Friday, April 27, 2012

Open letter to Irish band Dervish: Don't perform in Israel!


Dear members of Dervish (Kathy Jordan, Brian McDonagh, Liam Kelly, Tom Morrow, Shane Mitchell and Michael Holmes):

Many lovers of Irish music have been deeply shocked and disappointed to learn of your plan to tour Israel next June, despite the 2006 Palestinian call for an international cultural and academic boycott of the Israeli state until it abides by international law.

On this tour you will be joined by the Irish band FullSet, which boasts that it has “already shared a stage with some of the hottest names in Celtic music, such as Moya Brennan, Lúnasa…, Andy Irvine and Dónal Lunny.”

This is deeply ironic, because Irvine and Lunny – together with Christy Moore, Sharon Shannon, Damien Dempsey, Ronan Browne, Jimmy McCarthy, and many other giants of Irish music (and over 200 other creative and performing artists) – have signed a pledgenot to avail of any invitation to perform or exhibit in Israel… until such time as Israel complies with international law and universal principles of human rights.

This means that if you perform in Israel you will be betraying both the Palestinian people and many of your most respected colleagues. You will be manipulated by the state of Israel to whitewash the utter criminality of  its occupation and colonisation of Palestinian lands.

In 2005 an Israeli spokesman asserted that “We see culture as a propaganda tool of the first rank, and…do not differentiate between propaganda and culture.” [Ha’aretz, September 2005]

Here are some examples (among many) of the way that Israel represses the expression and dissemination of Palestinian culture:

* In 2002, Israel prevented the Palestinian poets Zakaria Mohammed and Ghassan Zaqtan from travelling to Ireland to read their work.

* In May 2009, Israeli soldiers prevented the opening of the Palestine Festival of Literature in Jerusalem. In April 2011, the venue hosting the final event of that year’s Festival was attacked with tear gas by the Israeli army.

* In May 2010, the Israeli authorities deported Spain’s most famous clown, Ivan Prado, who was planning to establish a clown festival in Ramallah.

* In summer 2011, Israeli commandos assaulted the Freedom Theatre in occupied Jenin, arresting several of its members.

* Also last year, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu suspended Israel’s financial contribution to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation which oversees the protection of the world’s cultural heritage. This was to “punish” the majority of the world’s states for having voted to admit Palestine to the UN agency. This constitutes an Israeli cultural boycott of most of the world. For the same reason, Israel larcenously suspended tax transfers to the Palestinian Authority.

If you cancel your trip to Israel, thus incidentally saving the members of FullSet from the infamy of breaching the Palestinian cultural boycott so early in their career, you will have joined the likes of Roger Waters, Elvis Costello, Cassandra Wilson, and Carlos Santana who, having at first agreed to perform in that country, decided that it was of greater importance to support the just struggle of the Palestinian people against Israeli oppression.

The governments of the EU see Israel as “a strategic partner” and offer it generous trading and diplomatic privileges. When governments refuse to take human rights violations seriously, then it is up to civil society to act. Please be on the side of justice: please cancel your tour of Israel!

Raymond Deane
Cultural Liaison Officer
Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Another IPSC founder has a blog of interest.

In 2001 I was one of the founders of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which I chaired between 2002 and 2005. Another founder was Conor McCarthy, who has also started a blog which will be largely concerned with Palestine:

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Acceptable Racism - on Cynthia Ozick

                                                            Acceptable Racism
                                                                                    By Raymond Deane

Apparently the 84-year-old American novelist Cynthia Ozick is favourite to win the “Orange Prize for excellence in fiction written by women” for her novel Foreign Bodies.

In an article in the UK Guardian's series My Hero (20th April), Ozick chose George Eliot, the great 19th century English novelist. She singled out Eliot's final novel Daniel Deronda, something of an ugly duckling among her masterpieces not so much because of its advocacy of Zionism as because this is conveyed by means of endless speechifying - “high oratory, not novelistic art” (Ozick).

The great Palestinian intellectual Edward Said, who also profoundly admired Eliot, wrote in his seminal book The Question of Palestine (Vintage, USA, 1979/1992) that by paying no attention to the effect Zionism would have on those people already living in Palestine “Eliot is no different from other European apostles of sympathy, humanity, and understanding for whom noble sentiments were either left behind in Europe, or made programmatically inapplicable outside Europe.” In this she resembles Marx and Mill who “seemed to have believed that such ideas as liberty, representative government, and individual happiness must not be applied in the Orient for reasons that today we would call racist.” (p.65) Eliot shared the Gentile and Jewish Zionist “view of the Holy Land as essentially empty of inhabitants, not because there were no inhabitants... but because their status as sovereign and human inhabitants was systematically denied.” (p.66)

There is no echo of such a critique in Ozick's encomium to the novel; instead, Eliot is described without qualification as “morally serious, historically judicious and passionately just”.

This blinkered advocacy needs to be read in the context of earlier articles by Ozick.

In a 2006 review of the play My Name is Rachel Corrie (based on the diaries and letters of a young American activist crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer) she refers to “the culpable Palestinian origins of the current fighting” and “the brutal cynicism of Rachel Corrie's handlers, eager, for propaganda value, to bait bulldozers and tanks with the lives of their young recruits.” Corrie's engagement with the oppressed is described as “slumming” and her espousal of Gandhian ideals dismissed as “neo-Marxist paraphernalia and hate-America jargon” (for a celebrated novelist, Ozick writes execrable prose). The play itself is “a show trial. And there are Jews in the dock.”

On 30 June 2003 Ozick published an Op Ed for the Wall Street Journal entitled Where Hatred Trumps Bread: What does the Palestinian nation offer the world? This was conceived as a diatribe against the so-called Road Map for Peace drawn up by the “international quartet” (USA, EU, Russia, UN) in early 2003. Although there is some consensus nowadays that this process was inherently flawed because overly influenced by the USA (and hence by Israel) and lacking meaningful mechanisms for enforcement, for Ozick it represented “an anti-history wherein cause and effect are reversed, protection against attack is equated with the brutality of attack, existential issues are demoted or ignored--'cycle of violence' obfuscations all zealously embraced by the State Department and the European Union.” In other words, the USA and EU were ganging up on poor little Israel, which had a right to a monopoly of violence in the Middle East.

But Ozick went further, and launched a vicious attack on the Palestinian people themselves. “By replacing history with fantasy, the Palestinians have invented a society unlike any other, where hatred trumps bread. They have reared children unlike any other children, removed from ordinary norms and behaviors... What has been the genius of Palestinian originality, what has been the contribution of the evolving culture of Palestinian sectarianism? On the international scene: airplane hijackings and the murder of American diplomats in the 1970s, Olympic slaughterings and shipboard murders in the 1980s. And toward the Jews of the Holy Land, beginning in the 1920s and continuing until this morning, terror, terror, terror, terror.”

There is a word for such language: racism. And it is racism of a particularly vicious and unadorned variety.

Now, one would hardly suggest that Ozick should be excluded from consideration from the Orange or any other literary prize because of her repulsive views. What is astonishing is that (to the best of this writer's knowledge) not one single media outlet has raised the issue of Ozick's anti-Palestinian racism. What this tells us, once again, is that such vile attitudes are not deemed worthy of mention when mere Palestinians are their object. One would hardly imagine that the anti-Semitic historian David Irving would be deemed an acceptable candidate for the Wolfson History Prize, but the  vilification of Palestinians and the negation of their history that are Ozick's ideological stock-in-trade raise no critical eyebrows.

                                                            Raymond Deane is a composer and political activist.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Other articles I've written on Germany/Palestine.

Here are some more links to article's I've published on Germany and (or versus) Palestine in Electronic Intifada, Pulse, and the Irish Left Review:

Scapegoat on Scapegoat - March 2008

A Public Stoning in Germany - March 2009

Are Germans Getting Fed Up With Israel? - January 2009

Dissident Jews Unwanted in Germany? - February 2010

Open Letter to the Heinrich Böll Foundation on Norman Finkelstein

Here is an article from 2010 in which I comment on the cancellation of Normal Finkelstein's lecture in Berlin.

Raymond Deane’s Open Letter to the Heinrich Böll Foundation on Norman Finkelstein
February 17th, 2010
UPDATE: It now appears that the Rosa Luxemburg House has also cancelled the lecture. For shame.

Raymond Deane, renowned composer and founding member and former chairperson of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign, sent this open letter to the Heinrich Böll Foundation after they cancelled Norman Finkelstein’s scheduled lecture in Berlin under the pretense that Finkelstein is a “controversial” figure.  PULSE is the first site to publish this letter in English.  The letter is also being translated into German, and will be appearing on several German websites shortly.  Finkelstein’s talk will still take place, but will be hosted by the Rosa Luxembourg Foundation.

Mr Helmut Adamaschek
Heinrich Böll Foundation

Dear Mr Adamaschek,

It is with great disappointment that I have read of the decision of the Heinrich Böll Foundation to dissociate itself from Norman G. Finkelstein’s lecture in Berlin (scheduled for 26/02/10).

If Norman Finkelstein, the son of Holocaust survivors, is a “controversial” figure, it is because his opponents have artificially created controversy by brutally caricaturing him as an anti-Semite. These opponents, let us be clear, are those who advocate unconditional support for the state of Israel, regardless of its crimes, and total suppression of views critical of that state, whether from Gentile or Jew.

Rolf Verleger, Chairman of the Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East (Jüdische Stimme für gerechten Frieden in Nahost e.V.), has described Norman Finkelstein as “a proud and conscious Jew, who defends himself against the appropriation of Jewish tradition by Jewish blood-and-soil nationalists” (“ein stolzer und bewusster Jude, der sich gegen die Vereinnahmung der jüdischen Tradition durch jüdischen Blut-und-Boden-Nationalismus wehrt.”).

Professor Verleger has justly compared the proponents of such views to McCarthyites.
You, Mr Damaschek, have allowed the name of Heinrich Böll to be sullied by associating it with such McCarthyism.

But there is worse. When a projected talk in Munich by the exiled Israeli historian Ilan Pappe in October 2009 was cancelled by order of that city’s Lord Mayor, Professor Pappe wrote that his father “was silenced in a similar way as a German Jew in the early 1930s”. Like himself, he wrote, his father and his friends were regarded as “‘humanists’ and ‘peacenik’ Jews whose voice had to be quashed and stopped.” Professor Pappe professed himself “worried, as any decent person should be, about the state of freedom of speech and democracy in present day Germany”, as instanced by the decision to censor his talk.

You, Mr Damaschek, have allowed the name of Heinrich Böll to be sullied by associating it with such censorship, and with the degradation of German democracy of which it is a symptom.
We have seen the mechanisms of defamation work smoothly in Germany when other Jews have “stepped out of line”, among them Evelyn Hecht-Galinski, Felicia Langer, Hajo Meyer, and the aforementioned Rolf Verleger. The fact that this defamation is often, in part, the work of other Jews in no way renders it more acceptable or less anti-democratic.

The creation of a culture of intimidation and (self-)censorship cannot be described as a positive contribution to German “coming-to-terms with the past” (“Vergangenheitsbewältigung”). On the contrary, it constitutes a regression that awakens suspicion about the degree to which German democracy truly encourages freedom of speech when it conflicts with perceived political expediency, and when political expediency conflicts with human and political rights – specifically, the long-denied rights of the Palestinian people, who have every reason to see Germany as one of their worst enemies. Germany will not have truly come to terms with its fascist past until it relinquishes its unconditional support for the genocidal and racist Israeli state, ceases to repress the free speech of those who criticise that state, and relinquishes the Der Stürmer-like defamation to which such critics are subjected.

In his fiction and journalism, Heinrich Böll sought to define a new German democratic consciousness productively informed by Vergangenheitsbewältigung. I believe that by participating in the defamation and censorship of Norman Finkelstein, the Foundation that you represent, Mr Adamaschek, has failed to advance this necessary process and has proved itself unworthy to bear the name of such a great writer and humanist as Heinrich Böll.

Yours sincerely,

Raymond Deane

(Composer, founding member and former chairperson of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign)

What may not be said about Israel in Germany?

Because I live for part of the year in Germany and because I feel that Germany's ongoing nefarious role in the oppression of the Palestinian people is being fatally underestimated, I will be regularly commenting on and analysing statements and commentaries concerning Israel/Palestine emanating from that country. To begin with, here is the original version of an article on the recent "Günter Grass affair", which once more brings into focus the idiocy of German discourse in this context (

              What may not be said? Günter Grass, Germany and Israel.
                                                                                                            Raymond Deane
Günter Grass is an 84-year-old Nobel prizewinning German author most famous for his 1959 novel The Tin Drum.
On April 4th the Bavarian newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung published his poem Was gesagt werden muss (What must be said), in which Grass warns against an Israeli attack on Iran and demands that Germany should cease providing Israel with nuclear-capable submarines.
To paraphrase: Why has the poet been silent for too long about the possibility of a “first strike” that could wipe out the Iranian people? Why should he not name Israel whose secret nuclear programme is beyond reach of inspection? Germany, in the name of “reparations” yet in reality for business reasons, is providing Israel with another submarine that may aim nuclear weapons at Iran, where the existence of a single atom bomb is unproven. Those who break silence on this issue are accused of “anti-Semitism”. Why, with his “last ink” does he now write that Israel threatens world peace? Because tomorrow it might be too late, and Germans “could be the deliverers of a crime” for which “none of the usual excuses/ would suffice to erase/ our shared guilt.”
Whatever the literary qualities of Grass’s poem, it testifies to his lingering literary eminence that it has engendered such a colossal backlash.
Even the Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has waded in,  claiming that Israel and Iran cannot be compared because "[i]n Iran there is a regime that denies the Holocaust and calls for the destruction of Israel". While the first part of this assertion is partly true, the second has long since been exposed as a lie – which does nothing to prevent its repeated dissemination. Netanyahu continued: “It is Iran, not Israel, which threatens to destroy other countries.” Again, the opposite is the case: Israel, which has repeatedly “destroyed” its neighbours Gaza and Lebanon, has not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and is in possession of hundreds of nuclear warheads; Iran, which has invaded none of its neighbours in modern times, has signed the NPT and possesses no nuclear weapons.
Why should Netanyahu feel obliged to respond to a piece of doggerel by a German writer? Because Germany, Europe’s most powerful country, is Israel’s most important ally after the USA.
A positive outcome of Germany’s crushing defeat in World War II has been the development of a strongly anti-war conviction among ordinary Germans. Although German participation in NATO air-strikes against Yugoslavia without a UN mandate in 1999 was successfully sold to the German people (with Grass’s support) as “humanitarian intervention” and “a progressives’ war”, German involvement in the current Afghan war has, from the start, been opposed by some 70% of Germans. If the German state is to maintain its unconditional support for Israel’s aggressive policies (even if spiced with occasional pro forma criticisms of its illegal settlement expansion), then nobody as prominent as Grass must be allowed to step out of line without being subjected to massive defamation as a deterrent. Of course Grass is vulnerable to such a campaign, having incomprehensibly waited until 2006 to admit his adolescent membership of the Waffen SS.
In Germany, the chorus of vilification has been loud and predictable.
Writing in the right-wing paper Die Welt, the notorious rabble-rouser Henryk Broder called Grass “the prototype of an educated anti-Semite” who “always had a problem with Jews”, backing these accusations with a quotation from a 2001 interview in which Grass – in line with international law – called on Israel to end the occupation and withdraw its illegal settlers. Note that both poem and interview refer to the Israeli state and not to “Jews”.
The Nazi-hunter Beate Klarsfeld, weirdly enough a candidate for Die Linke (The Left Party) in Germany’s recent presidential election, cited a Hitler speech from 1939 in which he attacked “international Jewish finance”. Were we to replace that phrase with “Israel”, according to Klarsfeld, “we would hear the same anti-Semitic music from the Tin Drummer.” By this logic, anything can be proven about any utterance simply by replacing what was actually said with something totally unconnected.
In the Berlin taz (Tageszeitung, a supposedly leftist daily paper) the educationalist Micha Brumlik concludes puzzlingly that Grass is “worse than an anti-Semite”, apparently because he cannot convincingly be pinned down as one. Klaus Hillebrand, a member of the same paper’s editorial staff, comments that “[t]he scandal consists not in Grass’s critique of Israel, but in the fact that he depicts himself as a martyred victim of Jews, who apparently wish to censor the truth. That is an anti-Semitic stereotype.” But nowhere did Grass claim that Jews were responsible for the censorship of criticism of Israel in Germany.
Such contorted reasoning needs to be placed in context.
Marking Israel’s 60th anniversary in May 2008, Peter Struck, a former Defense Minister and a member of the SDP (Social-Democratic Party), stated that “[t]he crimes of the Nazis founded a perpetual responsibility of Germans for the Jewish state.” A few months later, in a speech in a Berlin synagogue on the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht (the “night of broken glass” that features powerfully in Grass’s Tin Drum), Chancellor Angela Merkel asserted that “protecting Israel’s security is part of German Staatsräson.”
This is a Gallicism for what in English is covered by the German word Realpolitik, which has replaced the older “reason of state” defined by the Merriam-Webster online Dictionary as “a motive for governmental action based on alleged needs or requirements of a political state regardless of possible transgressions of the rights or the moral codes of individual persons.” If German “responsibility… for the Jewish state” is “perpetual”, then it is independent of any crimes of which that state may be guilty. If Nazi crimes against the Jews result not in German responsibility towards the Jewish people in general, but in “responsibility… for the [self-styled] Jewish state”, then Jews worldwide are being equated with the state of Israel, which did not exist during the Third Reich.
Within this framework, it follows naturally that any critique of Israel is by definition anti-Semitic. As a result, the “Jewish state” is conceded perpetual impunity, defended “regardless of possible transgressions of the rights… of individual persons” (or peoples) by Germany, Europe’s most powerful state, with ruthless character assassination the fate of anyone who.protests.
The philosopher Judith Butler has written: “To say that all Jews hold a given view on Israel or are adequately represented by Israel or, conversely, that the acts of Israel, the state, adequately stand for the acts of all Jews, is to conflate Jews with Israel and, thereby, to commit an anti-semitic reduction of Jewishness.”
Paradoxically, therefore, Germany’s “reason of state” commits precisely such a “reduction of Jewishness” while simultaneously facilitating the transgression of the rights of anyone deemed by the Israeli state to stand in the way of its hegemony in the Middle East.
Meanwhile, although mainstream media continue to parrot the line that his poem has caused “global outrage”, Günter Grass has received a degree of support from the German peace movement that might not have been forthcoming had the Netanyahus and Klarsfelds not ranted quite so vehemently. Participants in the traditional Easter peace marches throughout Germany, which rarely mention the question of Israel, have reportedly adopted such slogans as “Günter Grass, you are right. Thank you!” Felicia Langer, a retired German-Israeli lawyer who specialised in defending Palestinians before Israeli military courts, published an “open letter” in which she and her Holocaust survivor husband Mieciu expressed their “admiration for your civil courage in the face of the general mendacity regarding Israel”.
Gary Smith, executive director at the American Academy in Berlin, claims that Grass is “focusing the fears of Germans now around Israel as a danger…[T]his could be a turning point in the way part of the German public speaks about Israel.”
If this is the case, then Günter Grass will have achieved his greatest success since The Tin Drum.
Raymond Deane is a composer and political activist living in Ireland and Germany.