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Posted in: Israel

Published on Sep 21, 2010 by Phyllis Chesler

Written for NewsRealBlog

Artists Without Borders


Why not?

We understand that doctors and other emergency care personnel cross borders and leave their own political point of view behind. If quake victims happen to live under a dictatorship—no matter; if a girl's face has been burned away by an acid attack, or her nose and ears mutilated by Muslim madmen—no matter; the doctors will continue to treat both the victims and those who attacked them if necessary.

Indeed, in Israel, physicians treat their own victims of terrorism as well as the Arab, Palestinian terrorists who tried to murder them.

Composing music, painting, dancing, singing, acting, writing, thinking, all have the power to delight, illuminate, and console the human spirit. Artists pride themselves on refusing to recognize false boundaries. Once, they believed, as Keats did, that "beauty is truth, truth beauty, that is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know."

That was well before the era of propaganda artists and their propagandized offspring. Artists should not politically censor themselves or each other. Artists should not limit their audience only to those with whom they agree. Communist and Nazi regimes once did this to their artists. Muslim/Islamist regimes have taken up that dubious mantle. And prominent Western artists are joining them.

Has everyone forgotten that the Indian novelist, Salman Rushdie, had to spend a decade in hiding because his work of fiction "offended" Ayatollah Khomeini? Do people remember that the Dutch artist, Theo Van Gogh, was murdered because he made a pro-woman film which "offended" the Islamist sensibilities of his Moroccan murderer? Do they understand that Kurt Westergaard has had to live under armed guard around the clock because his fairly inoffensive Mohammed cartoons "offended" Muslim/Islamist sensibilities? Draw a line between Westergaard and his Danish newspaper, Jyllens-Posten (which was recently the target of an attempted bombing attack), and our own Seattle-based Molly Norris, who suggested that we have a "Draw Mohammed Day" and whom the FBI has just turned into a "ghost" for her own safety?

It is tragic when artists boycott only one country on earth—any country for that matter. Once, in 2003, the Swedish filmmaker, Lukas Moodyson, refused to allow his film about female sexual slavery to be shown at a conference against female sexual slavery because that conference was taking place in Israel. Moodyson had allowed his film to be shown on every continent where brothels and trafficking flourish, but not in Israel. I wrote about this for Frontpage after the New York Times had turned the piece down. It was the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship there. I pointed out that great talent does not render an artist immune from vulgar prejudices. Moodyson knew my work (many of my books had been translated into Swedish), and he wrote me in great anger, but then he relented and allowed the Israeli conference to show his film "Lilya-4-ever."

But now there is a new boycott by American, European, and Israeli theatre people, writers, and academics (Ed Asner, Theodore Bikel, Eve Ensler, Tony Kushner, Julianne Moore, Vanessa Redgrave, Stephen Sondheim) of the Ariel Cultural Center in Israel. I wrote about this here. I ask why artists are taking a stand only against Israel, but not against any other country.

When have western artists last refused to appear in Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, or Pakistan? Surely the human rights records of these countries cry out for artists who live in freedom to do so in response to the Muslim/Islamist torture and imprisonment of Muslim artists and dissidents, infidels, women, homosexuals, the non-stop Islamist terrorist attacks against Muslims, and the "manufacture" and distribution of the most vicious propaganda against Israel and America.

Nevertheless, in 2010, U2 performed in Turkey; also in 2010, 50 Cent performed in Egypt; Rihanna peformed in Abu Dhabi, and a German disco band, Boney M., performed in Ramallah—the capital of honor killings, torture, and forced veilings. In 2009, a Danish hip-hop group, Outlandish, also performed in Ramallah. In 2009, the Canadian singer, Leonard Cohen was scheduled to perform in Ramallah; the Palestinians canceled his appearance because he had dared to perform in Tel Aviv. Well, maybe they canceled him because Cohen is also a Jew.

This is what Islamist regimes do. Why are Western artists joining them?

The artist-boycotters of Israel wish to be seen as "anti-racists;" yet, by holding Arab and Muslim countries to much lower standards, and by condemning their inhabitants to continued Islamist barbarism, they fail every test of non-racism. Their anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism, which is a form of racism.

What is needed is a spirited troupe of players to break this new kind of blockade. I may have found one in Artists 4 Israel. I first wrote about them here. They are an amazing group of Americans, both Jewish and non-Jewish, who are dancers, painters, playwrights, and actors. They have already visited Israel to paint graffiti art and murals on the bomb shelters in Sderot. Craig Dershowitz, their director, is very interested in joining me on this project to Free Ariel.

If you wish to help in this effort, please contact me through my Web site, www.phyllis-chesler.com, or contact Artists 4 Israel.


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