Monday, September 14, 2009

our ordeal in Barcelona

About 3 months ago, Gil Dor and myself recieved an invitation to perform in the ‘Diada’ in Barcelona, the most important celebration in Catalunya, that takes place on their national day, september 11th (it is actually the day they lost their independence and were forced to join the Spanish union). I was asked to sing a song called “el cant del ocells”, the song of the birds. It is an old Catalan song that was resurrected by Pau Casals, the world famous cellist (from Catalunya), who made it into a national symbol of peace and dreams yet to be fulfilled. It is one of the most important and well loved songs in catalunya. The organizers asked me to collaborate on this song with the Arab Orchestra of Barcelona, with whom I happily agreed to join forces. It was also planned that I sing the theme song from ‘life is beautiful’ in Catalan as well. The invitation was a huge honor for us.

A few days before the concert, a group called “Palestinian Solidarity Group” in Barcelona called to Boycott me and my performance, claiming that since I had “justified the bombing of gaza” in my open letter to the Palestinians during the gaza war, I could not sing for peace in Barcelona. The radical left wing party, ICV, who are ironically also in the government and so responsible for inviting me to begin with, joined this group in calling for the cancellation of my concert, a boycott on me personally and on Israel as a whole.

The newspapers were full of this story, it was on the front page everywhere in Spain and especially in Catlunya as the Diada is a hugely important event for them, and I am very famous in Spain. A large internet campaign was launched as well.

Gil Dor and myself decided to fight back, with a major retaliation against this indomitable propaganda. We got prime space in all the newspapers, tv and radio. Our point was, that the situation in the middle east is much too complex to be judged by such childish, simplistic terms. We are people with a long history of peace activity. Condemning Hamas does not mean going against the Palestinian people, the opposite is true. We believed during the Gaza war and still believe the Palestinian population in Gaza are being held hostage by hamas and their fanataic views, who are willing to sacrifice innocent victims on the altar of their death-loving ideology. At the same time, we continue to support Abu Mazen’s strategy of dialogue, co-existence, and a two-state solution. We support dialogue and compromise above all else. Our well known peace plan, “recognize, apologize, share” is the flag we bear proudly (read more details on earlier blog posts, especially 'politics, first step'). The Israeli embassy in Spain, the Spanish foreign ministry (Miguel Moratinos and his staff, who were visiting Israel at the time), our Israeli and Spanish management and promoters all came to our assistance. Mira Awad was also interviewed, and expressed strong support for our cause and our message.

This message came across clearly in all the media, and in Friday morning’s headlines the tide was clearly changing in our favor.

During the concert, there were about 50 people in the front rows form this organization, waving Palestinian flags, blowing whistles, yelling “boycott Israel! Boycott Israel”! they tried as hard as they could to get me off stage, to make me stop singing, to make sure nobody could hear me.
But they failed!
Even though my heart was breaking inside, I decided not to surrender to this ‘violent’ minority and to respect the event and the people of Catalunya who invited me.

I sang the lovely song ‘el cant dels ocells’ with the Arab orchestra, who played beautifully. It must be said to their credit, that despite the fact that they were attacked by the Palestinian organization constantly and urged to cancel their performance with me, they refused, preferring to stand on stage together and convey this message of peace for all to see.

Then I spoke. I read a speech I had written, translated into Catalan. In this speech, I said that I was honored to perform in Catalunya and that I admire how, despite all the dreams they have yet to fulfill (referring to ther dream of independence), they cultivate peace and brotherhood on their lands. We in the middle east, I said, have many dreams too, but our road is a bloody one. we look to the west and take inspiration from a continent that was once drenched in blood and has found somehow a way to live in unity and solidarity. That is our wish too.
Then I said that it is my dream to sing in the signing of the peace treaty between Israel and Palestine.

I got a huge standing ovation from the audience, and when I sang “life is beautiful”, there was perfect silence.

you can see the video here, our performance is 27 minutes into the ceremony
the song 'beautiful that way' here

The next day, the newspapers were full of compliments, saying “victory for Noa, star of Diada”. The media condemned the behavior of the demonstrators, and the ICV radical left party , who initiated the boycott, claimed they had never meant to do it and they were misunderstood …! Now they want to collaborate with us!

It is important to state that this victory was not only ours, it was a victory for Israel, and for all people everywhere who believe peace is not only a dream but can be a reality of we work for it!! In days when Israel’s image is being so ruthlessly and diabolically distorted everywhere, I feel this incident is a real ray of light.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

reaction to Catalan Palestinian Activists

The following document answers several questions I have been asked as a part of the discussion about my Open Letter to my Palestinian Brothers, from January 2009 (Gaza War).

1. Why did you write the line: “I can only wish for you that Israel will do the job we all know needs to be done, and finally RID YOU of this cancer, this virus, this monster called fanaticism, today, called Hamas. “ ?

The last Gaza operation came after 8 years of consecutive bombing by Hamas on Israel’s borders. 8 years! Israel has been dragged into war by those who dream of dying for Allah. This is not something I have invented:

Hamas Covenant, 18 August 1988

“The Slogan of the Islamic Resistance Movement: Allah is its target, the Prophet is its model, the Koran its constitution: Jihad is its path and death for the sake of Allah is the loftiest of its wishes.”

The declared purpose of these rocket attacks and mortar shelling was to continue the Islamic Palestinian armed struggle against Israel. Here's another quote :

Hamas covenant: “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it"

During those 8 years, Hamas threatened to kill anyone who worked for peace with Israel. One of my Palestinian friends, whose name I will not disclose, escaped with barely his life after his friends had their legs shot off by Hamas. This is not fantasy, this is fact!! My friend managed to escape thanks to the help of his Israeli friends, and continues his important work for peace from Ramallah.

War is ugly. Whoever chooses the path of war should not be surprised at its tragic consequences.

Hamas have chosen this path OPENLY. Israel is fighting a war of survival….that is exactly what Hamas says : “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it"
And yes, I want to live and not die!! As opposed to Hamas, it is NOT my loftiest aspiration to die for ANY god! I want to live and let live. Live!! And I'm firm in my belief that so do the majority of the Palestinian people.

2. Are you blind to the fact that supporting war is supporting the killing of innocent people?

I am not SUPPORTING war. This allegation is a warped statement meant to serve the propaganda machine.

In my opinion, war is a primitive substitute for dialogue.

In our region, there have been many attempts at dialogue. Unfortunately, until today, they have failed. Responsibility for that, I believe, lies on the shoulders of both sides by definition.

There is no such thing as a ‘clean war’.

The question one should ask is: what are your intentions?? What is your plan?

The answer from the Israeli declaration of independence,Issued at Tel Aviv on May 14, 1948
“WE APPEAL - in the very midst of the onslaught launched against us now for months - to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions.
WE EXTEND our hand to all neighboring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighborliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land. The State of Israel is prepared to do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East.”

The answer from the Hamas covenant:
“There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by Jihad. The initiatives, proposals and International Conferences are but a waste of time, an exercise in futility. The Palestinian people are too noble to have their future, their right and their destiny submitted to a vain game”
“Egypt has already been cast out of the conflict, to a very great extent through the treacherous Camp David Accords, and she has been trying to drag other countries into similar agreements in order to push them out of the circle of conflict”.“The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him"

3. Don’t you think that in view of the fact that the internal affairs of the Palestinian people should be respected, it is very politically incorrect to criticize the democratically elected Hamas?

Many terrible dictators were democratically elected and caused their own people and others endless suffering.

There are moments when a citizen must break the silence, and the code of ‘politically correctness’ and expose evil where it lies.

There are 2 types of struggle: The struggle for compromise and the struggle for “all or nothing”. The first one's goal is life on both sides and a chance to heal and prosper. The other type is death and destruction to at least one side with a good chance of death to all.

The Zionist struggle has historically been one of compromise, whereas the Arab armed struggle has been of the ‘all or nothing’ sort. (Please read Israel's declaration of independence and compare to Hamas covenant). Since the beginning of Zionism it won the support of many nations worldwide as it was viewed as a struggle for fair compromise. It is this support that facilitated the establishment of the state of Israel, especially following the Holocaust.

In their struggle to gain ‘everything’, the Palestinian people lost everything!

This tragedy brought them to a place of weakness which in turn led to the emergence of a new trend: the Palestinian struggle for compromise, Hence Oslo negotiations and accord.

To those who wish to compromise, I say: here I am, willing to share everything I have with you!

But there is another faction of the Palestinian people that not only sustains the ‘all or nothing” attitude, but draws it resources from places far from Israel and Palestine.

I am referring to Hamas and other fundamentalist groups, worldwide.
This is exactly why I separate the Palestinians into different factions.

I fully support Abu-Mazen and the current FATAH leadership, and all Palestinians who strive for peace. I am their staunchest ally. But those who wish to eternalize violence and war? I will never support them, even if they were democratically elected.

In conclusion, I would like to restate my well know views:
1. I advocate the two state solution based on mutual compromise.
2. My own ‘peace plan’, “recognize, apologize, share”, can be found in a previous blog entry called "politics, first step".