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Occupation magazine - Commentary
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Yes, Netta Barzilai is Cool, but she’s also the representative of an Occupying State
By Orly Noy
Sicha Mekomit (+972 Hebrew site)
Translation: Yoni Molad
Sol Salbe`s Middle East News Service·
Tuesday, May 8, 2018
Hebrew original: full url in the end
The call on Europeans by the boycott movement inside Israel, not to vote for Netta Barzilai`s song in the Eurovision Song Contest aroused resentment among quite a few leftists in this country. After all, she is really cool, and only sang in a military band. But that `only` is quite a lot.
Throughout the Rising Star pre-Eurovision competition there was an emotional and consistent support expressed on my leftist dominated News Feed for contestant Netta Barzilai. After her win, she became the unquestioned star of Facebook: her famous Looper became the official refresher of the in-between season, endless screenings of her video of the song Toy, which she will compete with, flooded the Net.
You can easily understand the excitement surrounding her: she is very talented, she has a cool vibe, and she brings to the screen a strong and confident female figure who casts aside all the dictates we have become accustomed to, as to how a woman appearing in public should look. If you are a feminist leftist Jew (and even if you are not), it is easy to fall in love with her.
Perhaps this is why, the BDS boycott campaign, which called on viewers in the Eurovision zone to award Barzilai zero points because she is the Israeli representative, has succeeded in arousing resentment, almost a kind of insult, even among some of the more leftist of my friends. Add to this the iconic status of the Eurovision Song Contest in certain circles in our scene, and you will get to the bottom of the depth of the anguish. Those who did not express openly their resentment at the calls for boycott greeted it with thunderous and bitter silence.
Part of the resentment stemmed from the fact that the announcement by the boycott movement focused on Barzilai itself; Not only as a representative of the Occupying Israel, but as someone who performed in the navy band during the Protective Edge war on Gaza in the summer of 2014, when she allegedly sang to navy crews just before they shelled a civilian population in the Gaza Strip during the war. The message specifically mentions the song My Sailor Is My Angel which Barzilai sings to these soldiers, in a manner that can be understood as if Barzilai views the bombing of Gaza residents as an angelic act.
I don’t think that`s true. I don’t know Barzilai`s political views, but I didn’t get the impression that she gets off on militarism or that she was a woman who savours the killing of innocents. If anything, my impression is exactly the opposite. But that`s exactly the point. One of the most basic truths that the boycott movement tries to confront us, the Israelis, with, is that all of us - even the most humane, enlightened and loving people among us - share the crime of Occupation and oppression and take part in it on some active level.
To the average Israeli ear, this claim sounds absurd - even if we are shocked by the images of the soldiers` cruel abuse of Palestinians at checkpoints and the video footage of sniper fire at demonstrators in Gaza. What`s Barzilai got to do with all that? She was not part of the fighting group, she did not shoot anyone or kill them. But that is precisely what the boycott movement emphasises: In one way or another, we all take part in the crime. Over the years, Israel has established various social, legal and economic structures designed to instil cooperation with injustice in the deepest levels of the individual and to emasculate every critical thought. From sending our children to prepare parcels for soldiers in kindergarten to the mandatory draft law and the endless babble about `the children of us all,` In a calculated fashion, Israel has manages to eliminate the space in which an effective civil society can and should function.
In our eyes, Netta Barzilai was a lovely girl in a military band, the least military thing there was, singing songs with a cheeky pony tail bobbing along. To the oppressed, she was a soldier in a military uniform who sang to other soldiers in the same army just before they went off to shell children on the beach. Take a moment to think about the meaning of this in other historical contexts and you may understand the outrage. We have all been and are part and parcel of this system, and we are all committed to a genuine and penetrating reckoning in face of this inconvenient truth. However unpleasant it may be, it is the moral obligation of each and every one of us, the Jewish citizens of Israel.
Nevertheless, it is important to emphasise that the boycott movement does not wish for the failure of Netta Barzilai, the individual, because of her military career in the navy. It calls for a boycott because she is the official representative of a country that has held millions of people without rights under violent and illegal occupation for decades. Such a state - and its representatives - cannot legitimately appear on more or less respectable stages in the world. The State of Israel is investing hundreds of millions in an attempt to rehabilitate its image in the world, from the Hasbara monster to the high-profile parades and bicycle races in its streets. The Eurovision Song Contest is yet another stage in which Israel aspires to the normalisation that it longs for so much.
Look, here we are normal and beautiful, productive and creative, and even send a specially cool representative to the competition. And in a certain sense it is also true - after all, we live our lives here like every woman and man in the world, working and trying to keep our heads above water, and we also have cultural creativity and music, Looper and Netta Barzilai. It`s true that the Israelis don’t live the Occupation at every moment, but the Occupation lives us day by day, hour by hour. We may have succeeded in making a conscious separation between the two things, and this is our tragedy. The boycott movement`s call came to urge the world not to do the same thing.
Translated by Yoni Molad for the Middle East News Service edited by Sol Salbe, Melbourne, Australia.
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