Sunday, October 31, 2010

The arts, religion, and culture

As the stalemate in the peace talks continues, with the Israelis refusing to stop settlement construction, the Palestinians refusing to talk until the theft of land and resources is halted, and the Americans preoccupied with November elections, PIAG’S dispatch for November reports on issues in the arts, religion, and culture.

In Gaza, concern is mounting over the difficulty in preserving important archeological sites and artifacts, as Israel continues to ban materials that Palestinian curators need to pursue their scientific work. Indiscriminate bombing during the seige of Gaza has also threatened sites important to Palestinian history and the world storehouse of cultures:

Journalist Ali Abunimah expresses his frustration with Barack Obama, who had no qualms about wearing the religiously mandated head convering when visiting Israel's Wailing Wall, but has turned down an invitation to the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India, a site sacred to Sikhs, on the grounds that the required head covering would make him look like a Muslim. Of course, Sikhs are not Muslims, but Americans have been known to confuse the two, perhaps because Sikh turbans remind them of Hollywood depictions of Arabs in film: While Abunimah's anger at Obama over this issue may seem petty, it reminds us of the danger, both physical and political, of U.S. Islamophobia, and the willingness of many Americans to downplay or excuse our own or our allies' aggression against Muslims.

Palestinians have called on the international community to engage in a cultural and academic boycott of Israeli artists and intellectuals whenever and wherever they appear abroad: In Ann Arbor last month, a group of activists joined this international effort by protesting the Jeruselem Quartet at Rackham Auditorium:
While it may seem unfair to target a small group of Israeli musicians who themselves may have qualms about their government's actions, boycotts of academic and cultural institutions are time-tested nonviolent techniques that exert political pressure on oppressive regimes, and are especially effective against countries that attempt to project a benevolent, cultured image, in contrast to their targets, who, they claim, are unworthy or of no consequence.

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