December 20, 2013

Reasons for ASA Boycott of Israel

                                                         Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

1. Otherwise, how would most people ever hear of the Association of American Studies?
2. Words like "human rights violations" are not scary to direct toward democratic countries with academic freedom.
3. Who would boycott China, Zimbabwe, Iran or Russia?
4. The boycott is "symbolic" and symbolic is cool on so many levels.
5. Singling out Israel and no other country does not indicate bias; how could you suggest that?
6. The ASA is not aware of the diversity of Israeli universities.
7. The ASA is not impressed that even Mahmoud Abbas opposes boycotting Israel.
8. The American Association of University Professors opposes academic boycotts but who cares? (Membership of AAUP: 47,000, of ASA: under 5000; 1252 voted with two-thirds for boycott.)
9. No one at a university in the Middle East actually benefits from this resolution.
10.There is no downside to the resolution for the lives of its promoters.

December 14, 2013

Jerusalem of Snow

It's the biggest storm in decades; the roads are closed in and out of Jerusalem and there is snow or rain falling over most of the country. There are power outages and there are many people who had to be rescued from their cars. It's also beautiful and magical.

Meanwhile,  John Kerry is here again this time thanking his Israeli and Palestinian hosts for the warm welcome and for (literally) clearing his pathway traveling the (literally) treacherous road between Ramallah and Jerusalem. The NYTimes reported on the snow's snarling of diplomacy.

Snow is nice the way it quiets everything. Time to sit back and watch the bigger-than-words forces of nature.

December 09, 2013

What Boycott? Major Musicians Rock Israel

(published at Honest Reporting )

Yet another star ignores widely publicized demands to cancel and performs in Israel. Tom Jones even adds a second show. Like Alicia Keys this summer and Rhianna in October, Jones joins the vast majority of musicians in standing up to the pressure of boycotters.

In spite of boycott hype, only rare exceptions like Jello Biafra and Elvis Costello have counted themselves supporters. Costello nixed his show in June 2010 although his wife, singer Diana Krall, performed later that summer. Biafra flew to Israel anyway, watched Israeli punk band Useless ID play without him, and published his mixed feelings about Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction (BDS).

In fact, even among the few musicians who have canceled, giving into pressure or postponing a show does not mean supporting boycott.

When Marc Almond cancelled, his management announced, “Marc would like to make it absolutely clear that this is not for any political reason. We are very sorry for any inconvenience to fans who have bought tickets.”

Carlos Santana’s management said, “We are sorry that our schedule has forced the postponement of certain dates previously scheduled. We look forward to performing in the many historic places that Santana has long wanted to return to.”

Yet, these names appear in publicity about BDS as if they protested against Israel. Even included are some--like Jon Bon Jovi--who simply have never played in the Jewish state. When asked earlier this year by BBC’s, Jo Whiley, “Is there anywhere in the world you’d like to play but haven’t yet?” Bon Jovi immediately answered: “Israel.”

In recent years, many major musicians have played in Israel, legends like Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, Elton John, and Leonard Cohen, and performers that are big draws in every genre, including:  

Punk--Marky Ramone, New York Dolls, Buzzcocks, Gogol Bordello; NOFX;

Metal--Anthrax, Judas Priest, Ozzie Ozbourne, Megadeth;

Pop--Lady Gaga, Madonna, Justin Bieber, Alanis Morissette;

Rock-- Red Hot Chili Peppers, Aerosmith, Linkin Park, Jethro Tull, Guns N’Roses, Rod Stewart, 30 Seconds to Mars;

Blues—-KM Williams, Lucky Peterson, Robert Belfour;

Indie--Yo La Tengo, Deerhoof, Silver Jews, Why?;

Reggae--Ziggy Marley, Steel Pulse, Easy Star All-Stars;

Grunge--The Jesus and Mary Chain; Jane’s Addiction, Faith No More;

New Wave—-Depeche Mode, Peter Murphy;

Electronica—-Pet Shop Boys, VNV Nation;

R&B--Rhianna, The Black Eyed Peas, Pitbull, and Alicia Keys.

Responding to boycotters, Keys told the press, “Music is a universal language that is meant to unify audiences in peace and love, and that is the spirit of our show.”

Elton John, on stage in Tel Aviv, raised a clenched fist and shouted, “Shalom! We’re so happy to be back here! Ain’t nothing gonna stop us from coming, baby!”

Rather than boycott Israel, well-known musicians especially appreciate the country. Tablet Magazine’s Liel Leibovitz writes that Israel’s top security offers the famous a brief holiday in which to see the sites, and the closely connected, relaxed Israeli music scene creates opportunity for A List artists to enjoy night life in Tel Aviv, where locals usually just “see celebrities as people.”

Speculation about whether or not stars will cancel, or the latest commentary from Roger Waters (formerly of Pink Floyd and now a boycott spokesman) can give the impression that musicians teeter on the verge of agreeing with BDS. But BDS does not argue particular policies; they advocate for the elimination of the Jewish state, demanding all of Israel for Palestine.

Some with this view send death threats, like Islamist cleric Omar Bakri who broadcasted before Paul McCartney’s concert, "If he values his life, Mr. McCartney must not come to Israel."

In Tel Aviv, Sir Paul told the press, “My little bit is to try to bring people together through music…It seems to me that most of the people are quite moderate and would like a solution…They want the governments to decide quite quickly on two states, on two nations rather than this conflict.”

After all, how likely is it for musicians, who include Israel on a world tour, suddenly to align themselves against a goal of peace for two nations and boycott their own show?

November 28, 2013

Arik Einstein and the Israeli Soundtrack

On the day Arik Einstein dies I understand what my students and my son’s friends mean when they say, wistfully, as if they had experienced it, that they wish they’d been there for the sixties. Many things happened in the sixties, meaning the whole era, that might prompt the next generations to imagine going back in time. But I think the biggest is the music.

Were I able to time travel, yes, I’d do a number of things differently. But I would not change the soundtrack.

Our soundtrack played around the world. It played in Israel too, though here there was a parallel, wonderful soundtrack playing that, like most things about Israel, I learned of only when I first visited a dozen years ago.

I particularly loved Arik Einstein not only for his rich, soulful voice, but also for the fact that he enunciated so clearly, allowing me, with very limited Hebrew, to understand a lot of words. I looked up the lyrics in English for my favorites. I know some songs by heart.

But I’ll never know the words to the Israeli soundtrack; it can never sing like the soundtrack that defined my growing up.

Arik Einstein’s songs are playing nonstop on the TV and radio and in the cafes of Tel Aviv; before the funeral a huge gathering took place at Rabin Square and then at night, along with the first candle on the giant chanukiah, there were candles on the ground arranged in the shape of a heart and spelling out Arik, and Israelis of all ages singing his songs.

Like the young people who know about the sixties but who have a different soundtrack playing in their heads, I have a different kind of sadness along with sharing this loss, a different absence to have not shared that defining music live.

November 25, 2013

What Kind of Deal with Iran?

Three days after the Supreme Leader of Iran called Israel a “rabid dog” and said that Israelis are “not human,” a deal was signed that makes the President of Iran very happy:

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Sunday the deal reached with six world powers in Geneva ‘recognized Iran's nuclear rights’ by allowing it to continue to enrich uranium and that Tehran's enrichment activities would proceed similar to before… The president also said the success of the talks so far was due to the "guidelines offered" by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
In the USA, John Kerry said “We will stand by Israel 100%.”

But in IsraelDeputy Defense Minister Danny Danon denounced the agreement as an ‘excellent deal for Iran and a dangerous one for the world, neutralizing the sanctions instead of the centrifuges. The agreement does not dismantle even a single centrifuge or reactor, but is a critical blow to sanctions.’

Back in the USA, analysis of the actual text of the "interim agreement" confirms that the deal does not ask Iran to give up anything significant and yet provides it with more money to continue whatever their leaders want to continue doing – like funding Assad and Hezbollah and building the nuclear program.
It wasn’t an open mic that caught the Ayatollah’s words -- he was voicing official state policy (and speaking before cheering crowds chanting "death to America; death to Israel"). 
When state sponsored genocidal rhetoric is no big deal – we have a bad deal.