Punk legend Jello Biafra recently returned from a trip to Israel/Palestine after his band Guantanamo School Of Medicine pulled out of a July show in Tel Aviv–due to their solidarity with the Boycott Divestment & Sanctions movement against Israel. Biafra had mixed emotions about his participation in the boycott, given the recent cries for social justice in the streets of Israel. So he decided to visit the country in person to see if his stance was justified. He penned a lengthy account of his travels and posted his effort on the Alternative Tentacles website.
He proves himself to be quite the travel writer. His account is one of the more measured and reasonable descriptions of the current Palestinian/Israeli conflict we have read in quite some time. Obviously, given his support of the boycott, his political starting point sides with social justice for Palestine. But he is not unsympathetic to Israelis and his account is quite nuanced–a far different cry from your typical shrill activist report that portrays all of Israel as a homogeneous bastion of fascism.
It’s a long piece with plenty of highlights, but we especially like this description of the history of Israeli settlement building on Palestinian land.
In 1973 Israel began building strategically placed settlements in occupied lands across the Green Line. Masterminding the settlements was the freshly minted hero of the Yom Kippur war, General Ariel Sharon, who carefully chose hilltop locations. Many were then annexed one by one into Israel. Today the illegal settlements are completely out of control, with 300,000 settlers planted across the Green Line in the West Bank and another 200.000 in East Jerusalem. Borders are creatively moved and enforced by the infamous wall started by Yitzhak Rabin that is such a black eye on Israel’s reputation today, even among its citizens and supporters. Some people told me that if the wall had been built along the Green Line it might have actually worked. But Sharon then used it as a land grab, creatively and maniacally routing it through the middle of Palestinian towns, Palestinian farm land and across Palestinian roads, in a deliberate attempt to make the West Bank such a splattered Swiss cheese hodgepodge of impassable walls and checkpoints that a free Palestinian state could never get off the ground. The village of Wallaja will soon be completely surrounded by the wall, with 2,000 residents trapped inside….
The big ones are not hard to spot. Many hills in and outside Jerusalem are over-run with big red-roof settlements of suburbia-style town homes—like a swath of San Jose or Irvine, CA smeared all over the hillside like hummus on pita.
Biafra’s piece also includes criticism of the typical American media narrative that is so simplistically “pro-Israel” it doesn’t allow the voices of the hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens who reject their government’s policies to be heard.