Monday, April 19, 2010

Warsaw, Gaza, BDS & Gil Scott-Heron

Today is the 67th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. For people like me, Jews of the post-war generation who grew up in the shadow of the Nazi holocaust and never heard that there had been any armed Jewish resistance to the European fascists' genocide campaign except for this one instance, the April 1943 battle by the last survivors inside the ghetto holds special resonance. Of course I now know what I didn't know as a kid, that there was widespread, hard-fought resistance, and that most of it was led by communist partisans. Still, the heroism of the Warsaw fighters stands as a proud moment in my people's history.

What a contrast to the present-day shame, the stain on my people's name: the Zionist apartheid state of Israel. Today, those who support the right of national self-determination, those who stand with the oppressed, those who oppose racism and occupation, stand with the Palestinian people. Especially the people of Gaza, today's Warsaw Ghetto. I'm glad that more and more of those who stand with Palestine are Jews, as more and more break away from the grip of Zionism, which is a racist, reactionary ideology that has nothing in common with the Jewish people's history of righteous struggle for justice and against oppression.

I've noticed this development again lately in connection with BDS, the growing worldwide movement for Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions against Israel. More and more of those signing on are Jews. I saw an example of this in the last few days, after it was announced that beloved, politically radical musician Gil Scott-Heron has scheduled a concert for next month in Tel Aviv. Veterans of the anti-apartheid movement that built up around the struggle in South Africa in the 1970s and 80s, in which Gil Scott-Heron was very active himself, have expressed dismay. Supporters of the BDS movement have issued public appeals to the musician to cancel the concert. And on Facebook, a slew of postings, from Palestinians, from people of African descent, and also from many people with Jewish names, express decades-long love and respect for him and ask him to please support the BDS movement against Israeli apartheid and not play in Israel. The musician has a series of concerts set for this week in England, and activists with tickets plan to hold up Palestinian flags and placards asking him to cancel the Tel Aviv gig.

Anyone can leave a comment on Gil Scott-Heron's website. If you do, I'd urge that your message be conveyed with the utmost respect for this wonderful artist who has contributed so much over the years. The hope is that he can be won over to see what an error a Tel Aviv concert would be.

Update: A welcome development: although it's not definitively confirmed yet, it appears that Gil Scott-Heron has canceled his Tel Aviv concert.