Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno, The Yes Men, have an unusual hobby: posing as top executives of corporations they hate. Armed with nothing but thrift-store suits, they lie their way into business conferences and parody their corporate nemeses by basically doing everything that they can to wake up their audiences to the danger of letting greed run the world. I have watched their 2003 documentary and was hoping to catch their newest film, when I found out they will be protesting Israeli policies by withdrawing from the Jerusalem Film Festival in solidarity with the ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign for Palestine’. Here’s an excerpt from their letter to the JFF:
[…] This decision does not come easily, as we feel a strong affinity with many people in Israel, sharing with them our Jewish roots, as well as the trauma of the Holocaust, in which both our grandfathers died. Andy lived in Jerusalem for a year long ago, can still get by in Hebrew, and counts several friends there. And Mike has always wanted to connect with the roots of his culture.
But despite all our feelings, we cannot abandon our mission as activists. In the 1980s, there was a call from the people of South Africa to artists and others to boycott that regime, and it helped end apartheid there. Today, there is a clear call for a boycott from Palestinian civil society. Obeying it is our only hope, as filmmakers and activists, of helping put pressure on the Israeli government to comply with international law.
[…] To those who want to see our film, savlanut and sabir (patience)! And for all the rest of us, a little LESS patience, please.
L’shanah haba’ah beyerushalayim,
Andy and Mike
The Yes Men
After reading their full letter I still disagree with their action but I do so respectfully. Here’s what we’ll be missing:
Israelis love their armchair activism. As long as they don’t have to do anything more than click their mouse, they are willing to show their support. This is particularly evident in the sheer number of people willing to join a so-called online protest, in comparison to how few are willing to put on their coat and walk to the city center for an actual real-world protest.
Armchair activism has a particularly disgusting side as it brings out the trigger happiness in people. In light of recent events, dozens of hawkish Facebook groups were created by Israelis, advocating the annihilation of the Gaza strip. All you have to do is click the ‘Join’ button, and you have instantly shown your degree of ‘patriotism’. Here is a selection of those Facebook groups:
[singlepic id=116 w=200 h=303 float=right]In this atmosphere of collective zeal, I think nothing can be more patriotic than watching War, A Rock Opera this coming Wednesday in Tel-Aviv. The show was created by Israeli musician Kobi Vitman based on his ordeals as an IDF reserve infantry soldier during Operation Defensive Shield in 2002, but it was painfully relevant to the 2006 Lebanon War – and even more so now, as the conflict in Gaza escalates into a ground invasion. The collective Israeli memory is notoriously short, and so watching this show is an excellent reminder of what war is really like in a country where every citizen is a soldier.
What: War, A Rock Opera
When: Wednesday, January 7, 2009 at 10:30pm
Where: Tmuna Theatre, 8 Soncino street, Tel Aviv, Israel
Who: Kobi Vitman, Dvir Benedek, Ayelet Robinson, Yaniv Levi
Why: Read my critique
[singlepic id=74 w=450 h=634 float=center]
Yesterday, in front of AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Obama delivered an historic speech. Instead of the usual speech that every other politician gives, which basically show affection without backing it up with any specific commitments (‘we stand with Israel… Israel is strong… I cried at Yad Vashem… Bla bla bla…‘) – instead of that, Obama made elaborate and unprecedented commitments including:
- keeping US aid at 30 billion dollars over the next decade
- unequivocal commitment to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon
- rejection of the Palestinian right of return
- Jerusalem as the capital of Israel – undivided
Now that Baruch Obama is the presumptive Democratic nominee, do yourself a favor and invest 35 minutes of your time to listen to one whole speech by the senator. Each day I watch in dismay how the TV channels summarize a speech to a 30 seconds sound bite, and while each day it is a different speech, the sound bites are almost the same: Change-change-change, Hope-hope-hope, Yes we can. People who say Obama has nothing but slogans to offer – this is for you:
Full transcript, below the fold:
Continue reading Joy Cometh in the Morning, Delivered By the Paperboy