Monday, February 4, 2008

All You Need Is Apartheid?

And when the broken hearted people
living in the world agree
There will be an answer
Let it be

For though they may be parted
there is still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer
Let it be, let it be
Yeah, there will be an answer
Let it be, let it be

In a move seemingly designed to make any music-loving peace activist’s blood boil, the Israeli Foreign Ministry has reportedly offered an official apology to The Beatles, forty-three years after banning the band from performing in Israel in 1965. The Beatles, the quintessential and paradigmatic 60's rock band (and singularly most important and influential music group of all time - by far) that serves as a powerful, iconic, and near-universal symbol of peace, love, and open-minded understanding, could not possibly be more at odds ideologically with the State of Israel - unless they had perhaps traded in their mop tops for kaffiyehs.

Brutal occupation, rampant militarism, state-sanctioned ethnic cleansing, inequality, racism, and dehumanization all seem to be startlingly opposed to the message of The Beatles. The fact that Israel would try to make amends with an entity like The Beatles, thusly appealing to a symbol of justice and peace, of freedom of thought and movement, winds up being insulting and ironic to the legacy of the group itself and demonstrates how Israel must truly be the least self-aware nation on Earth (or proving that the Foreign Minister takes "Happiness Is A Warm Gun" literally). The absurdity of this charade could have only been overshadowed if perhaps Bob Marley and Bob Dylan had been asked in 1978 to perform together in Pretoria to celebrate the thirty year anniversary of the white supremacist National Party's rise to power in South Africa.

As a lifelong devotee of The Beatles' music and message, I feel as if this belated apology and obvious propaganda move by Israel to frantically paint itself as a bastion of peace, equality, and freedom in the otherwise nefarious Middle East is as sinister a PR ploy as calling Ehud Barak's Camp David proposal a "generous offer."

The Independent reports:

Visiting the Beatles museum in Liverpool yesterday, the Israeli ambassador to Britain, Ron Prosor, handed a letter of apology to Julia Baird, sister of the late John Lennon, expressing regret over the snub of 1965. Mr. Prosor, one of Israel's most senior and long-serving diplomats, was seven years old when the "misunderstanding" took place.

The two surviving Beatles, Sir Paul McCartney, 65, and Ringo Starr, 67, are now expected to join celebrations in May of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel.

Israel will also write to them and to the family of the late George Harrison in an attempt to smooth over any lingering embarrassment caused by the decision, made in the tense period before the Six-Day War.

The letter says: "Unfortunately, the State of Israel cancelled your performance in the country due to lack of budget and because several politicians in the Knesset had believed at the time that your performance might corrupt the minds of the Israeli youth. There is no doubt that it was a great missed opportunity to prevent people like you, who shaped the minds of the generation, to come to Israel and perform."
In response to this abhorrent new development, especially at a time when Israel is engaging in a medieval and inhumane siege of Gaza, all concerned citizens of this world must beg the two remaining Beatles not to miss this opportunity indeed. This is an opportunity to reveal what is really going on in Israel/Palestine and to show the international community that the collective punishment of 1.5 million imprisoned refugees is not consistent with the message of love, peace, and hope that is infused in the music of the Beatles. In fact, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel has written an open letter to The Beatles which can be read below.

It could be the case that the two Beatles who would most vehemently decline Israel’s invitation happen to be the two who have passed away. It would seem startlingly incongruous for the songwriter of Imagine (yes, I know that's a solo Lennon song) to support the constant dehumanization and oppression of Palestinians. I can also not possibly believe that George Harrison would be any more interested in attending the 60 year anniversary of the Nakba and celebrate more than 40 years of military occupation of Palestine, considering the lyrics he wrote for his Sgt. Pepper contribution Within You Without You, which was released only four days before the Six Day War in 1967 and are eerily prescient. Here are the lyrics, which seem to speak directly to the Israeli occupation that would follow for the next four decades with still no end in sight:
We were talking
about the space between us all
And the people
who hide themselves behind a wall of illusion

Never glimpse the truth
then it's far too late
when they pass away.
We were talking
about the love we all could share
when we find it

To try our best to hold it there
with our love
With our love
we could save the world
if they only knew.

Try to realize it's all within yourself
No-one else can make you change
And to see you're really only very small,
And life flows within you and without you.

We were talking
about the love that's gone so cold and the people,
Who gain the world and lose their soul
They don't know
they can't see
are you one of them?

When you've seen beyond yourself
then you may find, peace of mind,
Is waiting there

And the time will come when you see
we're all one, and life flows on within you and without you.
But if Sir Paul and Ringo are really considering spending May 14, 2008 in the Middle East, let's hope they take their own advice and think for themselves and perform in Ramallah, as well as Tel Aviv. And let's all believe that the immortal words of John Lennon can ring through the cities, across the hills and Jews-only highways, through the illegal checkpoints and down the streets of the illegal settlements, beyond the Wall, past the blockades, over the watchtowers, and wind their way through the refugee camps and bulldozed homes and olive groves, into the morgues and hospitals and help sow the seeds of justice and equality for all the children of Palestine.
Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Beatles, Don't Let It Be!
Palestinian Dispossession and Israeli Apartheid
are no Cause for Celebration

PACBI | February 2, 2008

Open Letter to the Beatles

Forty-three years ago, the government of Israel banned your performance in the country for fear you would corrupt the minds of Israeli youth. Now, Israel is extending an apology and an invitation to you, hoping you will forget the past and agree to help celebrate its 60th "birthday." The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) urges you to say no to Israel, particularly since the creation of this state 60 years ago dispossessed and uprooted hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes and lands, condemning them to a life of exile and destitution.

There is no reason to celebrate! Israel at 60 is a state that is still denying Palestinian refugees their UN-sanctioned rights, simply because they are "non-Jews." It is still illegally occupying Palestinian and other Arab lands, in violation of numerous UN resolutions. It is still persistently and grossly breaching international law and infringing fundamental human rights with impunity afforded to it through munificent US and European economic, diplomatic and political support. It is still treating its own Palestinian citizens with institutionalized discrimination.

Now, more than ever, Israel is committing horrific war crimes, especially in the occupied Gaza Strip, where its illegal and immoral policy of collective punishment -- through a hermetic military siege and an almost complete blockage of fuel, electric power, and even food and medicine -- is pushing 1.5 million Palestinian civilians to the brink of starvation. Without electricity, incubators are shutting down; hospitals are fast coming to a standstill; water is not being properly purified nor separated from raw sewage; whatever is left from the local economy is undergoing a meltdown; and the most vulnerable sectors of the population, the children, the elderly, and the acutely ill, are languishing under unspeakable hardships. Do you see any reason to celebrate?

Israel's military occupation -- the longest in modern history -- is not an abstract notion to us. It manifests itself in wilful killings of civilians, particularly children; wanton demolition of homes and property; uprooting of more than a million fruitful trees; incessant theft of land and water resources; denial of freedom of movement to millions; and cutting up the occupied Palestinian territory into Bantustans, some entirely caged by walls, fences and hundreds of roadblocks.

In light of the above, performing in Israel at this time is morally equivalent to performing in South Africa at the height of the apartheid era. Indeed, Israel has created a worse system of apartheid than anything that ever existed in South Africa, according to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights Prof. John Dugard, and South African government minister Ronnie Kasrils, among others.

In 2005, inspired by the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, Palestinian civil society called for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) [1] against Israel until it fully complies with international law and recognizes the fundamental human rights of the people of Palestine. A specific call for cultural boycott of Israel [2] was issued a year later, garnering wide support. Among the many groups and institutions that have heeded the Palestinian boycott calls and started to consider or apply diverse forms of effective pressure on Israel are the British University and College Union (UCU); the two largest trade unions in the UK; the Church of England; the Presbyterian Church (USA); prominent British architects; the British National Union of Journalists (NUJ); the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU); the South African Council of Churches; the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) in Ontario; Aosdana, the Irish state-sponsored academy of artists; celebrated authors, artists and intellectuals led by John Berger; and Palme d'Or winner director Ken Loach.

We strongly urge you to uphold the values of freedom, equality and just peace for all by joining this growing boycott against Israeli apartheid. Nothing less would do justice to the legendary legacy of the Beatles.



1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well done Lord Baltimore! I visited your blog for the first time upon suggestion from someone you know well... It is excellent and being a "dantista"(basically a nerd who studies Dante) I love the quote from Dante in your words of the wiser!
Keep up the great work and I look forward to providing comments with more substance; today I am home sick; unfortunately it is nothing compared to the sickness I feel every day the evil empire is allowed to continue bamboozling the Americans who are wide asleep!
Dantista from Queens