Monday, May 28, 2007

Rave Against the Occupation

Among all the peace efforts in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, this is by far the coolest. The first political dance party against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza featured electronic DJs and rappers in Tel Aviv, 2002. The second was in 2003. These two dance parties actually inspired two films Noam Kaplan's Blue and White Collar and Eitan Fox's The Bubble.

Making peace is so difficult, and most efforts are slowed and hindered by the invocation of history and the use of blame tactics. For example, perhaps the British are to blame for all of this. I mean, what right had they, in 1917, to promise the Jews a national home in Palestine? And why did the Palestinians reject partition in 1947? Why did Israel colonize the territories after 1967? Why did the Americans let Israel get away with it? Why did the Arab states leave the refugees to fester in camps? The Palestinians are terrorists, Zionism is racism, Israel's enemies are anti-Semites. Yasser Arafat should have accepted Israel's “generous offer” at Camp David in 2000. But, hang on, Israel's offer was not so generous...

Israel now has at least abandoned the nationalist dream of a "Greater Israel" that mesmerized it after the "great victory" of 1967. The illusion that the Palestinians would fall into silence has been shattered by two intifadas and every rocket Hamas fires from Gaza. Israel's present government says it is committed to a two-state solution. But it is a weak government, and has lacked the courage to spell out honestly the full territorial price Israelis must pay. The Palestinians have meanwhile gone backwards. If Hamas means what it says, it continues to reject the idea that Jews have a right to a national existence in the Middle East. Hamas wants to drive the Jews "into the sea"--every anti-semite's goal. And nationalist elements in the Jewish territory-hungry state are no better.

What self-defeating madness!!! For peace to come, Israel must give up the West Bank and share Jerusalem; the Palestinians must give up the dream of return and make Israel feel secure as a Jewish state. All the rest is detail, and in the mean-time let's all do our postmodern dances and listen to the anti-occupation sounds of the underground. That's what the Rave Against the Occupation was about. Naturally then, Hip Hop is appropriate since its the music of oppression, and electronica is the music for dreams of bettering our future. Dam, the patriotic hip hop group from Gaza promote Palestinian moral superiority. They blame the Israelis for all their troubles, and they invoke history in songs such as "Born Here". Sameh Zakout, SAZ, is the Arab-identity rapper for peace and change. Groups like and Slingshot support the growing Palestinian Lyrical Front.

Israeli rappers like Subliminal, BooSkills, and Illan Babylon are all part of a label called TACT--Tel Aviv City Team--and are creators of "Zionist Hip Hop". They eschew drugs and promote patriotism and military service. Israeli Hip Hop violinist Miri Ben-Ari has collaborated with American rappers like Wyclef, Twista, and Kanye West. It's slowly becoming popular in Europe and the US. But most of the rappers in TACT were not "Born Here" just like the Dam song says. The Israeli rappers made aliyah from places like California and the Northeastern states. But they have all returned to their roots in Israel.

While musical propaganda is certainly interesting, it's inescapable that it is propaganda, and this means Liberal societies are faced with a false dillemma over whether to prohibit this music. Propaganda that supports the state is ignored or encouraged. Anti-state propaganda is suppressed. We are all psychologically adept at spotting Allied and Nazi propagnda from the 30s and 40s. But this new form is less visible and harder to spot, just like it was to the folk of ealier conflicts. We're used to believing lyrics and music are exercises and free speech, and they are. But they also can be tools of the state even though lyrical propaganda is not directly state-sponsored.

Yet it doesn't need to be--people will create their own propaganda and the government will do what they can to support it, or at least foster opportunities for it to grow, such as providing venues and not using their authroity to crack down on activity. I don't the government should crack down on any of this activity at all. Propaganda is speech, and is protected. But in cases where the state does crackdown, such as anti-electronic music acts just in 2004 which targets electronic music. This shows the discriminately anti-liberal purpose of a powerful state.

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