Selling tickets to Macy Gray in Ramallah?

Posted: January 22nd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: culture, In the News | Tags: , , , | 9 Comments »

The debate regarding the cultural boycott of Israel is framed around the wrong questions

Macy Gray. Would Palestinians be able to see her too? (photo: / via wikimedia commons)

Macy Gray. Would Palestinians be able to see her too? (photo:

So Macy Gray decided to perform in Tel Aviv. After sharing her hesitation with her fans on Facebook, Gray apparently made up her mind not to cancel the gigs she planned to have in Israel. One of her tweets implies she was also turned off by some of the messages she got from the pro-Palestinian side. On Wednesday night, Gray posted a response to one of her followers: “@bahebakyagaza See I’m willing to listen – really listen – but some of you so called boycotters are just assholes.”

I guess some of the posts on Gray’s Facebook wall were indeed unpleasant, and too many were written in all-caps. For someone unfamiliar with the intensity of the Israeli-Palestinian debate, the language and tone on both sides can be shocking. But there is an issue here that goes deeper than style.

Many artists believe that music transcends political boundaries and everyday reality, so they are unwilling to submit their work even to political causes they believe in. Artists also tend to think that fans shouldn’t be punished for their governments’ actions, and some think that it’s not a good idea to mix politics and music. What’s more, most people were educated to believe that banning someone – anyone – is a bad thing, and they are inclined to think that this goes for states too. After all, the US and China commit atrocities as well, so if we ban Israel, why not ban them?

I don’t dismiss these arguments (I tried to deal with some of them here), but I do see a problem in the fact that they focus entirely on the Israeli side. In other words, they deal with one question only: Whether Israelis deserve to be boycotted. Some say they do, others say they don’t, or argue that in such a case everyone could be boycotted; still others claim that even if you could justify the boycott, it would be a counter-productive act that would only push Israelis further to the right.

But instead of discussing Israelis, I want to speak about Palestinians. After all, the main problem about the occupation is not the privileges of Israelis, but the way it affects Palestinians;  and so the political action in confronting the occupation is not about hurting Jews, but rather about helping Palestinians get their rights.

The same goes for the boycott issue: It’s not the fact that Israelis want to go to a music concert that should bother people, but rather that Palestinians can’t attend the same shows. Even though they live under Israeli rule and on the same territory, the Palestinians are locked in their towns and villages, unable to travel or to have anyone visit them without a special permit from Israel. The inability to come to the concert is a symbol of the bigger problem.

So, instead of engaging in the endless debate on whether Israelis are evil enough to have them punished by canceling a music gig – something most artists feel uncomfortable with – I offer a simple test: When booking a show in Tel Aviv, the artist should ask that some of the tickets, say 25 percent, would be sold exclusively to Palestinians and that all ticket holders would be admitted to the concert (naturally, there would need to be some adequate security measures, but if that’s what will help Israel fight the threat of the BDS, I am sure it could be arranged).

If the Israeli organizers of the show refuse or if they are unable to deliver – it will become much harder for them to claim that there is no political problem with the gig, or that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians shouldn’t be compared to Apartheid. And if they deliver, the artist gets to play a real part in bringing down the walls between Jews and Arabs. In any case, everyone would know where they stand.

I know this idea must seem crazy to some Israelis. Selling tickets to Macy Gray in Ramallah? But didn’t we just say music transcends borders and walls? If so, let’s put this notion to a real test.

9 Comments on “Selling tickets to Macy Gray in Ramallah?”

  1. 1 maayan said at 8:57 am on January 22nd, 2011:

    Logistical problem #1: what if Palestinians don’t like Macy Gray’s music but Israelis do? Do the promoters have to leave 25% of the seats open and take a loss? Do they only invite artists who are liked by both Palestinians and Israelis?

    Political problem #1: the problem appears to be with the Palestinians rejecting peace and therefore control over their own destinies. Abbas has now admitted publicly what all of us knew already, that Olmert’s offer included a Palestinian capital in eastern Jerusalem. Abbas also refuted the Left’s claims that Olmert was a weak PM by demanding the Netanyahu begin negotiations where Olmert left them.

    Since this is the case, how is boycotting Israel going to get us anywhere? How is putting restrictions on artists going to bring us closer to peace? They can’t make Israel offer a better deal since a fair and good deal was already offered.

    isn’t the obvious thing to do here is conduct a boycott movement against the Palestinians? I say that all UN and foreign aid should stop flowing until they negotiate in good faith. Being the generous person that I am, however, I have no problem with Macy Gray performing in Ramallah.

  2. 2 John Welch said at 1:08 pm on January 22nd, 2011:

    - Will Israel allow West Bank Palestinians into a concert? How many hours would they have to wait at a “check-point”?

    - A map of settlements, the restricted roads, The Wall, and my own eyesight all confirm that Israel is working to drive all Palestinians out of the West Bank. If enough Israelis cannot find the moral strength to stop this, how can outsiders stop it other than by “BDS” ?

  3. 3 maayan said at 2:47 pm on January 22nd, 2011:

    If a map of settlements that sit on about 3% of the land in Judea and Samaria deceives you, a fence that has about 10% concrete but you still call a wall fools you, and a trebling of Palestinian population since 1967 doesn’t convince you, perhaps it’s time to have your eyesight checked?

  4. 4 John Welch said at 3:06 pm on January 22nd, 2011:

    Gee, I tapped the Wall just to make sure. Up and down the area of Beit Sahour and Bethlehem. Seemed about 20 feet high, and felt like concrete; had guard towers that look like those at a typical US prison.

    I’ve seen the map and the exclusive roads. I saw that The Wall cuts through olive groves.

    I’ve taken a good look at the “settlements” around Bethlehem, and they look permanent.

    How many “settlers” are now planted across the Occupied Territory?

    There seems to be plenty of space in Israel to have built settlements if their purpose was only to house people. True enough, the area is short of water, but not land.

    What conclusion can anyone with sense and logic draw, “maayan”?

    Given the conclusion that the Israeli government intends to drive the Palestinians out of Palestine, what can be done?

    By the way, I saw the Berlin Wall, and the Israeli Wall looks to have been built on the same principles: concrete wall, death zone, second wall. The Israelis use barbed wire for the second wall. Is that much different?

  5. 5 maayan said at 11:13 pm on January 22nd, 2011:

    “John,” why all the sarcasm?

    I’ll repeat myself: “If a map of settlements that sit on about 3% of the land in Judea and Samaria deceives you, a fence that has about 10% concrete but you still call a wall fools you, and a trebling of Palestinian population since 1967 doesn’t convince you, perhaps it’s time to have your eyesight checked?”

    You want to continue? The roads aren’t exclusive. 20% of Israel’s non-Jewish population has the same access to them at the Jewish population. The High Court has recently ruled to open up access to Judea and Samaria Palestinians on one of these key roads. As for the others, they only came to exist because in the years 2000-2004 there were thousands of sniper attacks on cars traveling those roads. The attacks targeted cars with Israeli license plates.

    How many settlers live in Judea and Samaria? Depends on how you count settlements. However, 80% of the settlers live inside the 3.5% area near the Green Line which Israel’s offers of peace and a state to the Palestinians included as an adjunct to Israeli territory.

    Why is this an issue? Did Israel leave a single settler in Sinai or Gaza? It should have, but it didn’t. Apparently, settlers are not indicative of a push to move a population out or of anything other than eventual Israeli complicity in making large areas precisely what the Arabs ask for: Judenrein.

    As for your sense and logic, I’m afraid they are quite absent. If the Palestinian population trebles, life expectancy improves, quality of life is higher than most Arab states, seven universities are founded and maintained, an economy grows by 7% a year, and towns are growing by leaps and bounds like for example A-Tur and Issawiya, then where exactly do sense and logic guide you to conclude that Israel is seeking to “drive all Palestinians out of the West Bank?”


    As for the Berlin Wall comment, let me guess what’s coming next. Nazi and apartheid analogies to Israel. Right?


  6. 6 John Welch said at 5:21 pm on January 23rd, 2011:

    Story and lesson.


    a friend’s kid recently returned from a year-long volunteer effort in Israel, and effort from which young people taught classes, cleaned parks of heroin debris, worked to find homes for foreign children to to work in Israel but collected for deportation.

    We visited last year, and one of the roommates described being part of a medical team that went each week to a West Bank village that had lost its doctors and hospital when an Israeli settlement was planted between the village and Ramallah.

    “What happens when people get sick or are hurt?” the team asked.

    “Either they get well or they die”, was the answer.

    We also heard what happened when the settlers confronted the medical team: “I’ve never been called such things by another Jew. It felt threatening”.

    I heard this story, believe the teller, and both my eyesight and hearing are sound, “Maayan”. Thanks for asking, by the way.



    - the story is reliable, and since
    - it fits with what I saw around Beir Sahour and Bethlehem, and since
    - the Wall, which does, indeed, resemble the Berlin Wall, cuts through Palestinian farmland, and since
    - a map of Israeli settlements and restricted roads indicates that the Israeli government intends to absorb all of the Occupied Territories, and since
    - the Israeli military ignores rulings by the Isrtaeli equivalent of the Supreme Court, and since
    - there is no moral justification for the Israeli courts and law to have jurisdiction over the Occupied Territory, and since
    - the settlements have continued no matter which government is in power in Israel

    it seems obvious that Israel intends to take more and more land from the Palestinians.

    Just for the record, the Berlin Wall was built by the DDR, the German Democratic Republic, a creation of the Soviet Union.

    And, also for the record, Israeli actions remind me of the US system of Jim Crow, or white supremacy. Everything done in the former Confederates states was done according to law and often by legal authorities. Most of it was supported, after the mid 1890s, by the Supreme Court decision in Plessy v. Ferguson.

    All of it, also for the record, was profoundly immoral, and collapsed.

    Incidentally, I loved visiting Israel, but it is complex: there is a stench of racism that people in Tel Aviv don’t seem to smell, but that an outsider can’t miss.

    Oh, and my kids were public afffairs officers in the US Army, hooah? Maybe it’s irrelevant to you, but a senior officer at JTF GTMO ordered a sailor, an E-4, to patrol the Internet and to counter-act misinformation on the detention centers. It all came out, because people tracked the IP address back to the US Navy at GTMO, and there was massive embarassment that the military had attempted to influence civilian opinion. It is illegal in the US, and contrary to doctrine.

    If you are an IDF public affairs troll, which you have suggested is perfectly justifiable, check your doctrine. If not, then have a nice day.

  7. 7 maayan said at 10:39 pm on January 23rd, 2011:

    180,000 Palestinians treated in Israel last year, facilitated by the IDF. That’s 500 people per day.

    You still haven’t addressed any of the key points that I’ve made:

    “If a map of settlements that sit on about 3% of the land in Judea and Samaria deceives you, a fence that has about 10% concrete but you still call a wall fools you, and a trebling of Palestinian population since 1967 doesn’t convince you, perhaps it’s time to have your eyesight checked?”

    As for equating Israel with Jim Crow, you need to visit Tel Aviv for a day. I’ve never heard a more ridiculous comparison. Well, except for the Nazi and apartheid analogies.

  8. 8 John Welch said at 10:47 am on January 30th, 2011:

    - What matters is the placement of the settlements and the Wall. A prison wall takes up very little space, but controls the prisoners.

    - If the Israeli army is thought to be the equivalent of a national health service, then where is your logic?

    - The example was chosen to demonstrate that a settlement can occupy a relatively small area but can control life and death for the Palestinian people. I have seen the Wall and settlements splattered around Beit Sahour. I have seen the Wall that cuts through a Beit Sahour olive grove, seen the signs advertising a new settlement called “Shdema”, which will block one more road to Beit Sahour.

    - The Palestinians can only appeal to Israeli law. That is the situation that blacks faced in the American south during Jim Crow. Segregation was legal in that it followed the laws of each state.

    - Certainly, ordinary people in Tel Aviv are tolerant, but largely oblivious to what happens in the Occupied Territory. If you, “maayan”, were American, you would instantly sense the resentment and recognize it from the Jim Crow south.

    - Why does the Israeli government continue to build settlements and exclusive roads if not to carve out larger and larger chunks of Palestinian territory?

  9. 9 maayan said at 4:28 pm on January 30th, 2011:

    Why a prison wall? A border. It exists for security as we saw last week when it was learned that the group of Palestinians murderers came through a gap that is being considered by the High Court.

    My logic isn’t that the army cares for their health, the army lets Palestinians into Israel and because they need permits to come into a country that isn’t theirs, the army happens to keep count. They report, that’s all. I think you’re evading the point.

    Settlements don’t control life and death for Palestinians. Even the hard-core ones like in Hebron end up being a ghetto for the Jews. Many other settlements require constant army protection.

    There are two nations here, with two different governments. The PA actually enforces its own laws, if you don’t know. If the Palestinians want to live only under Palestinian rule, then they can sign a peace agreement. Right now they’re not even negotiating. The Jim Crow laws comparison is as offensive and false as the Nazi and apartheid comparisons.

    It’s not Palestinian territory. It is disputed territory. Why does Israel do it? Because of internal politics. Then again, it is probably also to acquire leverage in negotiations. It’s a total waste, in my opinion. The money and efforts would have been better spent on the Galilee and the Negev. Be that as it may, the deal’s parameters have been known since 2001. Right now, the PA is denying that they have been negotiating meaningfully or that Al Jazeera’s reports are true. In other words the PA is admitting that when they did negotiate, they didn’t do it in good faith. Why should Israel wait? It should continue to build the main neighborhoods in Jerusalem that will stay Jewish and also focus on E1 and Maale Edumim. The ball is in the Palestinians’ court. What are they doing with it? Trying to circumvent signed agreements and existing UNSCR resolutions.