is seeking an agreement on a ‘framework’ for continued talks, not so different from the Clinton parameters of 2000. Indyk, a longtime advocate for Israel, said part of the framework is a possible announcement of final borders of a Palestinian state:

We’re trying to reach an understanding on what the final borders will be.

The briefing was supposedly anonymous– ‘with a Senior State Department Official who will be previewing the Secretary’s trip to Jerusalem and Ramallah this week’– but the first clue to Indyk’s identity came when the anonymous official mentioned his ’35-year experience on this particular conflict.” Then the briefing’s unnamed moderator outed him: “It’s an agreement on the terms, as Martin said– right– which has not been achieved in the past, at least in recent history.’

The talks will never get past Israeli demands that Palestine recognize the land stolen from the latter as “the Jewish State,” and Palestinian demands for a level of autonomy that would give them the same degree of statehood as Belize, Andorra, Singapore or Bermuda, to name similarly sized countries.

II.  Netanyahu isn’t kicking Kerry in the nuts because Kerry deserves it. He’s doing it because over the years he and most high-ranking Israeli officials have come to loath Americans. Even though the Obama administration’s record of supporting Israeli policies is perhaps the most disgustingly pro-Israeli in our country’s history, that matters less to the Israelis than that Obama is black and that they can sow seeds of distrust toward him in our country through Republican politicians, and through Democrats up for close elections in red states.  Is that cynical, or what?

The most disgustingly anti-American, anti-Obama interview I’ve read this week comes from The Times of Israel, in an interview of former U.S. Ambassador Michael Oren with the Times‘ David Horovitz. Justin Raimondo, in his first 2014 essay, got to the heart of the anti-Americanism in the interview:

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Book Salon Preview: Goliath, Life & Loathing in Greater Israel by Max Blumenthal – Part Three: The Complete Real News Interviews

8:58 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

This past week, Max Blumenthal, author of Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, sat for five interview with The Real News‘ Paul Jay.  I posted part one here in mid-week.  All five segments have now been posted at The Real News.  Saturday afternoon, Firedoglake will host Blumenthal on the Saturday portion of the weekly Book Salon.  As part of the preliminaries for this important salon, here are all five segments, posted together for your convenience.

Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three:

Part Four:

I’ll post when I can find a link…..

Part Five: