GUEST BLOG: Damon Rusden – Lorde has spoken; a courageous move in a complex struggle

By   /   December 29, 2017  /   18 Comments

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New Zealand superstar Lorde has attracted a lot of attention by canceling her show in Tel Aviv, the (current) capital of Israel. This predictably created an uproar – political decisions made by celebrities on the Israel/Palestine conflict always does.

New Zealand superstar Lorde has attracted a lot of attention by canceling her show in Tel Aviv, the (current) capital of Israel.

This predictably created an uproar – political decisions made by celebrities on the Israel/Palestine conflict always does.

It’s a historic and extremely divisive topic, with both camps having legitimate grievances against the other. There is a lot of history and context needed and unfortunately the narrative often turns toxic.

The Boycott, Diversity and Sanctions (BDS) movement is one whose purpose is to raise awareness of the crimes of Israel against the Palestinian people by urging people of influence to boycott events in Israel, inspired by the successful boycotting of apartheid South Africa. It has recently been accused of “bullying” Lorde with a campaign of misinformation from a “minority.”

What ever happened to agency? Lorde is a human being capable of making her own decisions. Almost certainly Lorde researched and informed herself (once indication is her acknowledging this well-written letter) and made her own decision. Lorde is capable of being cognizant of contentious issues. If that doesn’t suite your preference or narrative, then that’s too bad. Other artists have decided to play in Israel despite the BDS campaigns, and they have just as much right to do so.

Another criticism is that Lorde shouldn’t be morally selective; she is playing in Russia soon which has also committed human rights abuses and broke international law with the invasion of Crimea, just as Israel has. Why is she not boycotting Russia?

This is something that comes up often when discussing morality in the international sphere. Are some human rights held more sacred than others? Which should they be? Are some countries justified in doing so? What is a human right? And on it goes down the academic rabbit hole.

While it is a valid point, context is needed. Leaving out the very simple fact she is allowed to decide where she wants to perform, it warrants closer analysis. Deprived of intuitive and emotive responses, there are significant differences in the geo-politics of the regions.

The Russian invasion of Crimea was unexpected and created a global upheaval, especially within the Western defence group NATO. What happened was illegal and in turn led to sanctions and punitive measures. But Crimea is Crimea is dominated by Russian speakers and natives, was in the midst of a civil war and the process included a referendum of being absorbed as a federal state or become sovereign. It has largely accepted being part of Russia, with little contention. The close cultural ties were a big factor in the lack of internal retaliation.

I’m not defending Russian invasion but describing for comparison; Israel has consistently flouted international law for 50 years by building settlements on Palestinian land and claiming it. It burns entire commercial enterprises to the ground (olive fields) in response to non-violent protest. They actively blockade aid to the Palestinians (including an entire ship from Turkey) and regularly invades Palestinian land with cluster bombs and other high-tech superior firepower in response to rudimentary rocket fire or individual terrorist attacks. It’s extremely disproportionate and many innocents are killed in retaliation for the acts of a few.

Various small events, such as missiles killing children playing soccer or walking to school, or light sentences or atrocities committed by soldiers which are extremely inequitable compared to Palestinian trials. All this is within the confines of an open air prison along the West Bank area. There is literally a heavily monitored fence separating them, sparking calls of apartheid.

The differences between Russia/Crimea and Israel/Palestine is the long-running and oppressive nature we see committed by Israel today. It’s contemporary, and the proponents of the BDS movement are active and organized. There is nothing to spurn such passion against Russia, although arguably there should be. And if we were going to select countries based on historical transgressions, there would be no country to play in. What Lorde chose is to stand against a current conflict whose responsibility lies heavily with Israel. The long history of land placement (drawn up arbitrarily after WW2) is a backdrop compared to what is happening right now. Neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis are innocent, but I think it clear who is not being proportionate in their responses and inflaming the situation with their treatment of Palestinians who choose to live independent of Israel.

This is not to exonerate Hamas, the extremist group within Palestine that were democratically elected in 2008 (not recognized by Israel) which constantly terrorizes Israel and whose leaders have said that Israel does not have a right to exist. Israel does have a right to exist and to defend itself. It does not have a right to use that as a justification to take land illegally and run a sovereign nation like an internment camp in which there are violent crackdowns on peaceful protest.

Consideration is needed. Terrorism begets terrorism, and it is Israel who receives military aid like the $38 billion from the US which serves to expand their military dominance and exacerbate the unequal and historic struggle for self-determination by both parties.

After years of both parties breaking peace agreements, the conflict often reaches an en passe only broken by occasional rocket fire or traumatic event until it builds up into invasion. The underlying tensions never eases, and sometimes boils over. There needs to be a permanent solution, and neither BDS nor partisan intervention by Western states will do that.

We must take the examples of the peace there is – there are 1.5 million Arab citizens (8mil in total) living in Israel. While race relations are always a touchy subject, they live much better than their neighbours. Both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (Gaza and West Bank respectively) live in closed-off areas and are under permanent supervision and terror. There is a huge contrast, but it indicates that cultural attachment and grievances are the key factors in the continuation of this conflict.

I don’t blame the Palestinians. There are generations of bad blood, broken promises and terrorism. I could never reconcile with the people who murdered a relative or neighbour for no reason, and who uses tear gas (and historically the illegal white phosphorous) whenever there are peaceful protests against illegal Israeli expansions on family land.
Just as important, I don’t blame the average Israeli on the street.

Who I blame is the government body that uses Palestine as a political football, and purposefully fear-mongers for re-election. There is no parity – Israel is the dominant partner is this political instability and as a society we never ask the little kid to stop picking on the bully.

So what is a solution going forward?

The BDS boycotts such as what Lorde has done is one way of creating dialogue about the issues. Regardless of whatever vitriol is coming out, people are talking about it. She has taken a political position and I applaud her for having that moral backbone.

Roger Waters (Pink Floyd and prominent advocate of the BDS movement) moved his show from Tel Aviv to a small community on the West Bank in a town co-founded by Jews and Palestinians. This is a great statement; that a musician will perform for both audiences, not one or the other. Exclusion breeds contempt and a feeling of injustice, deserved or not.

I would love to see Lorde play in Tel Aviv and the West Bank or Gaza. If we want a two-state solution with sovereign people living peacefully as neighbours, unity is the way forward. Many other authors and writers agree.
Division is counter-productive, as much as sympathize with the passion and goal of the BDS movement.

But I am not in control of another person. And so I thank you Lorde, for making a decision based on logic and principle and for taking a stand for what you believe in. There will be criticism, and there will be doubt. But know that there are people across the world who thank you for bringing this important issue to the public, and for showing solidarity. ”

Damon Rusden is a chef, journalist and law student with an avid belief in civic education and accountability. He was also a Green Party candidate. 

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18 Comments

  1. Historian Pete says:

    A correction of your proffered facts about Russia:The first aggression occurred when the U.S. CIA instigated a coup de’tat against the Democratically elected Ukrainian Government in 2014.It also arranged snipers to fire at both sides at the Maidan protests, so bringing about a civil war situation.Handy military muscle was on hand with the use of Neo-Nazi stormtroopers, complete with Nazi insignia . This is all a matter of historical record if you bother to look for it outside the MSM.The true narrative of events was hidden from the Western peoples by our regrettably propagandized news media.Ukraine has approximately half the population ethnic Russians and half pro Western European. This is obviously a volatile mix. Just excellent for U.S. CIA meddling .The whole point of what the U.S. did was to weaken Russia, its nemesis in the unipolar/ unilateral struggle for dominance. The prime focus was to remove the Crimea- Russia’s only warm water port, from Russian control.Russia had a long term lease in Crimea with the Ukraine Government.Russia had already 22,000 troops in occupation of the Crimea.
    Given the fact that the Crimea had been an intrinsic part of Russia since Catharine the Great [200 years] , and given the illegal and illegitimate acts of the U.S., Russia quite reasonably in my opinion carried out a referendum with 90% of the population opting for joining with Russia.And so one more of the destardly plans of the U.S. turned to crap!Along with Afghanistan,Iraq,Libya, and Syria. Yemen and Iran are yet to play out.And then there is North Korea.It is hardly surprising that when we come full circle to Palestine /Israel we find the great sponsor of Israel- the U.S.
    Is there any perfidious scheme on the planet that does not involve the U.S Empire?!!

    • Afewknowthetruth says:

      Absolutely right.

      Sadly, the anti-Russian narrative that is promulgated more-or-less continuously by the western mainstream media is believed by the majority.

      Sadly, the masses have no inclination to do ANY research into ANYTHING and will believe whatever lies they are told if they sound ‘official’.

      .

    • Francesca says:

      Agreed Pete, and actually the civil war ,as expressed by fighting in Eastern Ukraine.had not yet begun Crimea was so alarmed at the violent coup in Kiev and the new govt that they quickly held a referendum to rejoin Russia.This time…there had been several previous referenda with similar results.. Russia accepted Crimea in to the federation.
      The Donetsk region took heart from Crimea’s result and held a referendum of their own .Sadly, Russia did not act to take them in.It was then that Poroshenko acted , moving in to Donetsk to militarily quash the predominantly Russian aligned population.
      Chronology is not a strong point in most media accounts of current Ukraine

    • D'Esterre says:

      Historian Pete: Many thanks for setting the record straight regarding Crimea. This aspect of the post infuriated me. I fail to understand how it is that left-wingers – who constantly whinge about the msm propagating fake news and propaganda – uncritically swallow any old bollix fed to them by said msm, just because it’s anti-Russia.

      Stop press, folks: if you believe that the msm is peddling fake news and propaganda, why in god’s name would you believe what these outlets say about Russia? Surely it’s occurred to you that this anti-Russia stuff looks far too much like just-so stories to have any credibility?

      “Russia had a long term lease in Crimea with the Ukraine Government.Russia had already 22,000 troops in occupation of the Crimea.”

      Indeed. Those troops were legitimately in Crimea, under the terms of the Black Sea Fleet Treaty. They weren’t an occupation force. In any event, that number of troops would have been far too few to militarily occupy the Crimea, even had that been Russia’s intention. Which it was not.

      “Russia quite reasonably in my opinion carried out a referendum…”

      It was the Crimean government which carried out the referendum, not Russia. News reports at the time noted this fact. Crimea had had two previous attempts since independence to decamp from the Ukraine. A consequence of (I think) the second attempt was that Kiev granted Crimea considerable autonomy; that included the authority to run referenda of this sort.

      The Crimean government, alarmed at the violent putsch in Kiev, and at the prospect of neo-Nazi paramilitaries arriving en masse (as had been planned by said neo-Nazi groups), seized the moment and held the referendum. Qu’on dit, the rest is history.

      • Britain had a lease with China over Hong Kong. I wonder what would’ve happened had Britain annexed Hong Kong by military force rather than allowing it’s return to China?

        And any referendum carried out by the Crimean government would have had dubious validity at best. Was the “Crimean government” even legitimate? Or was it installed through a “violent putsch”.

        The reality of Russia’s annexation is far more prosaic; it wished to protect it’s Black Sea port and only access to warm-waters for it’s fleet. The change of government in Kiev threatened that.

  2. Takere says:

    A Perfect Candidate for NZ’der of the Year!

  3. John says:

    The writer goes on to blame both sides equally for not agreeing to any of the peace processes?? If you take the time to read the book by Rashid Khalidi, Brokers of Deceit which clearly state that the peace process is one sided and is more about the process then it is about peace. The reality is that Israel doesn’t want peace because they don’t want to negotiate what they have stolen with the help of the British Army. Unlike the Palestinian have been wanting peace since the 1948 Nakba which devastated their society

  4. peter h says:

    Ella Yelich is Croatian. During world war 2 the Croats killed almost every Jew in their country. Why? Because europeans have hated the Jews for centuries and Hitler gave lots of people a ‘final solution’ which they happily and vigorously applied.
    The state of Israel seems to be based on one premise NEVER AGAIN and they will happily and vigorously apply that premise towards anyone who tries to f@#* them over.
    Lorde is a talented young musician who has happily and vigorously partied her way around the world. Bad luck for her, she thought she was jumping into another pristine swimming pool but has ended up in a stinking swamp

    • and vigorously partied her way around the world

      Ah, the sly character assassination from Israel’s sycophants begins?

      Take note, Peter H, the more vitriol you spew at Lorde, the less inclined other entertainers will be to consider touring Israel. You sly vitriol is clear warning to steer clear of that country and avoid the trolls.

      • esoteric pineapples says:

        Yes, Lorde was stuck between a rock and hard place once it was announced she would perform in Israel. The message will be loud and clear to most other entertainers unless they actively support Israel – perform in Israel and you will inevitably come out of it worse for wear.

      • peter h says:

        Sorry Frank only facts in my post.
        Lorde admitted herself how little she knew about the situation in Israel/Palestine and I think she jumped rather hastily into a decision without enough consideration.
        My position on Israel is that it should withdraw to the original boundaries given to it. I am not a sycophant, in fact I couldn’t care less if the Jews and the Arabs, the shiites and the sunnis and all the other bits and pieces over there continue to bomb and shoot and kill and maim and destroy each other and their countries. Obviously its what the god they all share (the devious little shit) wants them to do.
        However I do like the Kurds, mainly because no one else does and would like them to have their own country.
        I like to be called a troll, it shows intellectual laziness on the part of the name caller and affirms that i am unafraid to state my own view in the face of collaborative back patting

        • My position on Israel is that it should withdraw to the original boundaries given to it.

          I think most people would agree with that view. Perhaps you should have led with that, instead of taking an undeserved swipe at someone prepared to do something positive about it.

          …in fact I couldn’t care less if the Jews and the Arabs, the shiites and the sunnis and all the other bits and pieces over there continue to bomb and shoot and kill and maim and destroy each other.

          There, we disagree. I do care. I care very much. The moment humans show lack of consideration and empathy for others … well, that’s not a world I want to live in. I doubt you’d find it very pleasant either.

  5. Pat O'Dea says:

    Division is counter-productive, as much as sympathize with the passion and goal of the BDS movement.

    Talk about damned with faint praise.

    This damning with faint praise seems permeate the whole tone of this post.

    The links of Zionist atrocities inflicted on the Palestinians contained in this post are incontrovertible, cannot be challenged, and I commend the writer for including them. But the moral equivalence between the invader and the invaded, between the dispossessed and oppressed and their oppressor, that the author expresses, despite his obvious good intentions, is misplaced. And in fact is based on inaccuracies, not backed up with links any other evidence, but just as accepted as fact.

    Hamas, the extremist group within Palestine that were democratically elected in 2008 (not recognized by Israel) which constantly terrorizes Israel and whose leaders have said that Israel does not have a right to exist.
    a

    Find me a named quote from a recognised Hamas leader, in their own words, (and not attributed to them by others), that actually quite says this. An apartheid state has no right to exist, call it Israel call it Palestine, call it what you like. This has been Hamas position. Hamas have been particularly steadfast around their demand for the right of return for the millions of Palestinian refugees, a demand that Hamas, (unlike the PLO), have refused to let go of. This demand for the right of return for the Palestinian refugees by Hamas, this has been twisted by the Zionists as a threat to physically destroy Israel as a Jewish State.

    As Gideon Levi said on his tour to New Zealand, ‘With its very first piece of legislation ever passed, Israel confirmed itself as an apartheid state, What was that piece of legislation?
    The right of return to all people of Jewish faith to Israel, no matter which country they were from. Meanwhile right up to the present day Palestinian refugees born in Palestine and driven out by the Israelis have no right of return.

    there are 1.5 million Arab citizens (8mil in total) living in Israel. While race relations are always a touchy subject, they live much better than their neighbours.

    Yet even the most privileged Palestinians live under the laws of apartheid imposed on them, where even their right to Habeas Corpus is denied.

    Israeli court extends Palestinian MP’s detention without trial by another six months

    Both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (Gaza and West Bank respectively) live in closed-off areas and are under permanent supervision and terror. There is a huge contrast, but it indicates that cultural attachment and grievances are the key factors in the continuation of this conflict.

    I call bullshit. It is not “cultural attachments and grievances” that prolong this conflict, but the imposition of apartheid. The conflict will continue until Palestinians have equal rights.

    There needs to be a permanent solution, and neither BDS nor partisan intervention by Western states will do that.

    A rather distasteful expression of an equivalence between the BDS
    movement, and partisan Western intervention on the side of the Zionists, by Trump and previous US administrations.

    “Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer, and, without sneering, teach the rest to sneer.”