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October 16, 2012

EDITOR: The truth shall not be told – it is official!

So now starts the last festering phase of the Zionist dream-state – the phase of shutting down reality and moving to the virtual realm… A new, incredible song byIzhar Ashdot has just come out, with not only amazing lyrics, but also very simple and effective graphics, giving the lie to Israeli propaganda, and exposing the murderous heart of Israeli society. This is a humanist and humane call to stop the murder, to ‘come back’, to become human again, and see the other as human.

Of course, the time for such songs is over, as is the case with the BGU department of Politics and Government, as is the case with any liberal and sane expression. Such voices will NOT be heard. So Yaron Dekel, the crazed nationalist of Galei Zahal (Israel Army Radio) has passed judgement and banned this song, so that no little child might be spoilt by the dangerous message of this song. If you understand Hebrew, listen to the song and enjoy its gentle and incisive logic. If you don’t, read the translation below and then enjoy the song…

History tells us time and again that those who burn books, ban songs and censor the theatre and film are the ones who themselves will be remembered for their cruel follies. One hopes that the song stands a chance in Israel, the state of Yaron Dekel and his ilk – a state of danger, a dangerous state, a state of occupation, a state of violence and bloodshed. Let us hope the song wins, though how could it?…

Israeli Protest Song Banned from Army Radio: TikunOlam

by RICHARD SILVERSTEIN on OCTOBER 15, 2012 · 18 COMMENTS

in MIDEAST PEACE

There was once a time when Israeli songs like A Matter of Habit were routinely written, aired and became hits.  These were songs of political commentary or protest, songs of hope and idealism.  They represented the aspirations of Israel’s secular liberal (generally Ashkenazi) elite.  But that was long ago.

Which is why the popularity of A Matter of Habit is so extraordinary in today’s political context.  The song, sung by Izhar Ashdot and written by Alona Kimche, speaks of how an Israeli soldier begins slowly to become degraded to his own humanity and that of the Palestinians among whom he patrols.  It’s not only a powerful political and social statement, it has those infectious pop “hooks” that are the mark of a lasting hit.  As we used to say way back in the 1960s when such music was popular here: it’s got a message and you can dance to it.

The song’s popularity will no doubt be amplified by a ban that Galey Tzahal, Israeli armed forces radio, slapped on the song for “degrading” the IDF.  I’m always amazed that whenever the misdeeds of the IDF are documented and criticized that doing so somehow in itself becomes an inhuman or degrading act.  So goes the logic of the oppressor who never knows or understands his own power and oppressive acts.

Here’s a peek into the mind of the military oppressors:

The radio station announced that “Due to the song’s contents, which debase IDF soldiers, the station commander decided that there is no room on Army Radio to publicly celebrate a song that denigrates and denounces those that have sacrificed their life for the defense of the country.”

The statement continued, “the artist Izhar Ashdot is held in high esteem by Army Radio. In this specific case however, we believe with the artistic leeway afforded to artists by this station, Army Radio, as a station of soldiers, where many soldiers perform their military serve, should avoid celebrating a song that demonizes those soldiers.”

It appears that the soldiers of the IDF are so fragile that they cannot withstand even a bit of scrutiny or introspection without collapsing into a morass of self-doubt and moral paralysis.  God forbid that any such soldier should question himself or his comrades.  The entire military order might collapse leaving Israel defenseless before the massing hordes of Arab enemies.

Here are the lyrics translated into English:

Chorus: Learning to kill is a matter of a push
It begins with something small, then it comes easier

Patrolling all night in the Nablus casbah
Hey, what here is ours and what’s yours
The beginning is an experiment
A rifle butt banging on the door
Fearful children, a terrified family
Then a closure, there’s already danger
Death lies in wait around every corner
You cock your weapon and your arm trembles
Your finger tightens around the trigger
Your heart goes crazy, beats in fright
It knows that the next one will be a lot easier.
They aren’t men or women
They’re only things and shadow
Learning to kill is a matter of routine.

Chorus
Portents from heaven fall upon the streets
There’s no chance of life going on
The end is near
Prophecies of terror
Like the cries of ravens
Lock the shutters
Seal yourself in your homes
We’re but a handful
And they are so many
A tiny country consumed by enemies
In their hearts there’s only hatred, evil intent and darkness
Learning to fear is a matter of habit.

Learning cruelty is a matter of a push
It begins with something small, and then gets easier
Every boy is a man thirsting for conquests
Hands behind the head, feet spread apart
It’s a time of danger, a time of terror
A solder who weakens isn’t worthy of mercy
Your cousin is like an animal
He’s used to seeing blood.
He doesn’t feel any pain
He’s not a human being.
A field uniform, a jock itch, fragility and routine.
The distance between stupidity and evil is short.
The land of Israel is ours and ours alone
Learning cruelty is a matter of habit.

Little boy, little boy stop
Little boy, little boy come back
Come to me sweetheart
Come to me my baby
The skies are threatening and it’s gloomy outside
Your tin soldiers are still here under your bed
Come on home little boy
Come home
Come home.

Learning to love is a matter of tenderness
With a careful step
And a gentle cloud
We hesitate and melt
Become soft and round
Learning to love is a matter of habit.

Being a human being is a matter of a push
Conceived like a fetus and then it’s delivered
For a moment to be only here, only today
And to be on the other side of the checkpoint
But our heart’s already become coarsened
Our skin thickened
Deaf and blind in a bubble of this existence
In wonder we’ll watch the falling angel
To be a human being is a matter of habit.

The images in the video don’t just represent the lyrics, they expand upon them visually and reinforce them. They’re a work of art in themselves. The last image, as Ashdot sings of a falling angel and being a human being, shows the bruised back of a tortured Palestinian prisoner. It’s an ironic twist on the lyrics that brings home the message that we Israelis have become these torturers, but we must strive to be human beings instead.

That such a song, summoning Israelis to return to their innate humanity and turn away from the brutes they’ve become, should be censored by Israeli media is the crowning commentary on what latter-day Israel has become. Interesting also that the song has 460 “Dislikes” and only 330 “Likes.” It’s apparently hit a very raw nerve.

For those seeking similar wonderful Israeli songs of protest, read my posts on David Broza’s B’Libi and Chava Alberstein’s Chad Gadya.

Academic boycott has to be part of the BDS campaign: Middleeastmonitor

Ben White

Academic boycott has to be part of the BDS campaign

As the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement, launched by Palestinian groups in 2005, has grown, some strategies and targets have attracted more controversy than others. The academic boycott campaign is one which is still rejected or viewed with ambivalence by some who would otherwise support other forms of boycott, such as goods produced in West Bank settlements.

Before looking at the specifics of the case for an academic boycott, it is important to place it in the context of BDS as a whole, a campaign the tactics of which are increasingly adopted internationally in response to a call from Palestinians for civil society action to help end Israeli impunity and contribute to the realisation of the Palestinians’ rights. At the heart of BDS is the reality of Israeli apartheid and exclusionary policies, a direct link between these crimes and the need for accountability, and the principle of international solidarity.

The same logic is at play when it comes to the question of the institutional complicity of Israeli universities with colonisation, occupation and apartheid, of which there are numerous examples (useful information can be found in this 2009 study).

The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, for example, has strong ties to the Israeli military and defence manufacturers, including drone-specialists Elbit Systems. Technion’s researchers’ list of credits includes thedevelopment of a remote-controlled bulldozer for use by the IDF in the Occupied Territories.

Tel Aviv University, meanwhile, has boasted of its role “at the front line of the critical work to maintain Israel’s military and technological edge”, citing both “classified” research, as well as “55 projects” funded by the R&D Directorate of the Ministry of Defence. Tel Aviv University campus includes land belonging to Sheikh Muwannis, a Palestinian village ethnically cleansed and destroyed in 1948. The faculty club is the home of the former village sheikh.

At the University of Haifa, the National Security Studies Centre talks about “a special programme of graduate studies in national security and strategic studies” that “has by now trained hundreds of senior officers in the Israeli Defence Forces” and is the reason for “a warm and active relationship” between the university and the IDF. At Bar Ilan University, one joint initiative with the government grants teaching certificate scholarships to “outstanding fighters” in order to harness their values “for the benefit of Israel’s next generation”.

These are just a few of the many ways in which Israel’s academic institutions collude with the state in the colonisation of Palestine: “The entire nation is complicit in the occupation, and there is no safe haven in the libraries and laboratories within the Green Line.” This reality is at the heart of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, launched in 2004, with its call for boycott joined by the general BDS declaration the following year.

Common objections

There are a few consistently-raised objections to the academic boycott campaign. One such issue is the claim that it constitutes an attack on academic freedom. Firstly, it is unclear why the institutions of academia should be exempted from the same questions of complicity and responsibility that other sectors of society face. Leading boycott activists Omar Barghouti and Lisa Taraki have addressed this question directly:

We think that the freedom that Israeli academics appear keen to preserve is the freedom to continue being scholars, i.e. to have an uninterrupted flow of research funds, to continue to get grants to be released from teaching, to take sabbaticals, to continue to be able to write, engage in scholarly debate, and to do all the things respectable academics are supposed to do. But can they or should they be able to enjoy these freedoms (which sound more like privileges to us) without any regard to what is going on outside the walls of the academy, to the role of their institutions in the perpetuation of colonial rule?

The reality for Palestinians under military occupation means numerous restrictions on the ability of faculty and students to conduct academic life, including the permit regime and obstacles to freedom of movement. Just recently, Israel’s High Court supported the state’s refusal to allow Palestinians from the Gaza Strip to attend West Bank universities. It is these attacks on ‘academic freedom’, part and parcel of Israel’s apartheid regime, which BDS strategies are intended to challenge.

A second, frequently heard objection is that academic boycott targets, harms and alienates the most ‘progressive’ sector of Israeli society – professors committed to Palestinian rights and a ‘just’ solution. But this is not an accurate picture. From several thousands of Israeli academics, sporadic initiatives aimed at defending, for example, the right of Israelis to refuse military service in the Occupied Territories, typically gain the support of a few hundred individuals (see this petition).

In fact, when Israeli academics have protested against government policies, it is often in the context of defending themselves or their colleagues, including concern for how Israeli academia will be viewed internationally. So in 2008, protests about restrictions on Palestinian students from the West Bank being allowed to enter Israel for studies were expressed in terms of both “academic freedom” and, in the words of Hebrew University professor Moshe Ron, that the policy helps “those who are trying to impose an academic boycott on Israel”.

The same argument has been deployed in the case of Ariel settlement’s college, where those opposed to it being granted university status have claimed that the upgrade “makes [the anti-boycott] case much more difficult to make”. Prof. David Newman, who has “spent much of [his] time during the past five years rebutting attempts by foreign academics to impose an academic boycott on Israel”, is similarly worried about the impact of the current struggle over Ben Gurion University’s Politics Department.

Sadly then, the dissident role of Israeli academia is exaggerated (both disingenuously, and also by wishful thinking), particularly when it comes to challenging and resisting the systematic and institutionalised mechanisms of Palestinian displacement, subjugation and dispossession. A few may genuinely speak up against apartheid, but the majority are silent, or worse. Even Meretz and Labour-voting ‘leftists’, for example, have no problem teaching in a West Bank colony.

A third charge is that the academic boycott campaign is hypocritical, given the links enjoyed by UK (or US, etc.) universities to national militaries, arms companies and other human rights abusers. This is a version of the ‘But what about X’ argument routinely deployed to attack BDS and ignores the fact that BDS, including academic, is a strategy (not a principle) being pursued in light of a call from Palestinians. Furthermore, BDS initiatives on campuses can often end up feeding into, and strengthening, efforts to challenge domestic militarism and links with imperialism and war profiteers.

Fighting against the boycott

Despite the academic boycott campaign being in its infancy, it has already caused enough concern so as to prompt different forms of pushback. As early as 2006, there was a meeting between Britain’s then-education secretary Alan Johnson and Israel’s education minister “to discuss anti-Israeli sentiment on university campuses” and an academic boycott in particular.

Two years later, the Britain-Israel Research and Academic Exchange partnership (BIRAX) was established, with media reports noting how the initiative’s focus on “junior academics” was “not coincidental” and aimed at influencing the boycott debate in the unions. Announcing further funding in 2010, UK Foreign Office Minister Ivan Lewis said that support for BIRAX was “a tangible example of [the government’s determination to oppose boycotts against Israel”.

Another example of pushback is the establishment of Israel studies centres – “a different way to fight academic boycotts“, in the words of Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz. Academic boycott initiatives have, according to professor Ilan Troen, director of the Israel Studies Centre at Brandeis University, influenced positively “the willingness of donors to give funds toward this cause”.

Conclusion

With significant amounts of money and resources being invested in combating an academic boycott through various initiatives, campaigners know that they face an uphill battle, but one that is an important part of global Palestine solidarity.

At a Knesset committee meeting in May attended by a delegation from the UK-Israel Life Sciences Council (LSC), the Chief Scientist at Israel’s Ministry of Science, Prof. Ehud Gazit, related how “during the dark days of the beginning of the calls for boycott”, he went to a conference at the University of Nottingham where he found “no dispute, no boycott”, nothing “about the conflict”, and Israel “portrayed as a normal country”.

Unwittingly, however, Gazit here points to the significance of the boycott campaign. There is nothing ‘normal’ about military occupation, apartheid, and settler colonialism – and as long as Israel continues such practises, then an approach of isolation and accountability must be our response to the Palestinian call for solidarity.

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