Opinion on the Arts by Stanley Heller
Supporters of Palestinian rights were stunned to hear that the Canadian rocker Neil Young and his band Crazy Horse plan to go to Tel Aviv for a concert in July. Young has a good reputation in human rights and anti-war circles. Why would he go to a country infamous for stealing the land of its native people and defy the activist call for boycott?
A 2012 article in ICTMN noted an Indian horseman on the cover of his then-latest album Psychedelic Pill. He has a “fascination with Native American culture — songs he has recorded on Native themes include 'Cortez the Killer,' 'Pocahontas,' and 'Broken Arrow.'" "Pocahantas" is a 1979 song whose lyrics are about a massacre of an Indian tribe by European settlers. The band Young works with is called Crazy Horse, named after the legendary Lakota warrior. In January of this year he went on a fundraising tour to support Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation's legal battle to halt the oil sands' expansion.
So on some level he gets what settlers and prejudice have meant for Indians, but for Palestinians evidently not yet. He should look at the similarities. The land that houses the stadium where Young is to perform was once the Palestinian village of Al Mirr. It’s one of over 500 Palestinian villages were emptied of their residents in 1947-1948. Indian nations, of course, know about loss of land.
This is a rough guide to land lost by Indian nations 1492 to present in the lower 48.
For Palestinians it’s this:
It’s actually worse than what’s shown above. In the Gaza Strip the Israelis have an ill-defined “no-go” zone on the Palestinian side of the border. The Israeli group B’tselem estimates that it means 17% of the Strip can’t be entered by Palestinians. IDF soldiers have killed over 150 Palestinian civilians since 2005 to enforce this ban.
The loss of land is ongoing. New Jewish-only settlement housing complexes on seized Palestinian land are announced every few months. In contrast Palestinian homes are routinely torn down because though they build on their own land, they can’t get building permits from Israeli government bodies.
I quote from an open letter to Neil Young sent recently from the Gaza Strip by a group of Palestinian students and a teachers association.
“The violence behind Israel’s military occupation of our land is relentless and this week is no different. It began with Israeli border police shooting and killing a 38 year old Palestinian judge Raed Zeitar, the other bus passengers forced to sit and watch as he bled to death. Then 18-year-old Saji Darwish, Humanities student at Birzeit university, was shot in the head in Beitin, near Ramallah. Thousands attended his funeral the following day. Tuesday saw four more murdered in the West Bank and Gaza. On Wednesday Israeli authorities approved the construction of 387 housing units in the illegal settlement of Ramat Shlomo, denying the Palestinian towns of Beit Hanina and Shuafat the possibility to expand. And today a three-month old baby Ahmed Ammar Abu Nahal died of enlarged heart and liver as a result of the closure of Gaza crossings, a closure that has also left our hospitals bereft of medical supplies.”
Out of regret for inaction during the years of the Holocaust and in thanks to Israel’s role in attacking Arab countries which don’t bow before the U.S. 1%, the U.S. government showers Israel with billions in aid, every type of new weapon and wall to wall support at international forums. Palestinian attempts to defend their rights (including violence) have not been successful. In 2005 Palestinian civil society groups decided on a new strategy, a serious attempt for a worldwide peaceful campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions.
170 Palestinian civil society organizations launched a campaign calling for the international community to boycott Israel culturally, academically, and commercially. It’s having impact. Even Secretary of State Kerry mentioned that Israel could face more BDS pressure if it didn’t arrange a peace settlement with the Palestinians. Elvis Costello, Stevie Wonder, Vanessa Paradis, and many other performing artists cancelled their performances in Israel in respect for this call. In 2013 the most famous physicist in the world, Steven Hawking, cancelled his appearance at a Jerusalem science conference as a mark of protest.
Neil Young should be part of that worthy group. He needs to enlarge his horizons and universalize the sympathy he feels for Indian nations to Palestinians and all the oppressed.
So how does one reach Neil Young to try to convince him?
6,500 hundreds people signed this petition at “Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East”;
There’s a petition on the page of the “Independent Jewish Voices” site;
Young has a Facebook page that allows comments;
And there’s an unofficial Neil Young fansite here that has already started discussing the issue.