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Pro-Palestinian activists disrupt Israeli cultural event - again

In Berlin this week, a concert performed by the mostly-octogenarian Israeli choral group, Gevatron, was interrupted by pro-Palestinian activists. The individuals donned red shirts and shouted slogans, while unfurling banners and signs and confronting the audience attending the benefit for the Jewish National Fund (JNF).

The group that posted the video, DirectActionBerlin, just opened their account last week, putting up – you guessed it – just one video. I was tempted not to even post about this, lest this forum gives this stunt – or others like it – any more attention or publicity than I think they deserve. But I felt the need to express, in my opinion, how counterproductive acts like these are.  And on a personal note, I am sort of sick of them.

First all, we get it: you have access to a printer and an iPhone.  And unlike the elderly Germans attending the concert who probably went back to their bridge games and told their friends about those hooligans who caused their blood-level to rise, you will run back to your computer and tweet/Facebook/blog about what you did.  Technological advantage goes to you. Check.

What next?  The display and set-up reeked of self-publicity (though this one will likely not suffer the same criticism that Mona Eltahawy’s– “if you are on twitter, that’s M-O-N-A” — spray painting incident did.) The girl screaming when someone grabbed her arm was so Over The Top, it actually reminded me of my high school drama teach, who once told me, “If you are ever in a car accident, even a small one, and someone hits your vehicle, just open the door and fall out. Her scream was so orchestrated for dramatic effect. But, in opinion, it was B-movie acting at best.

So it was a stunt for your own promotional purposes. And you got your attention in HaaretzYnet and probably a few other places (including, now, +972). But who were you targeting? Ah yes, those Jewish National Fund tin cans – that were knocked over on the way out — where every Jewish American child (and, I guess German Jewish child), at one point or another, dropped a quarter in the can around the time of his or her bar/bat mitzvah. Clearly, you’ll argue, that money was going towards the occupation, and those trees that the JNF vows to plant are actually furthering Jewish roots in the land were Jews don’t belong.

And yes, of course, interrupting the Gevatron, so no one will hear their lyrics calling for the annihilation of the Palestinians.  Ummm, what were those words again?

Well, you did it. Your fans love you more, and your enemies loathe you ever more.

Okay, now I’ll admit, part of my frustration – and thus cynicism – lies in the fact that I despise publicity stunts.  They are cheap, they are unintelligible  and at the end of the day, not only are they not productive, but worse – they risk being counterproductive. The internet age has made everyone into a stunt-master. Gone are the days when demonstrators picketed outside for hours and days. Now, all you need is 30 seconds and a wi-fi connection and no one will know the difference. Tell me, activists, why did you not protest OUTSIDE of the event? Not stunt-ish enough?

And now, what I see, as the bigger problem: because of stunts like this, those who hold leftist positions end up having their views — often thoughtful perspectives and practical approaches — ignored by the Right (and even Center). They are dismissed as supporters of “meshugas” like this, and with them, any potential of talking – YES, TALKING – to those who think differently than you.  Israelis – even moderately liberal ones  (though admittedly not activist-oriented) with views that are more sympathetic to Palestinians – will hear the Israeli girl chanting “from the river to the sea” … blah blah blah … “Palestine free” … and think to themselves: ‘well, you could start by leaving.’

For those of us who support a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for those of us who want to see dignity restored to the people of both sides, for those of us who understand that co-existence requires understanding and hard-work, stunts like this are an affront and an insult. Yes, the JNF is involved in acquiring (or re-aquiring) property for Jews in East Jerusalem, and there are complicated and ethically-questionable elements associated with that. But in my opinion, articles like Mairav Zonszein’s do much more to inform and raise awareness than a 15-seconds-of-fame stunt.

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    1. Andrew

      This article is not tolerant nor is it understanding, and I would like to know what the “just solution” is that this person is talking about. I seriously doubt this person actually has any intention of justice for Palestinians, and that interrupting a racist performance insults him is proof of his angry position against protesters, who he is basically saying should shut up so these people can enjoy a performance while bombs drop on Gaza.

      Reply to Comment
      • Jon

        Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha,ha ….
        How else can one response to such a ludicrous comment from la-la land

        Reply to Comment
    2. Tom P.

      dear Roee

      you point out “how counterproductive acts like these are. And on a personal note, I am sort of sick of them.” Since you did mention the JNF, I would also like to draw your attention to some counterproductive acts. It turns out the reason for the protests you referred to is that the JNF has been busy destroying the homes of Palestinians in East Jerusalem and bedouins in the Negev, as 972 reported. http://972mag.com/twitter-reveals-jnfs-approach-toward-palestinian-bedouin/32360/. For example, “1,500 cops, with horses, bulldozers and a chopper came down today to the town of el-Arakiv and demolished all 40 homes, sheep stalls, removed belongings, destroyed trees and left over 300 people — a majority of them children — to fend for themselves in the July Negev heat.” http://972mag.com/el-arakiv-where-israel-chose-trees-over-people/567/

      what I would like to suggest is that you approach these people whose homes are being destroyed by the JNF and explain your situation, especially the sickness that these protests are causing you. It’s about time the spoke up and helped to end your suffering. Please let us know if they are unresponsive.

      Reply to Comment
    3. BOOZ


      Exactly my views.

      Add the harassment campaigns against Habima last june in London, Batsheva Dance Company in Edinburgh last September.

      I personnally attended an Avishai Cohen concert in Paris 2 years ago. The fire alarm went out at the minute the musicians appeared on stage.

      Self-proclaimed supporters of the Palestinian cause boasted on the pretense they had sabotaged it.

      However the audience waited patiently until the bell went off, and had a real nice evening !

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    4. The JNF has a policy of selling and leasing land to Jews only. (Israel’s Palestinian citizens need not apply.) It is active in the expropriation of privately owned Palestinian land in the Galilee. Its activities in the Negev are notorious. Since the state’s inception it has been complicit in Nakba denial and erasure by deliberately planting forests over the remains of destroyed communities, while making no mention that said communities ever existed in the maps and plaques that guide visitors around its parks. Donations to the JNF fund ongoing dispossession and aid its very efficient process of erasure.

      Your whole article reads as quite self-centred – what will the rightists and centrists think of me and my group now, will they invite me to their birthday parties, I’m just sick of being put through the indignity of these protests. But as Tom points out, it isn’t about you. It’s about families who are losing their homes and their livelihoods, people left sleeping in their cemetery, an official government project to ‘Judaize’ the Galilee, efforts to ensure that all traces of non-Jewish presence are expunged as quietly as possible. There was a fundraiser in aid of that. It got disrupted. And you devote an article to castigating the protesters, ‘blah blah’, while devoting one brief line to the ‘complicated’ and ‘ethically questionable elements’ of the JNF.

      ‘Complicated’ always makes me wince in this context, as it’s basically a code word for not doing anything except sitting around and sighing over how difficult everything is, how complicated, how very very complicated, we need to talk. We really need to talk. Unsurprisingly, it’s rare to a find a Palestinian voice in these conversations – because the aim of such conversations isn’t to hear Palestinian voices, it’s to help Israeli Jews feel as comfortable as possible. Leftists get to feel warm and fuzzy that they’re doing something productive, rightists get to feel at their ease. But sometimes your personal comfort and popularity aren’t really the priorities.

      Reply to Comment
      • Tom P.


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      • AJM

        Completely agree.

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      • Leen

        Rightly put! Agreed completely. I would have maybe MAYBE sympathized with the position Roe took but we are talking about JNF here. They are notoriously known for dispossessing Palestinian families.

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      • Jeff

        your group reminds me of the JDL in the 60’s throwing stink bombs at performances of the Bolshoi Ballet. Idiot’s on the right, idiots on the left. both sides convinced they are right and everything they do is justified.

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    5. Philos

      I think the protest is legitimate, however, I think the activists should have targeted a different event. Frightening the elderly will hardly elicit sympathy from anyone

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    6. I could have taken this more seriously, if you had been a bit more accurate on the JNF’s activity. It is engaged in apartheid, no less. and not just in east Jerusalem.

      I don’t even see the word Negev in your article.
      In any case, there is no point in dialogue with the JNF. Disruptions and sanctions are the only way of dealing with this ethnocratic instrument.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Jeff

      jeez that screaming girl and her band of thugs taking on a bunch of old people. yes you’re tough. Direct action indeed. A cowardly act by a bunch of childish buffoons.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Bob

      Judging from Ruttenberg’s body of journalistic work, especially his promotion of Israel’s pinkwashing, it’s clear where his sentiments lie. No wonder the sensitive soul was so upset. Meanwhile, back in Germany, and where Israel’s “cultural” outreach to the Jewish community stays under the radar for the most part, this “stunt” highlights the fact that this outreach does have a political dimension — just like those of the protesters, and just as in the case of its pinkwashing campaign — one that Ruttenberg promotes.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Alex

      Roee, you are correct about the publicity-stunt being counterproductive. This is exactly the kind of action that turns liberal, open-minded Israelis away from the Left.

      However, their stunt should be judged from a different perspective: I think of these activists as people who, for the most part, genuinely empathize with the pain Palestinians suffer under Zionist-Israeli rule, pain for which the JNF is partly responsible.

      Their manner of conduct is like that of someone who’s being cut, or who sees others being cut: they scream at the top of their lungs, they kick, they make noise, they rage, they make sure other people share in the pain.

      So, while acknowledging the futility of these sorts of actions, it must, however, be pointed out that someone in serious pain screams regardless of the productivity of the screaming.

      It’s not an “insult”, Roee, but an action that is in and of itself justified, for those who recognize the devastating influence of the Zionists, for all their branches, on Palestine.

      It’s easy to accuse them of making an irrational fuss over a mere concert. However, once one realizes that they are motivated not by the interest to shape public opinion, but by the urgent need to express their utmost resistance to the crimes committed by Zionism, in front of a Zionist delegation (which the Gevatron is) – this sort of publicity-stunt appears totally legitimate.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Joel

      EDITED BY +972. The more they ‘protest with their same old mantra’s, the sillier & pathetic they look.

      Reply to Comment
    11. I’m unsure why the author assumes that every action/publicity stunt is meant to speak to the Israeli public, sympathetic to the left or otherwise. What about the Palestinians? The internationals? “Your opinion” (as you admit) concerning what “informs and raises awareness” is just that (again, as you admit) – an opinion. And one of an Israeli. The world is thankfully a much bigger place than Tel Aviv. “Convincing” Israelis that Zionism is a racist, apartheid system is long-term work, and the Palestinian people should not be forced to wait decades until Israelis “get it.”

      I wonder what the residents of Al Araqib think of this “stunt”?

      Reply to Comment
    12. Joshua

      1. The question of ‘publicity stunts’ is irrelevant, in today’s age it is easier to get your message across due to new media and that is perfectly fine and good. not everything has to be difficult.
      2. the JNF is involved in much heavier crimes than what the writer termed as “complicated”.
      3. the slogan used is not the most appropriate one.
      4. People who support JNF need to know what the JNF is doing. a picketing line outside may have been more informative and effective. but to feel bad about the old people who attended while the JNF is involved in very serious crimes, is misplaced. These people need to know what they are supporting.

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    13. “This is exactly the kind of action that turns liberal, open-minded Israelis away from the Left.”

      Alex, if they are so open-minded, why don’t they join other groups and actions?
      maybe they’re NOT so open-minded.

      Reply to Comment
      • Alex

        “Alex, if they are so open-minded, why don’t they join other groups and actions?” — Since when being an activist a prerequisite for being considered “open-minded”?

        Someone who is open-minded is someone who is willing to consider other people’s points of view, even when they are somewhat extreme and seem strange. Also, who is “they” that you refer to? I simply stated that there are Israelis who are open-minded.

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    14. Kolumn9

      Roeeee, did you know you were a Hasbara troll? Well thanks to the comments above you do now. You have offended their sensibilities by criticizing any aspect of their campaign. How dare you criticize an inherently idiotic and self-destructive action on the basis of it being idiotic and self-destructive?

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      • Roee is very concerned about offended sensibilities. I don’t see that in the comments to his piece, most of which seem to be focused on JNF culpability in a number of very specific things.

        It’s one thing to criticise a method. (I’m inclined to agree with Philos on this specific case, although I support direct action generally.) But it’s another thing altogether to write, “Ah yes, those Jewish National Fund tin cans…” The whole mocking tone of that paragraph, in which Roee guesses at why the protesters object to the JNF with a hyperbolic flourish about tree roots, suggests that he either doesn’t know the specifics of what the JNF has been doing (in which case, why didn’t he consider this important enough to look into before writing?) or he’s being deliberately disingenuous about it.

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        • Kolumn9

          The number of comments defending an obviously idiotic protest doesn’t give away the horror felt by the audience of someone somewhere criticizing a ridiculous stunt?

          Bob and Andrew at least have decided that Roee is a hasbara troll. The rest focus on a throwaway line about the JNF referencing the way it is seen by most Jews, apparently offended that Roee didn’t bother to put down a line by line indictment of the actions that are offensive to the audience’s sensibilities. Oh, the horror.

          And then there is your comment which finishes with some strange couched accusation that really should be elaborated.

          Reply to Comment
          • He’s not just criticising the method of the protest. He is trivialising the reasons for it. In fact, he’s not even giving the reasons for it. That’s a pretty huge omission. Based on this, the conclusion I drew – that he either isn’t aware of the full extent of JNF activities (the theft and forestation of privately owned farmland in Galilee, etc.), or that he’s deliberately not mentioning them – doesn’t seem all that strange and I don’t think it needs much elaboration.

            As I said, direct action wouldn’t have been my first choice for this particular event. But there is a massive difference between saying that and breezily dismissing the reasons why JNF activities cause major concern.

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    15. Richard Witty

      Movements are both liberatory and tyrranical.

      Those that focus their attention on movements rather than on people (yes, sensitivities), engage in an effort of suppression as much/more than of liberation and human rights.

      Reply to Comment
    16. Tomer

      As a healthy normal Israeli Jew (not Leftist), my position is what the f are Jews doing living in Berlin in the first place?
      Givatron should not be performing in that country.
      End of problem

      Reply to Comment
    17. I’m afraid some of you might have missed the point of my cynicism. I had/have no desire to get into a discussion on the JNF. (I am aware of the criticisms, and I specifically linked to an article my Mairav which addressed one of them, as an example.) Turning it in a chat about the JNF is exactly what I won’t do, as that would effectively validate the stunt. My point was/is: I hate stunts. I think they are obnoxious, I think they are selfish, I think they are cheap, and I think they are childish. Full-stop. Okay, we get it, it was effective once, twice, maybe three times. Now it’s just absurd… and not even creative. And as you’ve all proven, the only result is that the people who love you will love you more, and the people who loathe you will loathe you more. Nothing gained, and one day later, no one is any further along.

      Reply to Comment
    18. dan

      From the standpoint of the protesters, this is not about the JNF. The purpose is to get on YouTube — mission accomplished!

      Reply to Comment
    19. Bob

      Dear Roee,

      while I get the core message of you article, which is questioning if these “stunts” serve a purpose or are more for self-presentation, I have to answer this: This stunt is so significant, not because of its originality or effect, but because of its location: Berlin. It really raised some eyebrows that something like this can happen in Germany by international activists and is seen as a turn in the tide in terms of public protest.

      Im afraid you completely failed in realizing this significance.

      Reply to Comment
    20. Michael Croydon

      I guess the sit in in front of Birmingham City Hall in the US was also just a “stunt”?

      Like you, I don’t think disrupting a choir event of elderly people is necessarily tasteful. But the idea that “stunts” are by definition counter productive is not only wrong – it forces the weaker party in the conflict to play the game of the stronger party, by using only the channels of dissent the stronger party allows. Are the weekly demonstrations in Bilin just “stunts”? If so, what do you suggest the people do – put up blogs? I’m sorry, but your argument necessarily favors the powerful, and that is not what popular resistance is about.

      Reply to Comment
    21. Pauly

      PPP – Sorry, Roee, the demo was effective – it was GREAT! There is something so vicious about the Israeli presecution of palestinians, the theft of land and resources and the ethnic cleansing , that it is incumbent on all of us to demand a STOP! stop NOW! No power in the world will stand up to Israel – only the voice (scream) of activists can wake the dreamers. “Talk to ppl who don’t think like you” – well that doesn’t work with the Israeli mindset that does not recognize universal human rights!

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    22. Klil

      Roee, I don’t understand why you complain about this action targeting the elderly. An octogenarian, as you say, would be in their early 20’s during or right after the Nakba, and the ongoing disenfranchisement, military rule, attacks on refugees trying to harvest their crops on the wrong side of the fence, etc. As they’re in the Givatron rather than a KPK reunion, I imagine they either participated or were tacitly approving of this at the time by remaining silent. Perhaps they are exactly the people who should be confronted with protests against the parallels of such behavior today (namely, JNF’s policies, among many others).

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    23. Steven

      The Israel-Palestine conflict is such a passionate and deep-rooted struggle that, unfortunately, it carries over into all aspects of life, including popular culture. While most of us would agree that the right to protest is sacred, this outburst in the middle of a JNF concert fundraiser is disappointing to say the least. This is not a protest but an effort to silence the other side. It is disrespectful and it does nothing to advance the cause of peace. As I have learned in a class at The University of Texas as Austin, there are actually many similar elements of Israeli and Palestinian culture: they eat similar foods, they play the same sports, they have similar musical styles, and they constantly write about and commemorate the same land, which they both love. If Israelis and Palestinians were to put forth a greater effort in understanding each other through a cultural lens, it might go a long way towards reaching a peaceful resolution. Both peoples have incurred tremendous losses, and it is reflected in poetry, music, literature, film, etc. Perhaps if they were to realize the extent of their cultural compatibility, there would be many less disruptions at these kinds of events, which are meant to raise awareness by utilizing popular cultural icons, such as an Israeli or Palestinian band.

      Reply to Comment
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