Thursday, November 29, 2012

Stevie Wonder responds to what is right



Both Bob Harris whose letter to Black Politics on the Web is below and Vincent Harding discussed with all of us on the delegation to Palestine that they had not inquired enough about the ferocity of Israel's oppressiveness (I, too, had not known of the calculatedness, down to the last detail of the apartheid, and will be working through, for a long time, all that it means).

Ignorance about what is really going on affects many others, and Stevie Wonder, who stood against South African apartheid and for Martin Luther King, was among them. He had agreed to perform at a concert in Los Angeles December 6 to raise money for the IDF (the Israel "Defence" Forces).

The young men in the Israeli army we saw firing tear gas canisters, rubber bullets and live ammunition at nonviolent demonstrators in Nabi Salah one Friday afternoon; the army murdered Mustafa and Rushdi Tamimi - see here and here. There is one side in the Territories with an army or an airport, armed to the teeth...

But Bob's powerful letter also suggests that Holocaust survivors are ignorant of Israeli apartheid in the Territories, and should have no truck with it.

Members of our delegations all signed statements - and other petitions - and made plans to contact Stevie Wonder yesterday.

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But by evening, Stevie Wonder had, wonderfully, already dissociated himself from the IDF and this fund-raising event in LA. Below is the very enthusiastic letter from Rabbi Brian Walt to our group, celebrating what is really a sea-change as soon as people begin to take in the situation of the Palestinians, a relatively straightforward report on Wonder's decision from the Jewish Daily Forward; and the letter from Bob Harris. If one understands the facts of the Occupation and settlements, even cursorily, support for Israel practicing European racism - once exercised on the Jews - on Palestinians evaporates.

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I have emphasized that it is very important to secure a solution which recognizes the humanity and basic rights of Palestinians and Israelis. See here. Our delegation aimed to further nonviolence and it is a core insight of Gandhi and King to honor the souls and - potential - integrity of everyone. But it is equally important to stop current crimes through noncooperation.

Israel needs to change dramatically for everyone's rights to be secured. Currently, the people of Israel are about to reelect Netanyahu (this was an important aim of his slaughters in Gaza, wagging the dog - see here; these slaughters also reveal the increasing isolation of Israeli brutality in the Middle East from Turkey and Egypt), and a large number either self-consciously affirm apartheid or are content with the government's policies which enforce apartheid. See here and here.

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But the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement helps to change this. Major companies like Caterpillar or G4S (the "security" firm which helps Israel keep track at checkpoints and of its Palestinian prisoners and also organizes, with ferocious abuse, the privatization of prisons in the United States - see here) or Hewlett Packard (which computerizes prison records in Israel and provides IDs - see Who Profits from the Occupation here) or Veolia can be targeted as leaders of the Israeli Occupation.

These corporations are embarrassed at the truth coming out and the Israeli state can sense, with fear, that ordinary people are increasingly watching and taking action against what it does.

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The cultural figures who cooperate with the army and the settlements are just as important. The boycott of Israel in which many artists joined after the last massacre in Gaza ("Operation Cast Lead") following Obama's first election, brought home Israel's isolation to Israeli audiences who often live in denial about the abjection of the Palestinians. Resisted by artists and other cultural figures they admire, Israelis are forced to face the consequences of what they are doing/acquiesce in.

Stevie Wonder learned quickly about this dehumanization and took action. He deserves our gratitude. The swiftness of this change highlights the fading of Israeli "justifications." The 500 illegal settlements and the Occupation must go...

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Rabbi Brian Walt sent out the following message:

"I must say I never thought this would happen.

Hooray for grassroots organizing and hooray for Stevie Wonder! This is a very significant event in the rapidly changing discourse in our country about justice in Israel/Palestine. Thanks to everyone who signed petitions, to Bob for his article and for all our brothers and sisters speaking out for justice and peace. We should all thank Stevie Wonder for his decision."

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Stevie Wonder Pulls Out of IDF Fundraiser
Petition Called on R&B Star To Shun Israel Army Event

By JTA
Jewish Daily Forward, Published November 28, 2012.

Stevie Wonder is set to pull out of a performance at a fundraiser for the Israel Defense Forces, a source told JTA.

Wonder’s representatives will claim that he did not know the nature of the group, the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, and that he believes such a performance would be incongruent with his status as a U.N. “Messenger of Peace,” according to a source who has read email exchanges between Wonder’s representatives and organizers of the event.

Wonder was scheduled to headline the Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces annual gala in Los Angeles on Dec. 6. The event raises millions of dollars annually to support the Israeli military.

An official of Friends of the IDF, reached at its Los Angeles office, had no comment. Wonder’s agent at Creative Artists Agency did not return a request for comment.

The spokesman for the U.N. Secretary General also had no comment on the matter. The United Nations does not usually impose restrictions on its goodwill representatives.

Wonder most recently performed at a U.N. concert commemorating its 67th anniversary.

Wonder had come under intense social media pressure to pull out of the event. An online petition calling on him to cancel his performance had garnered more than 3,600 signatures.

The petition was launched more than a day ago on the change.org website.

“You were arrested in 1985 protesting South African Apartheid, now we ask you: please remember that apartheid is apartheid, whether it comes from White Afrikaaner settlers of South Africa or from Jewish Israelis in Israel,” the petition reads. “Desmond Tutu has recognized that Israel’s Apartheid is worse than South Africa’s – will you stand with us against apartheid and cancel your performance at the IDF fundraiser?”

A second petition, launched by the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, calls on Wonder to “(p)lease continue your legacy of speaking out for the oppressed. Please be a ‘full-time lover’ of justice by standing on the right side of history and canceling your performance for the Israeli army.”

Wonder performed at a 1998 gala honoring Israel’s 50th anniversary.

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Black Politics on the Web

Is Stevie Wonder No Longer a Supporter of Freedom and Justice?
By admin3 on November 28, 2012

Robert L. Harris, Jr., Professor of African American History, Africana Studies Research Center at Cornell University

- Stevie Wonder, the staunch advocate of freedom and justice in the United States and South Africa, is scheduled to headline a benefit concert in Los Angeles, December 6th, for the Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). The organization was formed some thirty-one years ago by Holocaust survivors. I question whether they are aware of the role that the IDF plays in the occupation and suppression of Palestinians and whether Stevie Wonder knows about it.

Just about a month ago, I visited Israel/Palestine with a group of African American and Jewish leaders through the Interfaith Peace Builders and the Dorothy Cotton Institute. I was taken especially by the testimony of Palestinians who described the violation of their human rights as confirmed in statements by former Israeli soldiers. With impunity, Israeli soldiers invade Palestinian homes on the West Bank, seize and blindfold residents, even children, and take them to police stations for interrogation. The children are snatched from their homes and questioned for as many as three days without the presence of their parents. Former Israeli soldiers told us about the intimidation of Palestinians and the use of what I can only describe as “psychological warfare” to terrorize them.

There are Israelis and Palestinians engaged in dialogue through the principles of non-violence to end the conflict and to establish a comprehensive and enduring peace. I would think that Stevie Wonder, an admirer and supporter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela, would seek to advance the work of those individuals and groups seeking to end the conflict rather than the forces that perpetuate it. Many Palestinians are refugees in their own land, which was forcibly taken from them and is now occupied by Israelis. The Israeli occupation intrudes into almost every area of Palestinian life.

Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank cannot reunite with their families. They face onerous restrictions and roadblocks to travel within their own territory. Israeli settlers, many from the United States, seize Palestinian land and uproot their olive trees, a symbol of their heritage, tradition, and family. We saw olive trees estimated to be hundreds of years old that Israeli settlers uproot and often burn as an insult to Palestinians on their own land. Hopefully, Stevie Wonder and his sponsors will become aware of the Israeli descent into apartheid with a separation wall, electrified barbed wire, and guard towers perpetuated by the IDF.

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