The wisdom of Roger Waters
Roger Waters — singer, songwriter, composer, anti-Semite — gave an interview to Frank Barat, published in Counterpunch. Some extracts are re-published below.
On artists playing in Israel:
The situation in Israel/ Palestine, with the occupation, the ethnic cleansing and the systematic racist apartheid Israeli regime is un acceptable. So for an artist to go and play in a country that occupies other people’s land and oppresses them the way Israel does, is plain wrong. They should say no. I would not have played for the Vichy government in occupied France in the Second World War, I would not have played in Berlin either during this time. Many people did, back in the day. There were many people that pretended that the oppression of the Jews was not going on. From 1933 until 1946. So this is not a new scenario. Except that this time it’s the Palestinian People being murdered.
The parallels with what went on in the 30’s in Germany are so crushingly obvious.
On why more artists don’t boycott Israel:
Well, where I live, in the USA, I think, A: they are frightened and B: I think the propaganda machine that starts in Israeli schools and that continues through all the Netanyahu’s bluster is poured all over the United States, not just Fox but also CNN and in fact in all the mainstream media.
The Jewish lobby is extraordinary powerful here and particularly in the industry that I work in, the music industry and in rock’n roll as they say.
On Max Blumenthal:
I have nearly finished Max Blumenthal’s book “Goliath: Life and Loathing in greater Israel”. It’s a chilling read. It’s extremely well written in my view. He is a very good journalist and takes great pains to make sure that what he writes is correct. He also gives a voice to the other side.
On the rabbinate:
They believe some very weird stuff you know, they believe that everybody that is not a Jew is only on earth to serve them and they believe that the Indigenous people of the region that they kicked off the land in 1948 and have continued to kick off the land ever since are sub-human.
On the Israeli government:
The lie that they have told for the last 20 years is “Oh, we want to make peace”, you know and they talk about Clinton and Arafat and Barak being in Camp David and that they came very close to agreeing, and the story that they sold was “Oh Arafat fucked it all up”. Well, no, he did not. This is not the story. The fact of the matter is no Israeli government has been serious about creating a Palestinian state since 1948. They’ve always had the Ben Gurion agenda of kicking all the Arabs out of the country and becoming greater Israel. They tell a lie as part of their propaganda machinery whilst doing the other thing but they have been doing it so obviously in the last 10 years.
Amos Oz Returns to the Kibbutz
“NO, I DO NOT believe there is any such thing as a ‘kibbutz literature,” Oz wrote in his 1974 essay, The Kibbutz at the Present Time. “There are poems and books that have a kibbutz setting, and there are poets and writers who live in a kibbutz, but the kibbutz has not inspired any ‘mutation’ of Hebrew literature.” Perhaps this is true, but as the kibbutz is a unique utopian, ideological and social experiment with its own characteristics, tragedies and charms, stories set in a kibbutz occupy a unique literary category. With his new novel-in-stories, Between Friends, Amos Oz has returned to the kibbutz, although one could argue he never really left. Even when set elsewhere, his stories are haunted by the parochial and familial atmosphere of the kibbutz. His characters, on and off the kibbutz, struggle for individuality and self-expression, experience restlessness, and confront the disappointment of unfulfilled dreams.
Considered one of the three tenors of Israeli literature alongside David Grossman and A.B. Yehoshua (who are as much prophets and social critics as novelists), Oz began his career writing stories about the kibbutz. A resident and member of Kibbutz Hulda on Israel’s coastal plain from the age of 15 until he moved to Arad out in the desert in 1986, Oz completedWhere the Jackals Howl and his first novel Elsewhere, Perhaps on the one day off per week he was permitted for writing (he worked Saturdays in the dining hall as recompense).
Between Friends brings Oz full-circle, dragging him back to the period between the Wars of Independence and the Six-Day War, the earliest years of statehood when the kibbutz was a younger, stronger, and more nakedly ideological institution than it is today. Set on his imagined Kibbutz Yekhat, Oz explores through a series of interwoven vignettes the disagreements, disappointments, and disillusionment felt in a compact and insular community where everybody lives on top of one another, there are no strangers, and gossip and intrigue abound.
The kibbutz was borne out of a fantasy of those who, as Oz once wrote, “lost their religious faith and abandoned the religious commandments but they had not given up their devotion and drive and their thirst for the absolute” — immigrants from Europe and North America who gave up the Talmud and took up Marx. By turning over the soil, by planting trees and building homes, schools and factories, by creating a more communal and equitable society, the founders of the kibbutzim dreamt of becoming “the vanguard of a worldwide transformation.” As the product of a dream, however, the kibbutz was bound to disappoint. The socialism of the kibbutz did not account for human nature — as Oz puts it, “‘Life’ burst through with its infinite complexity that shatters the most acute and rounded and all-encompassing of ideologies.” There was depression, despondency, and jealously among the kibbutznikim. Some didn’t make it and took leave for an easier, larger life beyond the boundaries of the kibbutz, and the generations quarrelled with one another over the future of the experiment.
Israel Won’t Legalize Gay Marriage. Here’s Why.
"A Gay City Deserves a Gay Mayor," proclaimed an ad for candidate Nitzan Horowitz during Tel Aviv’s most recent mayoral election in October. "One Vote That Sends Five Gays to the Council," said another, referring to the Meretz Party list. In this contest between challenger Horowitz and popular incumbent Ron Huldai (which Huldai won), the candidates were said to be trying to “out-pink” each other, both “promising to increase budgets for the gay community and social services for gay youth in distress,” Ha’aretz’s Avshalom Halutz reported.
Does that mean Israel is a beacon of LGBTQ rights in a region generally hostile to them? Not quite.
As the Tel Aviv election illustrates, gay Israelis have made significant legal and cultural strides throughout the last few decades. The ban on homosexual sodomy was repealed in 1988; an ENDA-style LGBTQ employment-discrimination ban passed in 1992; and gays have been able to serve openly in the military since 1993. Tel Aviv has become something of a haven for gay Israelis, even playing host to one of the world’s largest Pride festivals, blessed by Mayor Huldai and other national political figures.
The gains are great—but so are the challenges. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel concludes that the LGBTQ community “still faces various forms of discrimination by government authorities and in the private sector.” In terms of societal attitudes, a recent Israel Democracy Institute survey revealed that it would bother 30.5 percent of Israeli Jews and 46.2 percent of Israeli Arabs to have a homosexual couple as neighbours, including 68.4 percent of ultra-Orthodox and 48.4 percent of religious Zionist Jews.
Enter the marriage conundrum. In Israel, all valid marriages conducted abroad are recognized by the state, and foreign same-sex marriages are recorded for statistical purposes. That means a gay couple that weds in, say, the Netherlands remains wed in Israel. But that doesn’t mean a gay couple in Tel Aviv can walk down to city hall and procure a marriage license. Marriage is an exclusively religious institution in Israel, with separate religious authorities for Jews and Muslims, Christians and Druze. For Israeli Jews, marriage policy is dictated by the Chief Rabbinate, which is under the exclusive control of the Orthodox—and firmly opposed to gay marriage. Since the country has no civil marriage, gay couples seeking to marry within the borders of Israel are out of luck (as are any Jewish Israelis seeking a non-Orthodox marriage ceremony).
Sheldon Adelson doesn’t know much about the Middle East
From The Forward, Josh Nathan-Kazis’ report on “Will Jews Exist?”, a forum at which Sheldon Adelson spewed forth on a variety of subjects. Of Adelson’s opinions, better read to be believed, I think:
- On the Palestinians: “If they truly want peace, it’s very simple to say to all their henchman, lay off the terrorism for five years.”
- Whether Netanyahu will bomb Iran without U.S. permission: “[Former Israeli prime minister Ehud] Olmert is a political person. His wind blows in the direction of the polls. [Netanyahu] is not a political person. [His] wind blows in the direction of his ideology, and his deep and unwavering support and love for the Jewish people and the state of Israel. I am absolutely convinced that Bibi says what he means, means what he says, and if he says that Iran is an existential threat, he would not live…without taking some kind of action.”
- A preemptive U.S. nuclear strike on unpopulated areas of Iran as a negotiating tactic: “Then you say, ‘See! The next one is in the middle of Tehran. So, we mean business.’”
- Muslims: “I don’t know the difference between the Shia and the Sunnis.”
- More on the Palestinians: “There’s no such thing as a Palestinian. Do you know what they are? They call themselves southern Syrians.”
- His opposition to a two-state solution: “To go and allow a Palestinian state is to play Russian roulette.”
Remembering Rabin in the Diaspora
In the years immediately following the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, the anniversary of his passing became an important event for British Jewry, only to see it weaken as the years passed, the peace process fell apart, and the image of Rabin faded like an old photograph.
This year, however, offered some hope for a burnishing of the image. On Wednesday evening, London’s new Jewish community centre, JW3, hosted a memorial event for Rabin attended by 200 plus people. This number, though respectable for a dank night in October, was not the most important thing about the memorial. It is that it was organized and put by the youth movements, Tzofim and Habonim Dror amongst others.
The young people reciting the blessings and singing the songs of memory and peace could not possibly have been thinking of Yitzhak Rabin the man. Most if not all of them would have been born after November 4, 1995, after the music ended and the shots rang out. Thus, their motivation could not have been the memory or the trauma of the event itself, a reaction to the assassination, but something much deeper: a commitment to the inspiration of Rabin and the ideas he died for.
The lingering question, however, as after the singing of Hatikva the attendees mingled and gossiped and shared stories before filing out in the London night is what are those ideas? What can it mean to remember Rabin in Diaspora?
New ‘terror tunnel’ discovered near the Gaza border
Security forces last week discovered and rendered unusable an underground tunnel linking Gaza and Israel, likely intended to facilitate a terror attack or kidnapping attempt inside Israel, the IDF said Sunday morning.
The tunnel, which an official said was particularly wide and about 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) long, started in Abbasan al-Saghira, a farming village near Khan Yunis, in Gaza, and terminated inside Israel near Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha, in the western Negev.
The tunnel, which was discovered over a week ago, ended near a kindergarten on the kibbutz, among other exit points. It was filled with explosives, likely intended to be used for a terror attack, the military said.
The tunnel was built entirely of concrete. Its sides and floor were tiled with concrete slabs, and its ceiling was made up of concrete arches as well. Army officials estimate that the job took about 800 tons of concrete and 25,000 concrete slabs. They also remarked that in the Gaza Strip there is no way to manufacture concrete independently; it requires cement, which had to be brought in from Egypt (that was recently stopped) or transferred to the Gaza Strip by international organizations, and concrete for private use began to enter the Gaza Strip only within the past few weeks.
When I visited the kibbutzim of the Eshkol Regional Council in June — including Nirim and Nir Oz which are part of the troika of kibbutzim with Ein Hashlosha at a kink in the border with Gaza — I was surprised by the unanimity of opinion expressed that, as of now, it is the tunnels not the rockets which present the gravest existential threat to life in that region. The residents of the Eshkol experience sleepless nights about it and there were rumours of people hearing digging and scratching coming from underneath their houses. In my dispatch for The Tower, I wrote about this fear:
The nightmares have some basis in fact. Terrorists regularly tunnel under Gaza’s borders to facilitate smuggling and terror attacks. These tunnels are a very real and present danger in the Eshkol region. At Kerem Shalom, Andy took me as close as we could go to the border and showed me the field—now sewn with potatoes—where Gilad Shalit was abducted on June 25, 2006. The kidnapping was committed by Hamas terrorists who crossed into Israel via tunnels dug beneath the double wall and security strip Israel built after the Gaza disengagement.
Further north, January rains exposed a tunnel close to Nir Oz. The IDF described it as “large enough to carry people and is the same kind of tunnel used in 2006 to ambush IDF soldiers and kidnap Gilad Shalit.” At Nir Oz and Nirim, Nir Yitzhak and Kerem Shalom, the pervasive dread that one day these tunnels will open themselves up inside the kibbutzim with unspeakable consequences, was startling.
The whispers and rumors, the digging and gnawing, and the terror of the night speak to a certain existential fear. This is the long-term impact of living in isolated settlements where the enemy is so close yet mostly invisible and unpredictable. The rockets are chillingly random. No one knows they are coming until the red alert sounds or they hit the ground. Tunnels are usually discovered too late, as in the case of Gilad Shalit. Residents tell me about hearing gunfire from Gush Katif, which has been turned into a terrorist training camp.
In the Eshkol, the threat of destruction is a very real and permanent one. The question on the minds of its inhabitants is not if there will be a future war, but when it will come.
On Yair Lapid
Lapid will come to the first session of the Knesset’s winter sitting next Monday not as someone whose target for the next election is the premiership. He is now fighting tooth-and-nail to restore his party to the top slot in the center-left bloc. In polls, Yesh Atid is consistently losing seats to Labor and Meretz.
Everyone who has been following Lapid’s pronouncements of late discerns a powerful need on his part to differentiate himself from Netanyahu. He came out against Jewish housing construction in East Jerusalem against the background of the release of Palestinian prisoners, and he spoke against the walkout by the Israeli delegation to the United Nations during the speech by Iranian President Rohani. This week, in his interview with Rose, he made it clear that he is against Netanyahu’s demand that an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians be conditional on the recognition by the latter of Israel as the state of the Jewish people.
Lapid is looking for something to run with. He is discovering that the social-justice banner is being tightly gripped by Yacimovich. The peace-process flag is being proudly hoisted by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, the leader of Hatnuah. Gal-On is the standard-bearer of human and civil rights. It’s only in the peace-process arena that he sees some opportunity to recoup some of his party’s lost votes. There he will position himself, in the winter session, or until he adopts a different agenda.