Gaza from a distance

Here are two videos, via the New Left Project, that relate to Israel/Palestine and are worth watching.

First up is a short 3-minute piece that restates some of the simple facts about the siege of the Gaza Strip and the recent assault on the aid flotilla.

Following that, here is a clip from the Colbert show where the host interviews Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to the United States.

This has reminded me of an event last year where Professor As’ad Abukhalil, aka. Angry Arab, participated in a debate with the Israeli Consul General (who clearly did not in advance know who Abukhalil was; one of the few cracks in the slick Israeli PR machine, that). It is worth watching and you can start here. The two videos make for eye-opening and stirring watching (the Consul speaks first, then the Professor) but what is perhaps most striking about the debate is that Abukhalil refuses to directly address, or even look at, his opponent; in his words, this is part of “the utter need to maintain the card of absolutely boycotting the usurper entity in all aspects.”

From another perspective, here is a blog post from English folk-punk musician Frank Turner articulating why he chose to go ahead and play a show in Israel. He makes two arguments; the first is that he “doesn’t really know the situation” but people are too quick to overlook what “an awful bunch of shits”  Hamas are. Well, it’s a poor argument and can be easily taken apart (for example: does Turner know Hamas are also the only group who are distributing essential goods and providing vital services throughout the Gaza strip, or that they are the only elected government in the Arab world?), but he is correct in the sense that you cannot reduce the issue to black and white, good versus evil. This is idiotic moralising. However, you can quite easily develop an understanding of the historical and contemporary realities, in all their shades of grey, and recognise the extreme disparity in every measure of this conflict; a disparity weighted toward the state of Israel and its enforcers.

His second argument is:

The shows were organized by private citizens without any state involvement, and I’m not in the habit of judging individuals by the actions of their government. We in the UK and the USA, after all, have the Iraq war and occupation hanging over our collective heads. Of course I’m aware that some artists are boycotting Israel, as is their right; however it seems morally duplicitous to me to boycott Israel and not (say) the USA. Maybe big artists can afford to boycott one small state for the sake of some media grandstanding, and not the other, their main cashcow?

This I have more sympathy for. Israel, the USA and the UK are all right this moment complicit in some of the most significant crimes against humanity of our time. There is a certain hypocrisy to focusing on one over the other. I have more sympathy for the approach of Professor As’ad Abukhalil – some issues transcend the demands of social civility (or should – behold the spectacle of Bono shaking hands with Blair and Putin) – but I can certainly see why even an intelligent and thoughtful musician who made his name through punk rock, personality and protest music might find some arguments for boycott to lack moral equivalence.

I need to go away and do some other things now, but I’m contemplating the extent to which individualist anarchist philosophies of personal autonomy are driving Turner’s perspective, whereas collectivist anarchism and solidarity with the occupied drives Abukhalil’s. Both have expressed anarchist sympathies in the past and there has always been something of a schism between these two schools of thought. But, I must drink tea and smoke a cigarette and do some work.

(Edit: I changed the title to better reflect the post content.)

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