Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Rescinding on Neutrality, The Prodigy, The Boycott and Israel

The Prodigy are being urged to take the words of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu to heart.  Tutu emphasized last Sunday that people who were denied their dignity and rights deserve the solidarity of their fellow human beings. ''Those who turned a blind eye to injustice actually perpetuate injustice. If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor," Tutu said, as he spoke in support of Israeli Apartheid Week.
But by playing Israel, The Prodigy would be taking an active step in supporting the oppressor.
Taking the "Neutral Stand"
A recently uncovered article (dated Nov 26, 2013) from Haaretz's Hebrew online version quotes Maxim
Maxim Reality, The Prodigy
from The Prodigy as saying:   
"I won't perform in Israel or Palestine. It's true I came a long time ago and it was nice, but today I won't come. I'm not choosing a side in the conflict, my protest is against war. I'm saying that first you need to make peace, then I'll come." After the Israeli interviewer asks if all the band members agree: "The issue hasn't come up specifically, but they know my position. I speak only for myself, I won't come. I hate wars. And as you've probably noticed, we haven't been in your area for a long time."  
Shifting to a Pro-Israeli Stand
Paradoxically, the Official facebook (and twitter) for the band The Prodigy announced on March 5th that the band "will be playing Trade Fairs Center (open air), Tel Aviv on the 29th May 2014 with support from Feed Me."  Tickets are already being sold.
Tragically, open discourse regarding the highly political move by The Prodigy to breach the boycott call by Palestinian civil society appears to be shut down on the band's own website.  Conversation in the community forum section of the official website is effectively squashed by the moderator "fLiNtY"s firm stance: "Locking the Topic b4 it goes out of hand, pls keep it to music / band related stuff. Thx. "
Already, many people have called out via social media, asking the band to cancel.  A facebook page, only days old, has already garnered support.
Music Doesn't Transcend Politics
It's possible that Maxim Reality, Liam Howlett and Keith Flint are not aware that over 2.4 million Palestinians live in the Israeli-controlled West Bank.  Israel has constructed an intricate system of sectors within this occupied area. Hundreds of ghettos are isolated from other areas using a system of sniper towers, patrol roads, cement walls, layers of barbed wire, electric fencing and arbitrary and permanent military checkpoints. Man-less drones and frequent night raids inflict fear on a population where approximately half are children.  Music cannot build bridges across this chasm of inequality.
Israel’s treatment of the 1.5 million people in Gaza has been to bulldoze once-productive farmland and bomb buildings that held preschools and universities.  As the borders have been sealed shut, Gaza has been forced to depend on UN schools, and to subsist on what food supplies Israel decides to let in. Consequently, Gazan’s are living in what many term an open-air prison.  It would be unthinkable for a person from Gaza to even consider attending The Prodigy's concert.  Boycotts work, they create the backdrop for change. Ignoring the boycott call only furthers the fallacious idea that Israel does not need to be held accountable.  Israel, meanwhile, is using cultural events to create a false image of itself as a progressive, artistic state with a European flavour.  Israel’s Trade Fair Center is a part of this larger state effort.  Recruiting The Prodigy to play Israel will undoubtedly be used to normalize the unspeakable:  the crime of apartheid.
Special thanks to Tali Shapiro for translation from Hebrew.