ISRAEL TOUR: Cultural Ethics in a Two-Way War on Civilians

emperorx:

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Like most Westerners I’ve never had to fire a gun to stop an underage plainclothes terrorist from throwing explosives at a packed city bus or run from my family home as drones launch a salvo of warheads at a wedding party. I’m a naive outsider to such things, someone to whom peace was granted as a matter of luck, someone who hasn’t had to earn the right to survive. So I can only take it as a measure of Middle Eastern generosity and open-mindedness that I was recently invited by a rock promoter in Haifa to perform my awkward, abstract, politically-shaded pop music in a small series of concerts throughout Israel. I make art from the perspective of Western social privilege, and so to be invited to sing for people who must face life-and-death realities daily is humbling, both a great honor and a great responsibility.

Thursday, 11.9- @Koro (Tel Aviv) around 21:30
http://koro.me/

Friday, 12.9-@Syrup (Haifa) around 16:00
http://syruphaifa.com/

Saturday, 13.9-@Uganda (Jerusalem) around 21:30
http://ugandajlm.com/

As you can see above, I accepted her offer. i did so with enthusiasm, but not blindly. To ignore the moral dimension of this tour would be an insult to civilians on both sides of the conflict maimed and killed in Hamas civilian terrorist attacks or careless, over-reaching assaults by the IDF. This isn’t an Amtrak ride to Ottawa. I can’t just say “Cool, yeah, I’ll go to Israel, take up valuable cultural resources, sing into a delay pedal, and go home” without acknowledging the gravity of doing so — a gravity rock concerts usually lack. When civilization lives on the edge of stability culture takes on new hues of meaning. Just ask Messiaen.

The places i’ll be playing are far from the carnage in Gaza. Discounting the occupied territories (which we shouldn’t, but more on that later,) most people in Israel enjoy the same benefits and costs of life in a technologically advanced capitalist democracy that we’re all accustomed to. Despite the constant fear of attack, few Israeli civilians experience direct combat once their two-to-three-year term of conscription is up. I point this out not to minimize the impact of the conflict but to emphasize that paranoid safety concerns don’t play a role in my thinking about these shows. All I have to do is get on a plane, stick to certain areas and avoid others, and thanks (for lack of a better word) to one of Earth’s most militarized internal borders and the constant pressure of the IDF my trip’s no more harrowing than a flight to Paris.

But I also raise the issue of Israel’s Western standard of living to acknowledge the uncomfortable fact that if a similarly open-minded Palestinian arranged a tour for me in Gaza, the challenges would be immense. Even arrival would be a difficult legal hurdle, to say nothing of going back home (read this hilariously understated WikiTravel article about getting in/getting out of Gaza for the disturbing details that make TSA pat downs seem mild.) Once there, I’d have to fear both persecution from the de facto Hamas government if I didn’t adhere to strict moral laws and errant IDF strikes if I happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. What if an IDF commander mistook my show for a militant recruitment meeting or Hamas thought it was a gang of Israeli infiltrators? How would the Israeli military, whose mission is to obsessively suppress terrorism, interpret a crowd of young adults gathered around a noise-saturated PA singing “Allahu Akbar?” Of course, exceptional moments of cultural understanding sometimes happen, like this party in Hebron where two IDF soldiers danced with a Palestinian crowd, assault rifles in hand . But those moments are rare. If hospitals and group homes for disabled people aren’t safe, neither is a little rock show.

It’s because of this unjust asymmetry of safety and freedom between places like Tel Aviv and places like Gaza City that some very close friends who I respect a lot have expressed surprise and dismay that I’ve decided to accept the invitation to sing in Israel. Some of these people align themselves with the BDS (Boycott/Divest/Sanction) movement. Though I admire any non-violent attempt to change global society for the better, I find BDS specifically hard to get behind for many reasons, the greatest of which is that I don’t think discouraging commerce and communication and dialogue will be effective in making Israel-Palestine a more peaceful, less polarized place. At best, it will isolate people from one another and, like the failed policy of sanctions against Saddam Hussein’s regime that starved innocent Iraqis of vital medical supplies, mainly impact civilians who aren’t responsible for the mess, not the governments and terrorists who are. At worst, it will encourage paranoia and anti-Semitism in people like my well-intentioned neighbor who earlier this morning told me to avoid buying items with “729” in the UPC code because those products came from Israel (and that’s an oversimplification of the EAN barcode system anyway, but whatever.)

The potential BDS criticism of my tour and many other, much more prominent musicians’ (Yo La Tengo, Deerhoof, Why?, Silver Jews, etc.) tours of Israel ignores the fact that many Israelis share my humanist perspective and my disdain for the current Israeli government’s role in worsening the plight of the Palestinians and, by extension, the danger its own people are exposed to. It’s obvious that the State of Israel over-reaches drastically in the name of security with tragic and unacceptable consequences. (Need data? This or this will do.) It’s also clear that certain aspects of the creation of the State of Israel were an unapologetic colonialist land grab under the guise of utopian Zionism. But my own government is also guilty of heinous atrocities and routine violations of human rights. The very land on which I grew up was stolen by bearded white men with guns in a violent coup from defenseless Seminole tribes. I’d feel like a hypocrite if i boycotted Israel but didn’t have a problem playing shows in New York, Paris, or London. And even assuming for a moment I came from a morally superior society that had never started wars (if such a thing existed) how much good would it do if I refused to work in the United States? Avoiding Americans seems like a poor method of changing the American government’s immoral policies. What about the tens of millions of Americans who criticize our government, who acknowledge our murderous past, and who want to make the future better? What would be served by self-righteously insisting that residents of a country struggle (and sing and party) alone just because of their address and their passport? I’m sure Orphaned Land and Khala, the Israeli and Palestinian metal bands who toured together last year, would agree with me here. 

I’m not sure about Billy Bragg’s current stance on touring Israel, but he provides and interesting historical example. He toured the U.S.S.R. in 1987 despite that state’s abysmal human rights record and civilian-devastating campaign in Afghanistan. Four years later the Iron Curtain collapsed. It would of course be silly to argue that Bragg’s tour was a cause of that collapse, but it would also be hard to argue that it wasn’t a telling harbinger of change in the wings, and a rallying encouragement to Soviet democracy activists.

Most of the people who live in Israel and Palestine were born and raised there, just like I was born and raised in the suburban south. To understand their perspective I have to imagine an alternate universe where insurgents from an impoverished, walled-off Daytona Beach launch home-made rockets at shopping malls in Orange Park. Or one in which the Florida National Guard routinely sends out infantry patrols in trailer parks and strafes quiet apartment complexes with fighter jets. Or one in which my home town (fun fact: Jerusalem and Jacksonville have approximately the same metropolitan population) is suddenly partitioned by a Berlin Wall-like fence and patrolled by TAR-21-toting commandos. No matter which side of the Jacksonville Wall wall I found myself on, I would be no more to blame for the circumstances. The distinction between a people, a government, and terrorist splinter groups is critical if Israel-Palestine, and the world at large, can ever heal itself.

Is it the job of the arts to address issues like these? ABSOLUTELY. But it is NOT the job of the arts to ensnare itself in politics by taking a stand in such a way that it removes itself from the discussion and bans communication with a whole class of people, most of whom are blameless. That’s why I answer those well-intentioned people who warn me against touring Israel on moral grounds by telling them that despite the bombs and the bulldozers and the generations of bad blood I’m largely treating this small Israel tour run like any other string of dates, and why I sent a grateful and excited “YES!” to the promoter who asked me to come sing for people there. See y’all in Haifa.

Thursday, 11.9- @Koro (Tel Aviv) around 21:30
http://koro.me/

Friday, 12.9-@Syrup (Haifa) around 16:00
http://syruphaifa.com/

Saturday, 13.9-@Uganda (Jerusalem) around 21:30
http://ugandajlm.com/

i’m standing on the precipice…

theworldisa:

it’s a cliff that i’ve prayed on before/ so much so that despite the fact that i don’t know if i believe in a god or gods anymore my fingertips they bear callouses/ my palms they bear callouses from pressing together so tightly/ i pray hard when i pray.

i’ve often thought that this maw in front of us was the end of everything/a darkness that consumed all, a black hole/ do you know that we are made up of the same stuff that makes up the stars? so, what flows through us may not be   just blood but stardust?

and we are dying/ every second of every minute of every hour of every day  brings us closer to that final day that final hour that final minute that final second that final breath/ which means when we run out of hydrogen we become giants, or super giants, or supernovas/ and if not that then we are simply stars whose ill-fated courses end in collision either way/ we’ll explode. 

with this in mind i reconsider the precipice there is something beautiful in its blackness isn’t there/ something wondrous in its persistence in swallowing us all? the end of everything is the beginning of a brand new everything/ the end of this universe may be the beginning of a brand new one so that even now when my heart feels like the most congested intersection the world it is waiting.

i reconsider the precipice and so, in an effort to take part in reckless acts of self definition i jump/ as i fall/as i let that beautiful blackness take me into its folds i know that i will be okay in them/i know we, you and i, all of us/

 we will be safe in its embrace. 

upper chief is playing with a couple neat ct bands and a touring band from pennsylvania tonight in bloomfield. eat pizza. last upper chief ct show for a while.
https://www.facebook.com/events/260855760786156/

upper chief is playing with a couple neat ct bands and a touring band from pennsylvania tonight in bloomfield. eat pizza. last upper chief ct show for a while.

https://www.facebook.com/events/260855760786156/

please be kinder to people at shows.

thisistheband:

photos I took on 7/14 at a Nine of Swords show in a barn somewhere in new york :^)

thisistheband:

Check out this piece Nina Braca wrote for The Le Sigh about Nine of Swords!

EP: NINE OF SWORDS - I CAN’T STAND MY OWN FACE
Have you ever made a decision that you know is going to end up being awful in the end, but you do it anyway? These lyrics from Nine of Swords’ newest release perfectly embodies that feeling: “It’s the last thing I want but the first thing I take / you make me so sick I can’t stand my own face”. I’m reminded of being in middle school, doing things that everyone else was doing but secretly hating everyone and myself for it. I wish this song was around in 2006 to save me from those awkward pre-teen decisions – I probably would have learned a lot from this album back then.
(click title to read more)

thisistheband:

Check out this piece Nina Braca wrote for The Le Sigh about Nine of Swords!

EP: NINE OF SWORDS - I CAN’T STAND MY OWN FACE

Have you ever made a decision that you know is going to end up being awful in the end, but you do it anyway? These lyrics from Nine of Swords’ newest release perfectly embodies that feeling: “It’s the last thing I want but the first thing I take / you make me so sick I can’t stand my own face”. I’m reminded of being in middle school, doing things that everyone else was doing but secretly hating everyone and myself for it. I wish this song was around in 2006 to save me from those awkward pre-teen decisions – I probably would have learned a lot from this album back then.

(click title to read more)

supermariofuneral:

Hey this is probably reiterative for those of you who are friends with any of us on Facebook but Nine of Swords now has tapes!
It’s a limited run, 50 of each of the EPs, and we are very happy.
Check it out here!

buy our thing(s).

supermariofuneral:

Hey this is probably reiterative for those of you who are friends with any of us on Facebook but Nine of Swords now has tapes!

It’s a limited run, 50 of each of the EPs, and we are very happy.

Check it out here!

buy our thing(s).

Anonymous said: sweeet blog. I'm finding some sweet new music on hea

glad you like it!