Margaret Atwood and Israeli Apartheid - Part III

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Margaret Atwood and Israeli Apartheid - Part III
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Is Margaret Atwood the Linda Ronstadt of the Israeli Apartheid Era?

For those too young to remember, Linda Ronstadt was a famous American pop singer who, in 1983, played South Africa's notorious Sun City resort for $500,000.  Though other artists were still playing the resort at the time (the Artists United Against Apartheid movement who pledged not to play there formed only in 1985), it was Ronstadt who became the focal point of criticism.  Why was this?  Because for music fans, she was the "special one" according to Rolling Stone magazine, and people were let down by what she had done.

[url=http://www.ronstadt-linda.com/artrs83.htm]Here[/url] is a reprint  of the famous 1983 Rolling Stone article covering Ronstadt's trip to Sun City.  Compare how Ronstadt justifies her journey, with [url=http://www.haaretz.com/haaretz-authors-edition/the-shadow-over-israel-1.... Atwood wrote about her own trip to apartheid Israel.  See how eerily similar they are.

First of all though, see how the music fans' disappointment with Ronstadt is so close to how the progressive community felt betrayed by Atwood.  From the Rolling Stone article:

Quote:

Linda Ronstadt is special. Her voice is special. Her choices have been special, too. Especially her choice to become the rock star who sings grand opera. She started with Gilbert and Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance. And now she is preparing to undertake the role of Mimi in Puccini's La Boheme. While other rock stars have been taking drug overdoses, she has been taking Italian. 

Linda Ronstadt is special, and yet she went to South Africa. She is special, and yet she chose to perform in a reviled racist country. She is special, and yet she gave six concerts in the cradle of apartheid. She is special, and yet she lent her talents to an especially mean place. She is special, and yet she allowed her very specialness to be exploited by an outlaw nation in search of legitimacy. Her special price: $500,000.

Then here are some of Ronstadt's justifications for playing apartheid-era South Africa.  Again compare them to what Atwood wrote in the Haaretz article.  The artist must be free:

Quote:

"The last place for a boycott is in the arts. I don't like being told I can't go somewhere. Like when they told Jane Fonda she couldn't go to North Vietnam. Of course she should have gone to North Vietnam." 

But, of course, Jane Fonda was not paid a half-million dollars to visit Hanoi.

 

And the trip isn't about supporting apartheid, but a personal journey to understand the situation (which turns out to be vastly more complex than she ever believed).  This is Atwood's basic position in the Haartez article:

Quote:

Soon, Linda Ronstadt returned to what was becoming a familiar chorus. 

"I still don't think I've done anything wrong," she said. "Do you punish people by withholding entertainment?"

"People at home say that if you come here, you're supporting apartheid," said McGee. "But not all the whites here agree with it, either."

"That's right," said Linda. "Some people seem to feel that because I'm here I support apartheid. I see that it's vastly more complex than I ever imagined."

[...] 

"I've been to black Africa," she told him. "I wanted to see what this would be like. I'll be criticized a lot when I get home. But I don't think it's fair. You can't not go to a country because there are some evil people in it. I'd love to get the chance to come back, but who knows? One of the things I'm trying to figure out while I'm down here is if I'm supposed to be here. I'm playing devil's advocate with myself."

I was 13 when Ronstadt went to South Africa, and a serious music fan.  At the time I knew apartheid was wrong because U2 said it was wrong and explained why.  Though I had probably never heard Ronstadt's music, I also knew (don't ask me how) that I shouldn't listen to it because of what she had done.  This was just the general feeling among the people serious about music.

Ronstadt, of course, kept having hits, as I'm sure Atwood will.  But she never again had the same cultural prominence.

 

NDPP

Good one.  And let's not forget Atom Egoyan got the Dan David prize too..just before Tony Blair.

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Boycotting Israel to be [url=http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3902932,00.html]criminalized[/... by legislation before the Knesset.

Israeli citizens who "initiate, encourage or aid" a boycott must pay compensation to those effected.

Non-Israelis would be banned from entering the country for 10 years.

al-Qa'bong

Democracy at work.

Unionist

These are fascists running scared. BDS is bugging their ass. Bravo.

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The Anti-boycott legislation is [url=http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/israel-plans-to-send... by the Independent (UK).

It looks like this is a settler-sponsored bill, and one of its primary intents is to penalize Palestinians for not buying products made on their stolen land (Orwellian enough for you?).  Palestinians living in the West Bank would have to pay settlers for any loss of income from a boycott.

The article mentions the musicians who support a boycott (Costello, the Pixies etc.).  Then it mentions Margaret Atwood as "bristling" at the idea of boycotting anything.

Looks like the story is being written folks.  The places are being apportioned:  to the right and wrong side of history.

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French theatre chain [url=http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/13/world/europe/13france.html]cancels[/url] Israeli comedy, shows documentary on Rachel Corrie instead.

Criticism of Israel feared to be [url=http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=37408]widespread[/url] in U.S. show business.

remind remind's picture

Ashamed to say she is Canadian, and that I used to have some of her books.

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remind wrote:

Ashamed to say she is Canadian, and that I used to have some of her books.

The danger for Atwood is that she becomes an Israeli talking point:  Entertainers support a boycott, but a thoughtful, innovative, progressive artist like Margaret Atwood says a boycott is censorship of plucky little Israel.

This would undermine her contention that "writers have no army".  Writers are the army.

 

remind remind's picture

Ummmmm, one wonders why she would think that people do not understand the "pen is mightier than the sword", or would she have us think she is really that lacking in intelligence?

 

Or is it just plain arrogant hubris?

 

anyway enough about her from my pen she makes me literally ill.

NDPP

Give Back That Dirty Big Zionist Prize-Money Maggie.!..history is already reserving you a place you'll not like as a legacy...it's the perfect time to redeem yourself

Ripple

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The danger for Atwood is that she becomes an Israeli talking point:  Entertainers support a boycott, but a thoughtful, innovative, progressive artist like Margaret Atwood says a boycott is censorship of plucky little Israel.

This would undermine her contention that "writers have no army".  Writers are the army.

 

 

Quote:

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/52526f0c-75bb-11df-86c4-00144feabdc0.html

Financial Times June 12 2010

 

Judging by recent events, the global music scene has been gripped by an exciting new craze: boycotting Israel.

The fashion started early this year, when ageing guitar hero Carlos Santana cancelled his planned summer gig in Tel Aviv without explanation. It gained a new follower last month, when Elvis Costello, the British singer, said his "conscience" would not allow him to perform in Israel.

...

For the time being, the artists' boycott of Israel is something of a fringe movement. Numerous bands and singers - from R&B singer Rihanna to UK band Placebo - have played concerts in Israel in recent weeks, and more are expected play gigs this summer. A recent writers' festival in Jerusalem was also studded with big-name authors from around the world.

 

eta: I realize this article is not referring to Atwood specifically.

writer writer's picture

Her familiar name is Peggy. It is used by close friends and family. Her professional name is Margaret.

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Holocaust survivor, French resistance fighter, and co-drafter of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Stephane Hessel [url=http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stephane-frederic-hessel/gaza-flotilla-glo... boycotts against Israel.

Can I sign up for his army?

NDPP

Obviously, it's all forgive and forget as far as Rabble.ca goes. Despite her grab for the gold in accepting the Dan David prize in violation of the cultural boycott, Rabble is back to plugging :

"Margaret Atwood reading and presentation" on the 'What's up Events Calendar'.

Am I the only one that thinks this is wrong?

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

No you're not. The lifetime achievement award to Suzuki is bothersome as well.

But rabble.ca doesn't select the items in What's Up; they are contributed by readers.

NDPP

So if Meir Weinstein's JDL-EDL wants to bring Haider here from Austria or one of his other new nazi friends,  for a similar function, he could post it here? Or some other klansmen? I hardly think so. At this point in history? Clearly Ms Atwood's actions are not considered to be of comparable significance and Rabble has in effect officially welcomed Peggy Atwood back into their polite progressive society again. The fact that she can do what she did and then have Rabble advertise her? Once again 'impunity'.  The plug for Peggy Atwood should not have run. It did. Why?

George Victor

Consider the whole "Peggy" Atwood. The other things she has done, what she has written and stood for in defence of environmental and progressive positions generally, and writers internationally, defended by PEN. Then imagine how you look,  putting her down in this fashion:"Rabble has in effect officially welcomed Peggy Atwood back into their polite progressive society again."

Perhaps she does not have your predilection for whizzing around the IT universe, growing ever more hysterical in flight, and choosing to play on names, like any gossip columnist. If only you were half the person that is Margaret Atwood.

NDPP

as long as it wasn't the half that chose the money GV...

Margaret Atwood Acknowledges Mistake

http://nouspique.com/2010/06/margaret-atwood-acknowledges-mistake/

"Even Margaret Atwood has acknowledged that she was wrong. It must have been tough for her to hear Naomi Klein speaking yesterday in Dundas Square, saying 'And I also have words for famous writers who accept lavish awards and slam Palestinians for daring to ask them for a simple gesture of solidarity.' Here's @MargaretAtwood's tweet time-stamped 15:28 June 01, 2010: 'Bet on Gov't of Israel to act sanely, humanely and in own best interests re: Gaza Aid Flotilla. Lost bet.' What kind of bet allows you to lose your bet and still walk away with half a million dollars?"

George Victor

You really think that all people "do it for the buck?"  The subject matter of her books is without social merit?  Yours is the complete picture of the human being, Margaret Atwood?

You still depend on a gossip columnist's view of her world to draw your conclusions. 

 

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

George Victor wrote:

You really think that all people "do it for the buck?"

When celebrities go to Israel in defiance of the cultural boycott they do it either for the buck or to show their solidarity with Zionism.

Take yer pick.

George Victor

M. Spector wrote:

George Victor wrote:

You really think that all people "do it for the buck?"

When celebrities go to Israel in defiance of the cultural boycott they do it either for the buck or to show their solidarity with Zionism.

Take yer pick.

Nothing in between? And it looks like the lady said she maybe screwed up. Perhaps you are expecting sackcloth and ashes? But where do your novelists find their material?  They must be strong people who never deviate from following the principles laid down by others.  In some things, if not in others.   All the time.  Just wish such unfailing correctness was exhibited in less fashionable fashion, day to day, so to speak. Homo sapiens just might have more to hope for.

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

ha ha. Liberals. Stand in the middle of the road and get hit by traffic going in both directions. Richly deserved, I might add.

6079_Smith_W

N.Beltov wrote:

ha ha. Liberals. Stand in the middle of the road and get hit by traffic going in both directions. Richly deserved, I might add.

As opposed to moral purists who take  the challenging and productive stand of refusing to hear or talk to anyone who doesn't think exactly as they do. 

Now THAT's action.

 

al-Qa'bong

Quote:

Nothing in between?

Yes; she endorses apartheid for the best possible reasons, while making a buck in the process. Where's the problem?

6079_Smith_W

M. Spector wrote:

George Victor wrote:

You really think that all people "do it for the buck?"

When celebrities go to Israel in defiance of the cultural boycott they do it either for the buck or to show their solidarity with Zionism.

Take yer pick.

And as for her actions, I may disagree with what she did in that case, but I give a bit more weight to her explanation than I do to someone else framing it according to their own beliefs.

 

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

6079_Smith_W wrote:

And as for her actions, I may disagree with what she did in that case, but I give a bit more weight to her explanation than I do to someone else framing it according to their own beliefs.

You "may disagree" with what she did? Do you in fact disagree? Sounds to me like you don't.

You may not have bothered to read the [url=http://rabble.ca/babble/culture/margaret-atwood-accepts-israels-dirty-pr... post in the first chunk of this thread[/url], and the [url=http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article11255.shtml]item linked to[/url] therein, where we read:

Quote:
Being an artist of conscience has been one of Atwood's hallmark characteristics throughout her career. She supported the South African anti-Apartheid movement and, according to filmmaker John Greyson, was the first public figure to speak out in support of gay rights after police arrested 300 men in Toronto in 1981. The late Palestinian scholar Edward Said named her as an "oppositional intellectual." That's why her acceptance of the Dan David Prize is fraught with ironies, not least of which is the requirement that she donate 10 percent of the prize money back to support graduate students at Tel Aviv University, while Gaza's students -- just a short drive away -- are enclosed in an open-air prison, unable to complete their studies.

Atwood's share of the Dan David prize was a cool half million dollars. If you think that wasn't her primary motivation for defying the boycott, maybe you can explain to me what you think it was.

And what exactly was her "explanation" that you give so much weight to? Please remind us all.

wage zombie

Margaret Atwood, that money belongs to the Palestinian people.

6079_Smith_W

@ M.Spector

I'll let her speak for herself:

http://www.haaretz.com/haaretz-authors-edition/the-shadow-over-israel-1....

And why are you trying to pick my words apart and start making accusations against me simply because I acknowledge her reasons for not honouring the boycott, though I disagree with her? You're not some grand inquisitor and I don't owe you any explanation at all.

But to cut to the chase, no, I don't think it is just as simple as wanting the cash or being pro-Zionist.

And I don't have any problem whatsoever with announcements about events which feature her.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

So Atwood's explanation is essentially a plea that she was ignorant about what was really going on in Israel and the occupied territories. You apparently think that's an acceptable excuse. I don't.

NDPP

Margaret Atwood Cashes In - by Jennifer Matsui

http://dissidentvoice.org/2010/05/margaret-atwood-cashes-in/

"...the Canadian author's flaccid, self-serving justification for fence-sitting is spun into a battle against 'censorship'

NDPP

I'm not advocating censoring 'news' but I am suggesting that on a supposedly progressive site like this, it is inappropriate and wrong to announce and advertise an event presided over, and for the benefit of, someone who has so flagrantly, shamefully and deliberately, violated a cultural boycott. Surely, it is completely and cynically hypocritical, for Rabble to pretend to support the Palestinian cause, then advertise on behalf of someone who so clearly has rejected their call for boycott/support. The Atwood event was not 'news' and should not have been advertised and promoted here unless this site in fact supports the Atwood position.

6079_Smith_W

M. Spector wrote:

So Atwood's explanation is essentially a plea that she was ignorant about what was really going on in Israel and the occupied territories. You apparently think that's an acceptable excuse. I don't.

I think I have said a couple of times now I disagree with her decision. Why are you repeating the false accusation that I support it?

And if I read the article correctly, her main reason is a compelling one which I do respect - the principle held by PEN, of which she is a strong supporer -  that an academic or cultural boycott threatens freedom of expression and endangers the lives of writers:

http://www.ifex.org/united_kingdom/2007/06/25/pen_american_center_urges_...

Whether one thinks that - or her position as a defacto representative of PEN -  outweighs the also-compelling argument to boycott Israel, it does make it a little bit more complex than the conclusion she obviously went there either to line her pockets or to bring flowers to Ariel Sharon.

And speaking of writers, to take this back to the issue that revived this thread, we are all free to choose our politics, but I think for a news organization to start censoring what is and is not acceptable news sends a dangerous precedent, Whether I agreed with her or not, if she was speaking somewhere I'd like to know about it, and I'd like to be able to trust that a news source I read would not decide to withhold that information from me based on some sort of principle.

I don't like it when I see right-wing news organizations censoring content; why should I think it is okay for other groups to do the same?

 

 

6079_Smith_W

oops... DP

 

6079_Smith_W

@ NDPP

Let's just say we disagree on the purpose of an organization whose prime function is to keep the public informed. And moral principles aside, If I can't trust a news organization to tell me what is happening and let me make my own decisions then I will make a point of going someplace more relevant to find the "whole truth".

If for no other reason than I see Atwood as an ally and an important voice on issues other than this one, I think it is a good thing the event was published here.

If you feel differently, then you are welcome to pass it over and stay home.

(edit)

And to be clear, I consider rabble.ca a news site, with all the respect and responsibility that goes along with that.