Saturday, March 11, 2006

Exit Stage Left



Since the dance saga started late last week it has taken on a life of its own billowing into commentary, argument, exchange, hurled insults and slurs. I have observed from the sidelines as remarks are laid down on this and other blogs and these are a few of my thoughts...

- Responses from the dance magazine editor and advertising head regarding the issue were forthcoming to Jewish Chronicle of London writer Rachel Fletcher in her story. An excerpt:

...as an editor, I am entitled to choose what to print. It is my prerogative. Mr Kaul was more forthcoming, telling the JC: We are opposed to the occupation. If any company in Israel co-operates with us by adding a disclaimer saying it is opposed to the occupation, settlements and everything else, we will co-operate with them.
(What does "everything else" refer to...? slf)

- It takes little genius to understand that this incident has touched upon heartfelt complicated issues defying singularity. Tied in are historical, political, social, artistic and personal implications. In the past days I have seen the terms stormtroopers, Nazi, apartheid policy, Zionist machine, and Anti-semitism bandied about in the context of open exchange and mean spiritedness.

I have ruminated quite a bit over my own use of the term Anti-semitism; Were I to re-write the original posting would I opt for a less loaded term like "discrimination" or "anti-Israel bias" or "boycott"? I'm not sure.

- It is, indeed, an editor's right to publish according to his or her standards or guidelines. It is also the reader's and advertiser's right to be informed of the standard prior to visiting the newsstand or placing an ad. See Allison's eloquently written commentary on the subject.

A final, personal note:

I left Israel in the mid-90's when suicide bombings, Oslo II's downfall and Rabin's assassination were still fresh. A journalist for several international corporations for nearly a decade, I was exhausted from years of intifada (Palestinian uprising), peace negotiation, funeral, negotiation collapse, war, funeral, demonstration, funeral & infiltration cover.

Living in San Francisco for ten years I successfully divorced myself from the situation here convincing my conscience that with newfound tools gained through lectures, workshops and discussion groups I could return to Tel Aviv, write and stay away from hard news and politicking. I haven't owned a television in 8 years.

Silly me. Six months into my return and a dance story of all things brings me right back into the thick of the same dilemma, the same moral questioning and doubting, the same rumination and the same complicated issue that can spin your head around until you spit out everything you learned and re-think the entire situation anew.

No, art and politics cannot be divorced one from the other. Clearly not in this region. But I still think we can strive to reach understanding by being open to the message. Because the message can come from mediums one might have never thought possible.

17 comments:

Liza said...

It's been really interesting to follow this story as it unfolds. I think I'm always amazed when episodes like this occur, especially when it's from a source like a dance magazine. The fine line between simple anti-Israel sentiment and actual anti-Semitism is completely blurred for me when I hear about stories such as this one, and I just can't get my head around these people's thoughts and policies, given that they don't seem to have any personal connection to the issue. Thanks for bringing it to light.

Stephanie said...

The line is not fine for yourself alone. Source depending, the differentiation between those two terms ranges dramatically. slf

Anonymous said...

"I just can't get my head around these people's thoughts and policies, given that they don't seem to have any personal connection to the issue."

I think it's a gentile thing--the prioritizing of human values over personal interests, the elevation of the universal over the tribal. It's probably a lingering legacy of Europe's Christian culture. It just seems odd to you because it's a different intellectual framework than your own.

ontheface said...

Anonymous - The fact that you dare not identify yourself speaks volumes: clearly, you know that your comment crosses the boundaries of acceptable discourse. If you are not deeply ashamed of your racism, you should be.

Anonymous1 said...

The main problem with Anonymous' comment is that it's false. It's _not_ a bad thing to elevate the universal over the tribal in certain contexts: moral principles _are_ universal, for example. The problem with discrimination, in Dance Europe's case and generally, is with the _departure_ from universalism: to discriminiate is precisely to hold a particular group to a different standard than that to which one holds the rest of humanity.
There's nothing particularly Christian about the universalism that's violated in such a case. "You shall have one law for you and for the foreigner that dwelleth with you" is a passage from the Jewish Bible.
That happens to be a good principle, so even if it _were_ distinctively Christian it wouldn't--despite the commenter's intent--be accusing Christianity of anything bad to attribute the idea of a universal morality to it. But as it happens,
i. there's an older source for the principle;
ii. it's a good principle;
&
iii. the problem is w/the _deviation_ from the principle, with the fact that the Dance Europe case blatantly _isn't_ a case where the principle has been applied.

Anonymous said...

ontheface wrote: "Your comment crosses the boundaries of acceptable discourse."

Come off it. Read She's lament again: "I just can't get my head around these people's thoughts and policies, given that they don't seem to have any personal connection to the issue." Do we have to pretend we don't know what that's code for?

What the heck is a "personal connection" to injustice? (And for that matter, what precisely is the personal connection of all the posters from Brooklyn?)

You can play the "antisemitism" game, but I refuse.

anonymous1, I appreciate your patient posts, but you are in a logical loop: Dance Europe's actions are not a principled response to an injustice because they are antisemitic. How do I know they're antisemitic? Because their actions are not truly a response to any injustice. You might as well just say "No criticisms of the Jewish state allowed" and get it over with.

(Of course if the host finds my posts "beyond the boundaries of acceptable discourse," I'll defer to her wishes.)

anonymous1 said...

Anonymous: You're right that I would be in a logical loop _if_ I said:
"Dance Europe's actions are not a principled response to an injustice because they are antisemitic. How do I know they're antisemitic? Because their actions are not truly a response to any injustice."
But I _haven't_ said that.
Let's be clear: I _haven't_ said that Dance Europe's response is anti-Semitic, though there's good reason to suspect it might be. Anti-Semitic or not, it's a clear case of unfair discrimination against one particular country, because by universal standards of justice there are other countries guilty of worse offenses that aren't subject to the same conditions Dance Europe imposes on Israel. Discrimination is bad precisely because it violates the sort of universal principles you (mistakenly) attribute to Christianity.

So I'm not in a logical loop. I _haven't_ made two claims each of which depends on the other to be true. No. The claim of discrimination (or of an unprincipled response) I make because of Dance Europe's _practice._ Anti-Semitism is one possible reason for the discrimination, but it's not the only one. The point is that even if anti-Semitism isn't the reason, the discrimination's wrong.

The funny thing is that when you mad the claim about the Christian origins of universalism, I thought you were an anti-Christian Jew, and it's only now that I realize what I should have realized before, when you said that anti-Semitism was the Jews' new religion: you're an anti-Jewish Jew. In other words: I misunderstood what sort of bigot you were. But what I got right was that you are a bigot.

It seems I can't always tell when you're being sarcastic, so I don't know whether you were sincere in saying that my responses have been patient. Believe me: with each comment of yours I grow less and less patient.

Anonymous said...

Whether you call it antisemitism or, now, "discrimination," you've still essentially said "No criticism of the homeland allowed!" Good luck with that position--it ought to keep you happily spotting "bigots" for a long time.

(By the way, remember that although you now claim not to call it antisemitism, the hostess of this site took a somewhat different view--she immediately turned them in to the Jewish Chronicle so they could be appropriately punished for their thought crimes.)

anonymous1 said...

i. I've never said it was antisemitism, always only that there was good reason to think it might be, but that in any case it's discriminiation;
ii. I _haven't_ (not "essentially" and not in any other way) said "no criticism of the homeland allowed"; a boycott isn't mere criticism, and in this case it entails subjecting people from a particular country to a political condition that's required only of them and not of people from worse regimes, and which has nothing to do with the subject matter of the magazine;
iii. it's not my position on this matter that enables me to spot bigotry; you've made particular statements for which, from a universal standard, bigotry is the best explanation;
iv. it's a shame that the Jewish Chronicle (and Jewish publications generally) is more concerned with anti-Israeli bigotry (both when it is and when it isn't anti-Semitic) than other publications are, but that's the world we live in and it was a sensible choice for Stephanie to make. No one is being published for thought crimes. Rather, a dance magazine's bigoted _policy_ (i.e., something in the realm of action, not just of thought) is being exposed for the shameful thing it is.
v. It's odd that you should mention thought crimes, because commission of thought crimes is precisely the assumption Dance Europe makes about Israelis: until Israelis prove their innocence by making an explicit statement, Israelis are presumed guilty and cannot appear in the magazine's pages.
vi. Good luck to you too. But _not_--as distinct from the good luck you sarcastically wished me--good luck with your position. Good luck with acquiring a genuine sense of justice, as distinct from the sham sense of it you currently possess.

anonymous1 said...

I made two small errors above:
In i. I misspelled discrimination
&
in iv. I wrote "published" when I meant "punished."

Liza said...

anonymous: I'm sorry, but I wasn't aware that I was speaking in code. There are many injustices in this world, and your presumption that I am placing personal interests ahead of human values is way off base. My problem is with the fact that the Palestinian issue seems to be the major cause celebre in this world, while many equally and even more tragic issues are shunted aside. Why are people not more concerned with all of the tragedy that is happening in countries across Africa? Why don't people boycott China for its dreadful human rights record (instead of rewarding them with the Olympics)? Why must the world hold only Israel to a higher standard, while governments the world over are committing are committing heinous crimes against their own people?

Oh, and as far as your comment regarding it being a "gentile thing" that "just seems odd to you because it's a different intellectual framework than your own", well, the only response I could come up with is, what a load of crap! You don't know me, you don't know who my friends are or what I do in my spare time. Your presumptions and comments are nothing short of condescending, and they say much more about the kind of person that you are than they do about me.

Anonymous said...

The reason nobody boycotts China is that China is not a democracy. Israel, as we're constantly reminded, is. Ariel Sharon did not impose his will on Israeli society, he was elected. Israel's policies in the West Bank are the policies of its people.

So if you are waiting to see a boycott of China before you'll take any action, you can stop waiting now.

As to why someone might chose Israel's occupation, out of the whole list of the world's evils, as the target of their activism, I can think of many possible reasons. Not one of them involves "antisemitism."

1. Maybe they feel that the world's longest running military occupation has gone on long enough.

2. Maybe they're Palestinian and feel the injustice of the occupation on a personal level.

3. Maybe they're Jewish and resent the way Israel claims to be occupying someone else's land on their behalf.

4. Maybe they're Americans and resent the way they're forced to foot the bill for it all.

5. Maybe they feel it's their duty to oppose a society whose courts--uniquely in all the world--have legalized torture, collective punishment, hostage taking, and house demolitions.

6. Maybe they're troubled that a nation could be founded in the 20th century by people coming from Europe and settling an already inhabited land.

7. Maybe the recent invasion of Iraq and the coming invasion of Iran have led them to believe that the West Bank's poison is spreading.

8. Maybe they're fascinated by the unique legal situation of Israel's founding, when a world body gave land to a group of people under the explicit condition that this was not be at the expense of the people then living there. Maybe they're curious about how well that bargain has been upheld.

9. Or maybe they take seriously Israel's claim of being a "light unto the nations," and are willing to hold it to that standard.



Whether you personally agree or disagree with any of these isn't the point. The point is that all the cries of "antisemitism" are phony.

Anonymous said...

Phony? Your sad, tired list full of hatred is phony. Give it a rest.

Anonymous said...

Hola !

I know it has been stressfull dealing with Rapha`s move to a different everithing but there is someone, a little guy same age as your kid who always had fun with him, my pequeño Diego; he misses Rapha so much and he asked me to write you guys. Diego wants to see rapha and we know it is a little hard, they are not aware of many issues yet, he thinks (Diego) just go up the stairs thru Sal`s room and knock on the door.
By the way, to this same day yhe "poo poo head" word they learned from the movie A Bugs Life, is still there, at Diego`s school is not so wellcome and he was told not to say those words in school so he calls Alex, Sal or Joey ... ... heads once in a while.
He`s to go to kinder August 28th, to West Portal School, We are happy he was given a good school.
Monica has a steady job now so we take turns to care for Diego or pick him up at daycare.

Saludos a todos !

Diego Nuñez Ponce

daijabu? said...

I love writing comments myself but what is all the fuss about. So they don't like Israelis and also cute Anon does not seem to like Israelis. I can live with that. I used to steam and puff and argue with people until I realized that one joint on a Tel Aviv rooftop followed by some alcohol infused night in a bar full of kusiyot, usualy does the job much better than all the words. That's how we should convince everybody how great we are, smother them with booth drugs and girls (or boys if thats what you are into).

Anonymous said...

Just found this editorial on the subject;

http://www.article19.co.uk/06/editorial/dance_europe_and_israel.php

Lilly! :O

Stephanie said...

Thanks for the article. A few new and salient points made and taken. slf