Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


Jamie Neikrie: Pro-Palestinian Protests Paint Unfair Picture

Pro-Palestinian Protests Paint Unfair Picture

By Jamie Neikrie

This past weekend’s protests outside the St. James Theatre demonstrated the ugly side of public debate.

Protests by John Minto and a pro-Palestinian coalition clashed with responders from the Wellington Jewish community and the Auckland-based Flaxmere Christiam Fellowship, outside a performance by an Israeli dance troupe, Batsheva.

While both sides offered literature to advance their stance, the protests soon devolved into a shouting match, with microphones from the pro-Palestinian side blaring “Shame! Shame! Shame!” across Courtenay Place.

I understand the pro-Palestinian point of view. They are seeking to represent the rights of a minority whom they see as unfairly oppressed and repressed. And they see the Batsheva’s performance as an attempt to distract from Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.

But their presence outside of the performance was wrong. Yes, Batsheva receives funding from the Israeli government. But that does not mean that they represent the will or the interests of the Israeli government. In fact, the dance troupe’s 18 dancers hail from seven difference countries, representing different cultures and opinions. The troupe has existed since 1964, and its only outreach and education programs seek to bring dance and the arts to communities across the world.

Cultural boycotts have long been a staple of New Zealand activism. New Zealand’s boycott of the South African Rugby garnered world support and led to the International Olympic Committee expelling South Africa from the 1964 and 1968 games. John Minto has been consistent in his boycotting techniques, but he seems to have lost sight of the goal. The South African Rugby team was the pride and joy of the country, a dominant force sent around to world to demonstrate South Africa’s power. Refusing to play South Africa and denying their sporting dominance sent a message to the government of South Africa, and to the world. But what does protesting an acclaimed dance troupe say?

Nearly every country employs art programs as a means of cultural outreach. Such diplomacy serves to exchange ideas and history and foster understanding between nations. The United Kingdom has the British Council, Germany has the Goethe Institute, and France has the Alliance Francaise. When the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra undertook a worldwide tour in 2005, they weren’t supporting John Key’s economic programs or calling for the Labour party to retake control. They are only representing the cultural and artistic achievement of the country, something for which New Zealand should be proud.

I am drawing a fine line in the sand between Batsheva and the South African Rugby team, but it is one that needs to be recognized. By viewing cultural outreach programs as propaganda, we are encouraging cultural ignorance and nativism.

To claim that the pro-Palestinian protests didn’t hurt the dance troupe would be disingenuous. One of the protestors boasted that their efforts had resulted in at least a dozen people choosing not to attend the performance. It’s possible that these people, after reading the pro-Palestinian pamphlets, were convinced that attending the performance would be to tacitly support an oppressive regime. It’s also possible that they felt the “Shame! Shame! Shame!” that the protestors forced on them. Either way, the actions of the protestors had a negative effect on the dance troupe, punishment that was wholly underserved.

The other unfortunate side of the pro-Palestinian protests was their use of the word “apartheid,” and their comparison of South Africa to Israel. The Palestinian people are the minority. And they are largely separated in public life from the Israelis. But unlike the blacks in South Africa during apartheid, they aren’t members of the same country. The Gaza Strip and the West Bank have their own governments (one of which is seen as a terrorist organization in much of the world) and leadership, and Palestine is recognized as a sovereign nation by most countries in the world. As a people, the Palestinians wield far more rights that the blacks in South Africa did.

And to claim that the Palestinian people are an unfairly maligned people, oppressed by the Israeli bully, is to ignore a large part of the narrative. The Palestinian government continues to deny Israel’s right to exist, making any diplomacy nearly impossible. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is geographical and political, but it is also a product of cultural, historical, and religious clashes that create a far difference scenario from the South African apartheid.

Israel is far from innocent, but the separation of the Palestinians from the Israelis is as much a safety valve as it is a cultural divide.

When Great Britain gave Jerusalem to the Jews after World War II, it was condemning Israel to a religious war. The situation has been unfortunate for every side, including Palestine. But Israel has continued to maintain Jerusalem as an open homeland for the three major Abrahamic religions and welcome Palestinians into the city. Painting Israel as the oppressive bully, the modern South Africa, is a misleading narrative. Using this narrative to protest an Israeli dance troupe with no political ties is even worse.

********

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Syed Atiq ul Hassan: Eye-Opener For Islamic Community

An event of siege, terror and killing carried out by Haron Monis in the heart of Sydney business district has been an eye-opener for the Islamic Community in Australia. Haron was shot down before he killed two innocent people, a lawyer and a manager ... More>>

Jonathan Cook: US Feels The Heat On Palestine Vote At UN

The floodgates have begun to open across Europe on recognition of Palestinian statehood. On 12 December the Portuguese parliament became the latest European legislature to call on its government to back statehood, joining Sweden, Britain, Ireland, France ... More>>

ALSO:


Fightback: MANA Movement Regroups, Call For Mana Wahine Policy

In the wake of this years’ electoral defeat, the MANA Movement is regrouping. On November 29th, Fightback members attended a Members’ Hui in Tāmaki/Auckland, with around 70 attending from around the country. More>>

Ramzy Baroud: The Mockingjay Of Palestine: “If We Burn, You Burn With Us”

Raed Mu’anis was my best friend. The small scar on top of his left eyebrow was my doing at the age of five. I urged him to quit hanging on a rope where my mother was drying our laundry. He wouldn’t listen, so I threw a rock at him. More>>

ALSO:

Don Franks: Future Of Work Commission: Labour's Shrewd Move

Lunging boldly towards John Key, shouting 'Cut the crap!' - Andrew Little was great, wasn't he? Labour's new leader spoke for many people fed up with Key's flippant arrogant deceit. Andrew Little nailing the Prime minister on lying about contacting a rightwing ... More>>

Asia-Pacific Journal: MSG Headache, West Papuan Heartache? Indonesia’s Melanesian Foray

Asia and the Pacific--these two geographic, political and cultural regions encompass entire life-worlds, cosmologies and cultures. Yet Indonesia’s recent enthusiastic outreach to Melanesia indicates an attempt to bridge both the constructed and actual ... More>>

Valerie Morse: The Security State: We Should Not Be Surprised, But We Should Be Worried

On the very day that the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security released her report into the actions of people the Prime Minister’s office in leaking classified Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS) documents to right-wing smearmonger Cameron ... More>>

Ramzy Baroud: PFLP Soul-Searching: Rise And Fall Of Palestine’s Socialists

When news reports alleged that the two cousins behind the Jerusalem synagogue attack on 18 November were affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a level of confusion reigned. Why the PFLP? Why now? More>>

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news