Saturday, December 29, 2007

Celebrities and the Palestinians

These are interesting times: Christmas rolls on by along with Eid and Hannukah, as well as other denominational holidays too that doesn't want to be left off the dialogue here. The spirit of giving, goodwill and cheer as the new year nears and it is time to start afresh and make new bridges and leave the past behind us, except in the city of Christ's birth, as Christmas was canceled thanks to the continuing encroachment of Israel's land confiscation. It's amazing that a city so famed throughout the West, as well as a story that I grew up "worshipping", is turned into a spectacular ghetto, with people caged in and a wall that splits the ancient Bethlehem into smithereens. This is the place of Jesus, the celebration that Christmas is meant to be about, and his birthplace is destroyed.

So where are all those bastions of human rights, ie those celebrities who do nothing but good in the name of humanity? I mean, we all know the US is silent when it comes to these pertinent issues, but where's that famed "do-gooder" Angelina Jolie who has topped a celebrity Reuters poll for top humanitarian? Sure, the suffering in Africa is a good cause, no? Where did all that LiveAfrica aid go to, I wonder? Is Bono listening? Or too busy praising that war criminal Tony Blair, who's the Middle East peace envoy? Where's George Clooney and his comrades when you need them? Yes, the Save Darfur campaign is gaining strides, even though it's a conflict more complex than they dare to imagine, or even investigate. They claim that they are confronting hotly contested issues (ie Iraq) but stop short when it comes to the Holy Land. Here Clooney accuses his opponents of attempting to "destroy his career"; last I checked the Iraq war is not very popular, and if you want destroyed careers, check out Norman Finkelstein.

And it's not for lack of evidence either. There are scores of human rights reports by Amnesty International, B'Tselem, Human Rights Watch and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. A review of all these concludes that Israel is in direction violation of international law and the Geneva Conventions. So why all the silence here?

I think we know why. Perhaps touching this issue would be career-icide for any who oppose it. Have a gander at one Susan Sarandon. Here we have an outspoken opponent of the Iraq War (No surprise there. Who isn't nowadays?), and "likes to speak out when she sees an injustice", but it all is torn to shreds when she wines and dines at Lev Leviev's jewellery store. The focus of some controversy, apparently Sarandon's advocacy for justice is limited to those which really aren't very politicised, or aren't romanticised by Hollywood (think of Blood Diamonds) thanks to the newfound affinity for Africa's plight. As far as the occupied territories goes, all rules, or more appropriately, all human rights are thrown out the window.

Silverstien describes Leviev as a man who "has become wealthy in his chosen profession by trafficking in Angolan diamonds." Also adding that he participates with the Land Redemption Fund, "which purchases land under false pretenses from Palestinian owners in order to transfer them to settlement ownership". No human rights violations there, correct?

Sarandon has been targeted by the Jewish Voice for Peace, Adalah-NY and Jayyous’ Land Defense Committee. In addition, two Palestinian villages have joined the call for Sarandon to join their campaign against the settlement intensification. Despite her explanation that she has no "ties", her act has her on the side of a certain Alan Dershowitz who had to show his unified support for settlement activity and its proponents.

How interesting considering that the Arab League has recently denounced that settlements are the main blockade towards peace, and many have (correctly) labelled that it is Israel's expansionism that is effectively destroying the possibilities of a two-state solution.

"It is now clear that the settlements issue will destroy any hope of peace and will break the course of Annapolis."

And both Sarandon confesses to be an advocate of justice as well as Dershowitz who has been noted on many occasions (thanks largely to himself trying to convince himself) that he is in support of a two-state solution. The evidence is damning: settlements means no Palestinian state. It has been Israeli policy since the aftermath of the 1967 war. All the Palestinians have left is a Bantustan, Israeli-style. It's is all the more magnified when you get the attitudes of the Orthodoxy who squat on Palestinian land.

"In my view, Israel from the Mediterranean to the Jordan Valley is a Jewish state," said Goldstein, 48, a mechanical engineer and air force veteran who is mayor of a group of settlements that form the Gush Etzion Regional Council. "Its lands are earmarked first and foremost for Jewish citizens."

Meaning there is no place for the Arabs, both within the occupied territories and in Israel proper. Why do you think that the Israeli Arabs continue to be vilified and "they only draw a meager 1% of media coverage – most of it negative in nature", despite the fact that they make up 20% of Israel's population? With no voice at all, it's easier to turn them into something less human or into caricatures, or "demographic bombs". Hanan Ashrawi lays it out for all to see:

"To me, the demographic argument is by definition racist. I think Palestinians have the right to independence, statehood and self-determination as a legal and political imperative. It is not an issue that has to become a threat or that we formulate in response to somebody else's position."

So now we have a state that wants to remove Palestinians, and is making them into second-to-ninth grade citizens, all with the inherent racist ideology that Israel wants the occupied to recognise as legitimate, something that gives Israel the stamp of approval that what they do to the Palestinians is okay because Zionism says so? Sarandon is in bed with all of them when she is silent amongst the picketers at New York, doing business with a known funder of settlements. So much for all her "justice" talk. It's easy to denounce slaughters when the atmosphere is so chic, but the Palestinians are still negatives in the celebrity quo. Sometimes even Adolf Hitler gets a repreive from them.

Sure, "evil" is interpreted within the eye of the beholder. I'm positive those settlers who make life a living hell for the Palestinians are doing "good" in their eyes, or those IDF soldiers are doing what's good for their racist state when they slay an innocent civilian. But what is one meant to say when they get "giddy about killing"?

"In fact, most people must be trained to disregard the humanity of others in order to be capable of killing them."

I guess it's a "good" thing to see yourself as superior to your fellow man. With all that hubris, it's harder and harder to testify that what they are doing is not a deliberate act of aggression with a goal to scare and terrorise. Or when a soldier pens a song about the celebration of killing Iraqis, does he know he's doing the wrong thing? Let's not get lost that Hitler was the only one capable of "evil". Would Will Smith have been forced to apologise if he directed those comments against the IDF and the US soldier? Would he be wrong to say it? Or do we just get backpatting from our celebrities who want to "bring our soldiers home" and save them from the mess they created? Perhaps we'll just make a terrible movie about it.

What would be remarkable is if these "heroes" of ours actually made themselves effectual and did something of character. This is not meant to minimise the terrible conditions that the African continent is in; in fact, aid is not enough to help them. If Jolie and her gang truly wanted to stop the bleeding, they would speak out against the policies that cripple their economy, and the corporations that help benefit from their destitution and robbery. Conflicts diamonds, war for oil, AIDS, and corruption are only part of the problem. Do not give a get out of jail free card to those G-8 nations who only want to keep Africa in its current state of disaster. They bankrupt the system that has the profits channeling into the fatcat's pockets.

Or what if they made an issue out of Israel's settlements? Now that would be true courage. Think of the examples the residents of Bil'in are setting; these are people who are left with nothing and who are up against a state that is backed by the biggest superpower today. They stand up to Goliath.

And not to be forgotten are those members of Adalah-NY. Their persistence is creating a stir that is more than welcome. And their chants are quite a thing of genius. Let's show our solidarity. (To the tune of "Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel".)

“Apartments for Jews only, Discrimination, sure! He thinks Palestine's the problem, and Apartheid is the cure!
Oh boycott boycott boycott, Don't buy Leviev today Funds crime with all that profit, Who needs diamonds anyway?
Then one cold November eve, Leviev came to town He put a store here in New York, But we will shut him down!
Leviev your crimes are showing, Your deeds are getting hard to hide No matter what you call it, We say NO to apartheid!”

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