Response to Cat Power cancellation – accept her awakening

By Rachel Canar

The scathing critique by Mairav Zonszein and Assaf Shatil of Chan Marshall/Cat Power’s cancellation of her February 12 scheduled performance in Tel Aviv was so ideological that it missed the point.

Chan/Cat explained her reason for cancelling the show  in a tweet she sent on February 9.

Due to much confusion in my soul, playing for my Israeli fans w/such unrest between Israel&Palestine I can’t play, as I feel sick in my spirit XX

I am not shocked by Cat Power’s decision. She has joined a long and growing list of performers who have caved to public pressure from the BDS movement and canceled scheduled performances at the last minute.

What was shocking was that Mairav and Assaf, both of whom oppose the occupation, seemed to judge her just as harshly for scheduling and then canceling as if she had not canceled at all. They attacked her for ignorance and moral turpitude:

Any artist who books a show in Israel and starts selling tickets should know from the get-go that they have done so in a place that is and has been controversial for a long time … Was she not aware just a few weeks ago of the ongoing Israeli military hold on Palestinians and its discriminatory policies? Was she not morally conscious then?

The unfortunate line of reasoning – condemning those who initially oppose a position after they change their minds and join the cause – is an obstacle.  I have seen it all too often in major social change and ideological movements, and I’ve seen it all too often with regards to the struggle against the Israeli occupation.

Over a decade ago, during the 2000 Gore Presidential campaign, many women opposed Gore’s candidacy because he had previously opposed abortion rights. He had long since changed his mind and was plainly outspoken about his belief that all women should have the right to choose and full autonomy over their own bodies. Gloria Steinheim, made the following statement in her effort to get more women and women’s groups to support Gore:

Reason #8: Condemning Gore for ever having taken a different position–for example, for voting against access to legal abortion when he was a Congressman from Tennessee–actually dissuades others from changing their minds and joining us.

Whatever your cause – reproductive rights for women, animal rights, or human rights in Palestine and opposing the Israeli Occupation – the main goal should not be simply to educate everyone about how horrible the problem is, and berate all those who do not see or acknowledge it. To achieve social change, you must win them over and change their minds, including and especially those with whom you have little in common, and don’t even like.

If they switch to your side, you will have to accept those who are more ignorant than you about the cause, who in the past were apathetic, or cowardly, or perhaps once were strident, engaged opposition. They should even be celebrated and welcomed with open arms – the struggle was all about winning them over in the first place.

If we want to end the occupation, we must change so many people’s minds that we create a whole paradigm shift. In the new paradigm, opposing the occupation and seeing its inhumanity is the mainstream position, and those who support it are marginalized.

Therefore, we shouldn’t reject Cat Power’s first realization that the occupation is wrong.

By the same logic used to reject Cat Power, new attendees and self-proclaimed Zionists attending the Sheik Jarrah protests are now being rejected. In fact many activists refuse to accept anyone who wasn’t anti-occupation to begin with. No newbies allowed! Only original and authentic anti-occupation supporters; anyone new is a fraud.

If movements can’t accept new people who have changed their mind, they will never grow. And if people aren’t really interested in growing the movement, then perhaps they are  less interested in real social change, and more interested in maintaining moral superiority – elitism.

But, the goal is to end the occupation, not just to gloat from status quo rooftops, looking down on all the idiots who just don’t get it.

Rachel Canar is a consultant for organizational development and has been working to advance social change organizations in Israel since 2001. She lives in Tel Aviv.