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Response to Cat Power cancellation - accept her awakening

By Rachel Canar

The scathing critique by Mairav Zonszein and Assaf Shatil of Chan Marshall/Cat Power’s cancellation of her February 12 scheduled performance in Tel Aviv was so ideological that it missed the point.

Chan/Cat explained her reason for cancelling the show  in a tweet she sent on February 9.

Due to much confusion in my soul, playing for my Israeli fans w/such unrest between Israel&Palestine I can’t play, as I feel sick in my spirit XX

I am not shocked by Cat Power’s decision. She has joined a long and growing list of performers who have caved to public pressure from the BDS movement and canceled scheduled performances at the last minute.

What was shocking was that Mairav and Assaf, both of whom oppose the occupation, seemed to judge her just as harshly for scheduling and then canceling as if she had not canceled at all. They attacked her for ignorance and moral turpitude:

Any artist who books a show in Israel and starts selling tickets should know from the get-go that they have done so in a place that is and has been controversial for a long time … Was she not aware just a few weeks ago of the ongoing Israeli military hold on Palestinians and its discriminatory policies? Was she not morally conscious then?

The unfortunate line of reasoning – condemning those who initially oppose a position after they change their minds and join the cause – is an obstacle.  I have seen it all too often in major social change and ideological movements, and I’ve seen it all too often with regards to the struggle against the Israeli occupation.

Over a decade ago, during the 2000 Gore Presidential campaign, many women opposed Gore’s candidacy because he had previously opposed abortion rights. He had long since changed his mind and was plainly outspoken about his belief that all women should have the right to choose and full autonomy over their own bodies. Gloria Steinheim, made the following statement in her effort to get more women and women’s groups to support Gore:

Reason #8: Condemning Gore for ever having taken a different position–for example, for voting against access to legal abortion when he was a Congressman from Tennessee–actually dissuades others from changing their minds and joining us.

Whatever your cause – reproductive rights for women, animal rights, or human rights in Palestine and opposing the Israeli Occupation – the main goal should not be simply to educate everyone about how horrible the problem is, and berate all those who do not see or acknowledge it. To achieve social change, you must win them over and change their minds, including and especially those with whom you have little in common, and don’t even like.

If they switch to your side, you will have to accept those who are more ignorant than you about the cause, who in the past were apathetic, or cowardly, or perhaps once were strident, engaged opposition. They should even be celebrated and welcomed with open arms – the struggle was all about winning them over in the first place.

If we want to end the occupation, we must change so many people’s minds that we create a whole paradigm shift. In the new paradigm, opposing the occupation and seeing its inhumanity is the mainstream position, and those who support it are marginalized.

Therefore, we shouldn’t reject Cat Power’s first realization that the occupation is wrong.

By the same logic used to reject Cat Power, new attendees and self-proclaimed Zionists attending the Sheik Jarrah protests are now being rejected. In fact many activists refuse to accept anyone who wasn’t anti-occupation to begin with. No newbies allowed! Only original and authentic anti-occupation supporters; anyone new is a fraud.

If movements can’t accept new people who have changed their mind, they will never grow. And if people aren’t really interested in growing the movement, then perhaps they are  less interested in real social change, and more interested in maintaining moral superiority – elitism.

But, the goal is to end the occupation, not just to gloat from status quo rooftops, looking down on all the idiots who just don’t get it.

Rachel Canar is a consultant for organizational development and has been working to advance social change organizations in Israel since 2001. She lives in Tel Aviv.

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    COMMENTS

    1. sh

      I didn’t say so at the time, but there’s really no point in accusing an American pop singer of ignorance and moral turpitude if she or he doesn’t understand what the hell’s going on here. Such people are part of the world’s bewildered majority. That majority includes not only pop singers but professors and even journalists.
      .
      If the Sheikh Jarrah movement really is shunning anyone who wasn’t anti-occupation to begin with, they might find they have to throw out iconic figures like Warschawsky and Shaul. Surely this cannot be true!

      Reply to Comment
    2. Jazzy

      Yes, the BDS crowd exists largely to preen. So why do you think an appeal to pragmatism will persuade any of them to give up being cool? Being cool is the best.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Steve

      The heart of the BDS movement is against Israel’s existence at all. They don’t want Israel to be Jewish. They want Israel to merge with millions of Israel-hating Palestinians to form one large state that would have a Muslim majority, a terrified Jewish minority, and the end of Israel’s existence.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Richard Allen

      It’s funny how as old trolls leave, new trolls roll in.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Jazzy

      I sympathize with a lot of left-wing policy ideas, but there’s a tendency here to totally wear out every possible term of abuse. ‘Racist’, ‘Fascist’ – these were the first casualties. Please, please! Don’t misuse ‘troll’, which refers to malicious and/or cowardly people who utter unambiguously abusive/threatening messages. Just because arguments from someone in particular become repetitive or boring or predictable does not make that person a troll. Let’s have some standards about this.

      Reply to Comment
    6. noam

      Rachel, I believe your piece is based on a completely wrong assumption – that Cat Power became “aware” or “enlightened”, and embraced BDS. This is obviously not the case – just read her childish, puzzled wording.
      Her cancellation is quite pathetic since she clearly doesn’t have much of an idea or opinion on Israel/Palestine, and she most probably succumbed to the pressure of virtual bullying. Which, by the way, definitely isn’t aimed at advancing possible peace, but rather “justice” (=every ultra-nationalist palestinian position).
      They also don’t accept a two concert proposal, in Israel and in Palestine – and to hell with the Palestinian fans – they don’t know what’s good for them. When you make an omlette, you’re going to break a few eggs, right?

      Simply put, regardless of the many, continuing injustices committed by Israel, the moment an artist selectively boycotts only Israel, he is cooperating with the simplest form of international bullying.
      Artists boycott israel because it makes them feel good, perhaps even helps with PR, but first of all simply because they can.
      Would Cat Power, The Pixies, Costello or Damon Albarn even consider cancelling their US dates following pressure from Iraqi/Afghan groups, protesting American imperialism and barbarism? (by the way, the US also reasons every single thing they do abroad as “national security”).

      The answer is obviously no. If there are artists that boycott a variety of countries/corporations for reasons they can intelligently argue, that’s admirable. But when Ken Loach doesn’t want his films screened in Israeli cinemas and festivals – and doesn’t mind them being shown in American, British, Chinese or Turkish ones – that’s bullying his Israeli audience.

      The case with these artists is of one of populism – jumping on a wagon of sexy propaganda simply because in this case, they can afford losing their business. It has nothing to do with morals.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Steve

      I speak facts.
      Ben White wants a “one-state solution”
      The Mondoweiss people want a “one-state solution”
      Max Blumenthal wants a “one-state solution”
      The Electronic Intifada nutcases want a “one-state solution”
      Almost all the BDS people either want a “one-state solution” or they want “the right of return” for millions of Palestinians whose PARENTS may have once lived in Israel to flood into Israel and become citizens.

      They just want Israel destroyed as a Jewish state. That’s the real BDS goal, and Israel knows it.

      Reply to Comment
    8. frank depinto

      Frank DePinto
      Chattanooga, TN
      2/15

      …i very much am in praise of Cat Power for her strong stand against israeli ‘genocide of the palistinians,’ which has been going on since l948 when US subsidized Jews invaded Palestine and created 5 mllion Palestinian refugees into squalid refugee camps; which has lead to a fascist Israel and eventually the cause of 9/11.
      …its about time. congratulations for your courage and integrity.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Cortez

      “The heart of the BDS movement is against Israel’s existence at all. They don’t want Israel to be Jewish. They want Israel to merge with millions of Israel-hating Palestinians to form one large state that would have a Muslim majority, a terrified Jewish minority, and the end of Israel’s existence.”

      After seeing this in person but also being reminded of it here: http://972mag.com/image-segregated-street-for-palestinians-jews-in-hebron/35457/ –> Why would Cat Power want to subject herself to such an openly racist state? This is apartheid level behavior….if you walk from H2 to H1…you will see the diference. Someone with a conscious should be free to not want to perform.

      What is wrong with a one state if you educate Palestinians and and Israelis about their shared heritage and create a new heritage as many modern progressive and powerful states? A grand semitic Judaic-Arabic society would be great for the middle east. A one state solution would be consistent with historical claims of both Palestinians (as descendants of Jews) and with Israeli Arabs, Jews, Samaritans and Druze (also with the same ancestry). The biggest problem I imagine would be conservative Islam in places like Gaza, Jerusalem or Hebron but that is something that education can fix. Segregated schools only promote division rather than encourage it.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Jazzy

      Cortez: if you’re being sincere, I’m sorry to say that you just don’t fully appreciate how far apart the two peoples really are. The Middle East isn’t America – there are sectarian dynamics that have no corollary in America or in Europe (these days), except in the Balkans. A grand “Judaic-Arabic” society just isn’t something that would hold together, and you can’t just pretend that some kind of radically integrated education system would fix everything, even if it were possible to set one up – which is unlikely in the first place.

      Reply to Comment
    11. http://m.youtube.com/?rdm=4phc78axz&reload=3#/watch?desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3D725EZ6neT1I&v=725EZ6neT1I&gl=US

      And yes I read the Palestinian youth movement response. Apparently, since east and west Germany merged into one country it makes sense in their view for Israel to merge with the Palestinian state! Like the guy who is calling for a Grand Semitic Judeo-Arab state – except sadly that can only exist in some dream world, not the world we live in.

      And yes UN resolutions call for a just solution to the refugee problem and the right of return but that doesn’t mean Israel has to accept them on its side of the border – they can and should return to the state of Palestine if they want, it should be established soon Inshallah.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Cortez

      I don’t know why you mention East and West Germany…that has nothing to do with
      .
      Yes….just like the dream of new Jewish state was in 19th century? You’ve got to be kidding me. As if this situation is permanent or should even be permanent. Like in the 1980s…when they said the settlements would stop? These were all dream until someone made it happen. Like when South Africa became a non-apartheid state? All just dreams.
      .
      Yes…but a just resolution and one that would benefit the modern day Hebrews…….would be some type of unity…in thought and purpose. Simple things like having non-segregated schools and reducing the amount of prejudice or even having a constitution which includes Jewish values and maybe some muslim, arab or semitic values might work. Israel is neither the first nor last country to have problems.

      Reply to Comment
    13. Jazzy

      Cortez: ‘semitic values’ – ok, the problem is that your political ideas require the existence of a world that we are not living in. South Africa isn’t going to happen in Israel/Palestine because the Jews are not <10% of the population and are not scattered all over the country – in order words – Jewish hegemony over much of the land is very sustainable. There is no example, in modern history, of two violently hostile populations of roughly equal population coming to together in a political unity that lasted. Yugoslavia – nope – United Ireland – Didn't happen, and the walls in Belfast are still there…history just isn't helping your creative, but ultimately foolish ideas about 'semitic values'

      Reply to Comment
    14. Steve

      To CORTEZ:

      Pakistan isn’t going to merge with India. France is not merging with Switzerland. The USA is not merging with Mexico. Lebanon is not merging with Syria. Nobody is merging with anybody. And the world’s only Jewish state is not going to merge with anybody either, and they certainly aren’t going to merge with people who have been fighting against Israel’s very existence.

      Reply to Comment
    15. Piotr Berman

      Noam: Rachel, I believe your piece is based on a completely wrong assumption – that Cat Power became “aware” or “enlightened”, and embraced BDS. This is obviously not the case – just read her childish, puzzled wording.

      In other words, she is too stupid to be enlightened. But it could also be that the concepts of oppression and discrimination is actually not THAT complicated.

      This week the valiant IDF anti-dwelling forces destroyed a village together with water cistern build and renovated together with a Polish charity. A journalist commented very carefully (no word of boycott, etc.) “A law that allows to do it is an abomination. Soldiers who enforce such a law should have nightmares with pangs of conscience.” Perhaps he oversimplify stated “The occupation law allows local commmander to do anything. Except the Jews who are subject of a normal Israeli law”.

      Smolenski is without a doubt more sophisticated that Power, and got the nutshell correctly. Forget two states, one state, San Remo, Abraham. What IDF and settlers do is despicable.

      Reply to Comment
    16. Ohad

      to me it seams that the artists that cancels last minute are usually the artists that could not sell enough tickets , then they cash on the conflict like any one else in the world .

      this is not BDS

      Reply to Comment
    17. Cortez

      “Pakistan isn’t going to merge with India. France is not merging with Switzerland. The USA is not merging with Mexico. Lebanon is not merging with Syria. Nobody is merging with anybody. And the world’s only Jewish state is not going to merge with anybody either, and they certainly aren’t going to merge with people who have been fighting against Israel’s very existence.”
      .
      They are fighting its very existence because the current argument for Israel’s existence is the oppression of indigenous jews who because of their arab/muslim status are treated as subhuman. France and Switzerland don’t need to merge with each other….they are both nations that are founded on CIVIC Nationalism and not predicated on the ethnic nationalistic tendencies of Israel and various other countries in the middle east. India is another country predicated on an ethos of civic nationalism. As weird as it sounds anyone can become French or Swiss or Indian, or American and become represented by the government because their governments promote ideals of freedom, equality and tolerance and not the superiority of race, or religion based on mythology. In practice, this is of course not the case but the evidence is there in the laws and the experience of many people.
      .
      “‘semitic values’ – ok, the problem is that your political ideas require the existence of a world that we are not living in. South Africa isn’t going to happen in Israel/Palestine because the Jews are not <10% of the population and are not scattered all over the country – in order words – Jewish hegemony over much of the land is very sustainable. There is no example, in modern history, of two violently hostile populations of roughly equal population coming to together in a political unity that lasted. "
      .
      LOL….the ideas and values are over 3,000 years old…and people make worlds into existence…just as they did in the late 19th century, just as they do now. I can't buy any argument that people want peace if they actually pursue every action possible to perpetuate an illogical and destructive situation that disregards historical Jewish values and that ignores incongruence of treating what is essentially our own people as garbage.

      Reply to Comment

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