Rabbi Avi Weinstein

Israel’s Cultural Isolation…The Left of the world has with Elvis (Costello that is) left the building.

In Uncategorized on July 1, 2010 at 12:35 pm

This week in Jewcy my friend and once student Charlie Buckholtz bemoans the fact that he, along with all the indie punk rockers of Israel have become the victims of a cultural boycott that may doom Yerushalayim to hearing only Ashkenazi inflected tunes urging everyone to rebuild the Temple–at least until the Messiah comes.  Finally, redemption was at hand with Elvis Costello, the Pixies, and Devenra Banhart coming to T.A. Alas, they have all canceled because of the Flotilla (the hun) incident.

He articulates the frustration of him and other punished fellow travelers who happen to be citizens of a State with momentary ‘benighted policies”.

“…events beyond all our control have conspired against us (Pixies)…merely having your name added to a concert schedule may be interpreted as a political act and it may be assumed that one has no mind for the suffering of the innocent (Elvis)…it seems that we are being used to support views that are not our own (Devendra)…

These sad, spineless phrases are unworthy of the brilliant lyricists in whose names they are written. Reading them makes me want to lock myself in a room with Blood and Chocolate, Surfer Rosa, and Nino Rojo-enduring examples of language used to express the rawest experience, the hardest-earned insight, the most deeply personal human truths. By contrast, these notes, with their awkward overreliance on the passive-voice, read as a series of furtive dodges. The artists’ protestations of being somehow waylaid by new “events” or information just prior to their appearances rings too hollow to be taken seriously. By Elvis’ own logic, these so-called new “events” only make the case for rejecting artistic boycotts that much more urgent. It is, again, a logic that applies to “any democracy, no matter how flawed in the worst time when a government is in power acting in an irresponsible, violent and despicable way.” If “the only answer is dialogue and reconciliation,” and music has the potential to move those processes forward, then aren’t these exactly the kinds of places conscientious artists should be most eager to perform? They booked…they were pressured and intimidated…and they caved.

Well said, Charlie. I, for one, however, don’t believe that the zeitgeist is entirely rational when it comes to Jews. Ruth Wisse would ask with irony overblown, “How can the favored victims of the the twentieth century betray what we love about them,  their victimhood?” I don’t buy that either because it’s too self-serving.

Israel is now an embarrassment because recently, all of a sudden, those who love Jesus, love Israel and all its hawkish policies, and those on the left cannot be associated with those “morons”. The biggest indictment of Israel is not the oppression of Gaza, it’s being embarrassed by those Americans who claim to love her.  When Peter Beinart reports that you can’t expect the young to check their liberalism at the door when it comes to Israel.  I do believe he is misreading what is fueling the disengagement of the liberal young. People are not so thoughtful.  Israel is guilty by association. If Sarah Palin is a fan, then something is profoundly rotten in the state of…

The enemy who is the friend of my friend makes me reconsider that relationship.  This is not fair. It’s not Israel’s fault that they have accidentally found a comfortable niche within Christian eschatology.  Israel has become gross because she is a welcome guest at most tea parties. If the right wing would despise Israel as the Birchers and those of Liberty Lobby used to, then I believe there would be more sympathy for the situation that Israel finds herself in. That, however, for some reason is now not the case.

Here’s a suggestion for Charlie. Gospel music, its timeless, heartfelt, and musical as well and it’s probably the ultimate source for blues, jazz and rock and roll.  You can bet those players won’t cancel their tour to Jerusalem…And that, you can take to the bank. Therein lies the rub.

  1. It is funny to think that Elvis Costello wrote the following words but never declined to play in London:
    “When England was the whore of the world Margaret was her madam.
    And the future looked as bright and as clear as the black tarmacadam.[…]Well I hope I don’t die too soon. I pray the Lord my soul to save. Oh I’ll be a good boy, I’m trying so hard to behave. Because there’s one thing I know, I’d like to live
    long enough to savour. That’s when they finally put you in the ground. I’ll stand on your grave and tramp the dirt down.

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