In Berlin this week, a concert performed by the mostly-octogenarian Israeli choral group, Gevatron, was interrupted by pro-Palestinian activists. The individuals donned red shirts and shouted slogans, while unfurling banners and signs and confronting the audience attending the benefit for the Jewish National Fund (JNF).
The group that posted the video, DirectActionBerlin, just opened their account last week, putting up – you guessed it – just one video. I was tempted not to even post about this, lest this forum gives this stunt – or others like it – any more attention or publicity than I think they deserve. But I felt the need to express, in my opinion, how counterproductive acts like these are. And on a personal note, I am sort of sick of them.
First all, we get it: you have access to a printer and an iPhone. And unlike the elderly Germans attending the concert who probably went back to their bridge games and told their friends about those hooligans who caused their blood-level to rise, you will run back to your computer and tweet/Facebook/blog about what you did. Technological advantage goes to you. Check.
What next? The display and set-up reeked of self-publicity (though this one will likely not suffer the same criticism that Mona Eltahawy’s– “if you are on twitter, that’s M-O-N-A” — spray painting incident did.) The girl screaming when someone grabbed her arm was so Over The Top, it actually reminded me of my high school drama teach, who once told me, “If you are ever in a car accident, even a small one, and someone hits your vehicle, just open the door and fall out. Her scream was so orchestrated for dramatic effect. But, in opinion, it was B-movie acting at best.
So it was a stunt for your own promotional purposes. And you got your attention in Haaretz, Ynet and probably a few other places (including, now, +972). But who were you targeting? Ah yes, those Jewish National Fund tin cans – that were knocked over on the way out — where every Jewish American child (and, I guess German Jewish child), at one point or another, dropped a quarter in the can around the time of his or her bar/bat mitzvah. Clearly, you’ll argue, that money was going towards the occupation, and those trees that the JNF vows to plant are actually furthering Jewish roots in the land were Jews don’t belong.
And yes, of course, interrupting the Gevatron, so no one will hear their lyrics calling for the annihilation of the Palestinians. Ummm, what were those words again?
Well, you did it. Your fans love you more, and your enemies loathe you ever more.
Okay, now I’ll admit, part of my frustration – and thus cynicism – lies in the fact that I despise publicity stunts. They are cheap, they are unintelligible and at the end of the day, not only are they not productive, but worse – they risk being counterproductive. The internet age has made everyone into a stunt-master. Gone are the days when demonstrators picketed outside for hours and days. Now, all you need is 30 seconds and a wi-fi connection and no one will know the difference. Tell me, activists, why did you not protest OUTSIDE of the event? Not stunt-ish enough?
And now, what I see, as the bigger problem: because of stunts like this, those who hold leftist positions end up having their views — often thoughtful perspectives and practical approaches — ignored by the Right (and even Center). They are dismissed as supporters of “meshugas” like this, and with them, any potential of talking – YES, TALKING – to those who think differently than you. Israelis – even moderately liberal ones (though admittedly not activist-oriented) with views that are more sympathetic to Palestinians – will hear the Israeli girl chanting “from the river to the sea” … blah blah blah … “Palestine free” … and think to themselves: ‘well, you could start by leaving.’
For those of us who support a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for those of us who want to see dignity restored to the people of both sides, for those of us who understand that co-existence requires understanding and hard-work, stunts like this are an affront and an insult. Yes, the JNF is involved in acquiring (or re-aquiring) property for Jews in East Jerusalem, and there are complicated and ethically-questionable elements associated with that. But in my opinion, articles like Mairav Zonszein’s do much more to inform and raise awareness than a 15-seconds-of-fame stunt.