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Archive for the ‘Beyond the Middle East’ Category

Palestinian_songfestival_2018
– contest not in Jerusalem as some were hoping in 2018 but in Tel Aviv (*) –

All selected artists/groups for Tel Aviv Eurovision Song Contest – which is it’s original name – have been invited to produce before the contest a short video-clip (video post-cards), clips used in the live broadcats of the event. …. These clips were set and filmed in different parts of Israel… whatever territory might entail… so I saw a few (I do not watch the Eurovision thing normally, but now it has enough other meanings to do so when Isarel becomes a part of Europe)… in the clips I saw beautiful fields, beaches, townscape (no fences and walls in sight) – all without an actual mapping of the location… I became under the impression that there was no ‘video shot’ fired in the West Bank, let alone in Gaza… so public relation managers must have advised prime minister Netanyahu not to use the occasion of Eurovision to showIsraeli occupied/liberated enclaves within the West Bank as Israeli landscape background for these clips.

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This screen shot is taken from: “ISRAEL21c is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization and the publisher of an English-language online news magazine recognized as the single most diverse and reliable source of news and information about 21st century Israel.” The’ABOUT’ section states also this: “ISRAEL21c was founded in 2001, in the wake of the Second Intifada, to broaden public understanding of Israel beyond typical portrayals in the mainstream media. The organization’s founders – Israeli-American technology executives – understood the great power of the Internet and developed a first-of-its kind online product with global appeal and reach.

The mash-up video giving flashing fragments of several of the ‘Israel postcard video clip series made for the Eurovision Song Contest 2019.
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There are several small nations included the city state of San Marino (*), very new ones also, like the latest version of Macedonia, BUT I could not find anything related to a young or old nation called by the name of Palestine… REASON ENOUGH TO REPOST MY SONG CONTEST PICTURE made in 2018… which shows the spectacular swirling tear gas cartridges thrown from helicopters and hand swung pyromatic objects by people unhappy by what goes under the name of the state of Israel.
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Meanwhile I keep wondering since when Australia (that participates in the song contest) is considered an European nation or country? Certainly they did any tradition aboriginal dances and songs in Tel Aviv. 21st century nationalism often comes in disguise like the Polish ladies performing in what is supposed to be some kind of national costume… covering all the body parts that need to be covered when the Pope would be the dressmaker… I will try to make later an analysis of the song that brought Israel the first price last year…. with the fat lady doing her stage stampede with skinny boys and girls that emanate a non Jewish state expression of gender roles… this because of the tourist campaigns of the city of Tel Aviv proposing itself as a pro-gay community paradise..
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Alas, I am waiting for the day that Tel Aviv becomes a city state (like San Marino) which also gets rid of all nationalistic devides and a twofold or even threefold city state of Jerusalem (something like Brussels) where orthodox jews, secular pro Palerstinian jews and orthodox Palestinian nationalists all have their own quarters… They can then all participate in the Eurovision Song Contest, making that device into an liberating machine for mankind: A PLATFORM OF CONTESTED NATIONS.
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The winning Israeli song of 2018 had a #MeToo theme with the song “I am not your toy boy”, which is a good thing in a gender emancipatory sense. The #MeToo theme needs to be expanded to other phenomenon of repression and rape… to ‘the rape of nation states’.
No nation state can deny that its history is based on the favouring of one group of people over another one and what is presented as its sacred history is nothing more than a constructed myth about a past that never existed the way it is represented now. Of course a myth tends to have some traits of reality that existed in the past, it is not all imagination, but as the nation state proposes it’s unique identity, this can only be done by neglect or discrimination of elements that are excluded.
The landscapes of Israel shown in the song contest video-clips prove my point… the reality of occupation, of unwanted settlement in territories that do not belong to Israel according to established international law, was excluded from the Eurovision Song Contest broadcasted visuals. No fences, no walls, no road blocks, no Gaza, no West Bank.
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What kind of Eurovision we will see in the future with the split up of national states on the one hand and a further integration of European nations on the other? Will it become a contest of regions? Will the number of participating regions and even city-states make it into an event with over one hundred contesting ‘national or cultural entities’? Welsh, Scottish, Norther Ireland, Catalan, Basque, Occitania, Flanders, Wallonia, Limburg, Friesland, Sachsen, Transylvania, Liechenstein, Rutania, name it… Will it be something smeared out over a song-contest season taking several months… and most important will we then get a more idiosyncratic regional cultural impact on melody, text,language and choreography of the contesting singers, musicians and dancers? As it stands now diversity of the stage acts is dwindling by the year and with participants from the other side of the globe we may ask if this is more due to a globalising than an europeanising cultural effect, with less and less unique cultural species around.

A Eurovision Song Contest of regions could counter the melting pot effect of styles… or am I here proposing a xenophobic renaissance of autochtone tribalism and is the fusion of all national styles into three theatrical prototypes – as we witness now – something we should welcome as a positive outcome of peaceful coexistence?

The total neglect and exclusion of the Palestinian nation in the year 2019 Eurovision Song Contest in Israel shows that such a development may take many decades before it can becomes a reality. At least I like to propose it as something to strive for, utopian as it may seem today.


(*) The New Yorker had this picture and comments on the choice of Eurovision city and the failed attempts to boycot the 2019 Israel Eurovision event:

The host city is often a country’s capital, but this year the European Broadcasting Union, which produces Eurovision, nixed Jerusalem. The city has hosted the event twice before, in 1979 and 1999, but those were times when Jerusalem’s future seemed more open-ended, and Israel’s claims on it more ambiguous. Barzilai won the event, last year, during the same week that the Trump Administration moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, and more than sixty Gazans were killed at the border with Israel. If the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Donald Trump were going to try to settle the fate of Jerusalem by fiat and force, the executives of the European Broadcasting Union, apparently, were not going to be party to it.

So Tel Aviv was swapped for Jerusalem, Israel’s état réel for its état légal, a decision that rightist pundits called “a win for the B.D.S. movement”—the Palestinian-inspired movement of Western activists advocating for boycott, disinvestment, and sanctions—although any hard feelings caused by the flap quickly dissipated. In the end, no country backed out of the contest. Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, a B.D.S. supporter, had called on artists to shun the event, particularly Madonna, who was considering making an appearance. But Madonna, an acolyte of Kabbalah—a Jewish mystical tradition—confirmed that she will perform at the closing event, on Saturday night. Israelis will settle for that.

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Caption of the New Yorker: “Left-wing Israelis protest the Eurovision Song Contest, which this year is being held in Tel Aviv.Photograph by Menahem Kahana”

(**) There is a very interesting andwell documented Wikipedia page on the Eurovison Song Contest and the participating countries, explaining how the odd definition of Eurpean works according to the EUROVISION broadcats association as well as listing those ‘countries” that tried in vain to participate (Liechtenstein, Lebanon, Catalonia, Kosovo, Qatar, Scotland, Wales, Soviet Union, Tunesia).

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Nasser speaking in Alexandria in 1956... click picture to see movie

A post by my Hungarian friend Attila Ara-Kovacs on Facebook pointing to an article in The Guardian about the youth of Alexandria protecting the new Alexandria Library against looters (“lawless bands of thugs” according to the librarian), did trigger a whole range of associations:

Alexandria, Egypt, Friday, Feb. 4, 2011.

Alexandria the city of popular upheavals for millennia against Roman pagan rule, against Roman christian rule, against French and British imperialists from the landing of Napoleons troops at the beginning of the 19th century to the French and British naval bombardment in 1882 and the Suez War of 1956… at the same time of the rising in Hungary and the Russian invasion. The Egyptians under Nasser where supposedly allies of The Soviet Union in those Cold War days… though Nasser kept local party communist activists neatly in prison.

An ancient obelisks from Alexandria, dating back three millennia, symbol of the all powerful rule of Egyptian pharaohs and – in disrespect of any idea of cultural heritage was given away in 1819 by Muhammad Ali Pasha to thank the Brits – enemies of his enemies for their interference against French Napoleonic occupation. Ali Pasha was a Turk general of Albanian origin of the Ottoman empire who had just declared himself ‘Khedive’ (vice-king) of Egypt and Sudan. The obelisk was taken and shipped  much later from Alexandria and almost lost on its way and can till this day be seen in London at the embankment of the river Thames. Later the Americans also did get their Egyptian obelisk as a gift by the next Egyptian ruler, Isma’il Pasha, in 1877 – the year of the opening of the Suez Canal – who wanted to play the Americans against the now en encroaching powers of France and Britain. This obelisk also came from Alexandria and now stands  in Central Park New York. The French did also get their obelisk from Muhammad Ali Pasha in 1826, this one  was taken from a temple in Luxor, it now stands at Place de la Concorde in Paris.  In a long range view of history, such symbolic gestures of royal gifts to stem imperial strive make sense. Was the founder of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina not one of the generals of another much earlier imperialist, Alexander The Great?

Ptolemaeus (367-283 BC), a Macedonian general, who used the icon of Alexander as a ‘trade mark’ on the coins of his new found Greek kingdom on the soil of Egypt… exploited the split up spoils of Alexanders wars of aggression against other empires, founding yet another one. He named himself pharaoh  and  was also the founder of the most idealised icon  of all libraries the ‘Museon’ with in it a collection of  mainly book-scrolls, later known as  ‘The Bibliotheca Alexandrina’. The new dynasty was expanding over neighbouring countries and held out three centuries to end up as a Roman dependency.

Alexandria has been a most important hub in Mediterranean trade, not only of goods but also a centre where different believe systems both came together and were fighting each other.  Pagans versus Christians and different schools of Christians between each other , while over time Islam took over almost completely and Jewish influence was constant, but marginal.  The history of rulers and upheavals in the town of Alexandria is sheer endless. These associations made me find today a fascinating book on the history of this town by  Christopher Haas “Alexandria in late antiquity: topography and social conflict”,  with several opening chapters freely available on the internet by GoogleBooks.

“The true criminals are the blood suckers… that sucked us dry”, Colonel Nasser is shouting from a balcony in Alexandria just over half a century ago… and I remember the war and the inflamed news of the Cold War  on the radio, from when I was just a boy of 12 years old. The bloodsuckers where the French entrepreneurs that started the construction of the Suez canal and the Brits that were first opposing  this new shipping route – because they had insufficient control of it – but later took over control and endorsed it. Main part of the work was based on Egyptian slave labour (“Egyptian blood ran in the canal before the water of the seas”). Nasser and his rebellious group of young army officers confiscated the Suez Canal in 1956 and send a wave of popular enthusiasm not only through the whole of Egypt, but throughout all of the Arab world. That attempts at canal building and the inclusive slave labour to realize it goes back till the time of the Egyptian pharaohs was left out of the revolutionary rhetorics of that time.

Click picture to see the news reel as a part of a documentary on YouTube

Has Egypt now been colonised by its own ruling class? Or is it only a neo-colonialist conspiracy with Mubarak as a puppet? The last option seems to be the most unreal one… So who are the true criminals now?

It seems that in the end each nation that has freed itself from the shackles of colonialism and even neo-colonialism, has enough exploitive creativity within its own ranks to keep on or recreate whatever forms of group exploitation. What we see is the demise of romantic ‘Third Worldism’, packaged in marxist, leninist, maoist or any other anti-imperialist discourse. The ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ may on the level of Gross National products economically by separate areas of the world, but within each territory this two-fold separation is reproduced once again. Each name of a leader we may know or learn during upheavals like the one in Egypt, is like a bastions behind which whole social layers of society who are profiteers and practitioners, hide themselves. The personal power of the Egyptian presidency from Nasser To Sadat en Mubarak may be comparatively speaking huge, a ruler and his or her rule is always carried by several layers of society, kept in a bond of reciprocal dependency.

Is being wealthy always a crime and poorness a virtue? Or can there be some form of creative connection between the classes to level out their differences, because too much wealth can not be consumed alone and needs to be shared. Is that maybe what democracy in Egypt and elsewhere should be about?

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