jewin' the fat

Everyone’s a little bit racist
April 27, 2010, 2:24 PM
Filed under: media | Tags: , , , , , , ,

I’m still not quite sure what the relevance of the joke was, why he had to reference the tale as “true”, or how it “set the stage for [Jones’] remarks” but whatever, everyone’s a little bit racist. And besides, nothing like a little latent anti-Semitism to liven up the party. Am I right? Jim? Am I right? Har-di-har-har cause Jews sell stuff see? Har Har.

Judge the joke for yourselves after the jump.


Top Ten: The Zionist Conspiracy

In honour of the biggest Zionist day in the calendar year this week, here’s a tribute to the ten or so biggest Zionist-stereotypes, all of whom claiming to hold the key to what a ‘true’ Zionist really is. The reality is, at the end of the day, that Zionism is not a political theory, power conspiracy nor a policy of a government (as detractors/hacks/ignoramuses may assume), it is an ideology which is inherently personal, and interpreted by the individual to facilitate self-determination as a member of the Jewish people.

As it turns out, a bunch of those Jew-Individuals got together a couple hundred years ago and, determined to do more than argue with each other on the value of a state for Jews or a Jewish state, actually set about creating it.

It is neither the plot of the 8th Harry Potter novel, 'Harry Potter and the Zionist Conspiracy to take over the world with superior money-handling skills and uber-developed business acumen mu-ha-ha-ha-hacking-cough-ha-ha!" (HT @ : he's a Zionist - he knows!)

Continue reading

Flashpoint or Excuse?

“This time the flashpoint was the reopening of a restored 17th century synagogue close to the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City. Rival Palestinian factions united in condemning the opening of the landmark Hurva synagogue, which was last destroyed 62 years ago in fighting with Jordan during the 1948 war that followed Israel’s creation.”

Police responded to the stonethrowers by firing tear gas and rubber bullets. HT@ Reuters: Darren Whiteside

Read more here.
“This time?!” I’m not sure what frustrates me about this article more –
– the fact that Palestinians are protesting the opening of a building (that has been under going construction since at least early 2004),
– that the Palestinians are “united in condemning” the opening of what Anne Barker calls “the landmark Hurva Synagogue” which was destroyed in the war of Independence (click here for a photo of the synagogue),
– the fact that the Hurva synagogue had been in a state of ruin for almost 50 years,
– the lack of context as to the exact location of the Synagogue (which is and always has been in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, and has remained there since 17th Century)*
or perhaps the glib little phrase “This time”, which not only belittles the legitimate concerns of both sides, but reduces the conflict to a matter of incidences, easily avoidable if one side would just stop doing that one thing – bombing, building, walking, talking …  
Flashpoint, or excuse?
_ _ _ _ _ _
 *Case in Point: WordPress links this post to another, by Al Manar newsite, whose headline reads ““Israel” Hands Out Invitations to Attend Opening of Synagogue inside Aqsa Mosque”” … The article goes on …The sources added that the occupation authorities is making all preparations for that day, adding that according to a prophecy claimed by a Jewish rabbi in the 18th century, this synagogue will be established in the aforementioned date on the ruins of the Aqsa Mosque.

The sources added there is an agreement between the government and parties in Israel on the opening of this synagogue and Palestinian cooperation by Mahmoud Abbas’s authority to facilitate the opening ceremony and repel any Islamic moves to defend the Aqsa Mosque. 

In light of the Israeli preparations to quell any moves to defend the holy Mosque on that day, the occupation authorities prevented Jerusalemite worshipers under age 50 from entering the Mosque and launched a wide kidnapping campaign against Palestinian young men in the holy city.”Need I say more…?

Israel Apartheid Week – Wrap up
March 12, 2010, 12:22 PM
Filed under: Comment, Israel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Well, as Israel Apartheid Week draws to a close, we thank those ballsy fellows for their patronage, and wish them good luck until next year.

During the meantime, here are some interesting, some relevant, and some gratuitous links to keep you …er, occupied.


A sharp beginner’s guide to the Israel Apartheid Week phenomenon. Author Jon Hollander is a Columbia University Senior, Majoring in Economics.

Alive in Joberg (Neil Blomkamp – Director, District 9) – This short film was the impetus for the feature film, which deals succinctly with the injustice and ultimate fallibility of the Apartheid (Afrikaans for Separate) system in South Africa. Check out the District 9 trailer here.

The Australiasian Union of Jewish Students represents at the Melbourne university Israel Apartheid Forum, handing out material to attendees and donning sweet vests. Check out the IAW trailer here. Sick beats.

The counter: First Annual Israel Peace Week, active across US and Australian campuses.

The new kid on the US lobby block, J Street comments on IAW, and the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement, calling for “Invest, don’t Divest” activities to promote investment in Palestinian state-building.  Find out more about J Street here.

Win or Lose – It’s how you play the system

Another year, another conflated Oscars ceremony. Thanks to the ACT government, and their nifty Canberra Day Public holiday, I watched the Oscars broadcast with the same breathless excitement I watched Channel Nine stumble through Eddie Maguire’s homophobic ramblings to broadcast the Montreal Winter Olympics.

At least the Olympics highlight package, that is.

It doesn’t take a genius to realise that the Oscars are 8% bad jokes, 18% bad dresses, 30% drunk after party photos, and 40% politics. This year, my political favourites included The Hurt Locker‘s Katherine Bigalow getting even with her ex-husband James Cameron, Sandra Bullock proving that a bad dye-job and a southern drawl can make or break a career, and of course, Christoph Waltz’s ability to turn incorrect syntax into Oscar gold!

Israel has a proud history of quality filmmaking. Recent titles which have touched the hearts and minds of international audiences include Beaufort, Eyes Wide Open, Waltz with Bashir, Yossi & Jagger, The Bubble, Someone to Run With$9.99, and most  recently, the 2010 nominee for Best Foreign Feature Film Ajami.

Yaron Shani and Skandar Copti, Co-Directors of the Academy Award nominated film, 'Ajami'

Telling uniquely Israeli stories of the cultures, foods, rituals, languages, loves and lives of citizens of the State of Israel, it’s acclaimed offerings have been touted at film festivals and award ceremonies for decades.

And while none have achieved Oscar glory yet, Ajami was a firm favourite in the lead up to the big night.

Alack, in an interview with Israeli TV aired on the eve of the award ceremony, the film’s co-director, Skandar Copti effectively spat in the face of the government film fund which bankrolled his tale of the mean streets of Jaffa, and in the face of his Jewish-Israeli co-director Yaron Shani and stars (Arab-Muslim, Arab-Christian and Jewish alike), who were visibly disappointed that their hard work had not been rewarded. Though some sent celebratory text messages after the announcement that Argentinian nominee “El secreto de sus ojos” (The Secret in their Eyes) had taken out the category, many involved in the joint Arab-Jewish production saw betrayal in the remarks of Copti.

Israel Film Fund Director Katiel Schory was a little more considered in his approach. “Everything is okay, it’s perfectly alright,” he said. “[Copti] is entitled to his view. I’m very happy with the film and we stand behind it. In Israel, there are many narratives and this is one of those narratives.”

“The film represents Israel exactly,” said Israeli-American choreographer Barak Marshall. “It touches on almost all of the issues we face in Israeli society and it shows how broad the public debate is; that someone who is from Israel can negate his very connection to the state shows how wonderfully strong and alive our political culture is.”

The political fallout from Copti’s remarks clearly registered with the mostly Arab-Israeli cast, who were notably divided from the rest of the X Bar after-party guests, a shin dig hosted by the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles.

In Copti’s Channel 2 interview, he did say that though the film is “technically” Israeli, it did not represent him, and proffered “I cannot represent a country that does not represent me”.

So what is this “technicality”? The citizenship of the players, crew and cast alike? The location of filming – in the internationally recognised Israeli municipality of Tel Aviv-Jaffa? The languages spoken in the film (Hebrew and Arabic, two of Israel’s official national languages)? Or how about the people who paid, through the auspices of the Israel Film Fund, for part of the film’s production – the tax payers of Israel – Jew, Muslim, Christian, Druze, Baha’i, Bedouin and Armenian, amongst others?

It is not enough to say that because one’s government doesn’t represent one’s personal perspective, that one cannot represent one’s nation on an international stage, as Copti protests. It’s an unfortunate symptom of the open, democratic society that many perspectives and opinions are offered equal footing in public space, sure, and that sometimes our issues are marginalised, but guess what?

If there was one message Ajami offered the Academy and viewing public, it was an insight into the pluralist, multi-ethnic, unique character and chaos of Jaffa. It was about the individual’s fight to survive in a world that is non-homogenous, and often unfair.  And that in a free-market of individual agendas, sometimes, some one has to lose.

In this case, it was Copti. Technically, of course.

Marketing Magic or Mischief?
January 18, 2010, 4:02 PM
Filed under: Comment, media | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Sometimes the media can surprise you. Not the usual sort of surprise – the kind that can incense the masses, cause mass-letter writing and clog the 1800-complaint services servers.

No, I’m talking about the kind of surprise demands a sharp inhalation of anxiety, and then, in an unusual turn, dissipates, only to cause the expelling of  calm and quandary. What on earth was – Did I just witness that ? Could it be that our darling media, with their infinite faults and foibles, are … somehow … with it?

See for yourself.  

As the abstract explains “Sky TV takes embedded journalism one step further with “West Bank”, a television commercial working with the concept, “Let the news speak for itself”. We’re taken to a Palestinian protest against Israel’s latest offensive, where the participants in the conflict give us their perspective on what’s happening …

Grab from Sky TV's advertisement

Created by a New Zealand company, DDB Auckland, it is quite simply, a stunning success in television News advertising – which has always placed more emphasis on the medium over the message – take for example the example Joris Lyundjek provides in ‘Fit to Print’, reprinted for ABC Unleashed here, where he recounts the impossibility of reporting the facts without the images – “After all, you tell the story with images — so it’s quite logical that if you don’t have an image, you don’t have a story.”

According to Sally Young from the University of Melbourne, this kind of advertising is a means to reverse the trend of young people searching for news content away from traditional media forms (Broadsheet, TV, Radio) – essentially making the argument that Sky News (The most watched cable TV News channel in Australia) has just as much to offer, if not more than online. And considering 48 per cent of Sky News viewers are over Fifty, it needed to make a compelling point. Which this advert does.
From a purely Marketing perspective, it is a fantastic strategy, especially considering a 30-sec spot in the middle-to-end of the news bulletin is not the most informative or effective tool of disseminating information. But TV is where a large proportion of people retrieve their understanding of their world, and in this case, the Israel-Palestinian conflict – 1 in 2 people in Australia own a TV.
So ‘moral flexibility’ aside, the real question is how effective will this campaign be in creating new viewers, or holding on to ratings for the channel? Created by a Kiwi company, it clearly has a local insight and a strong grasp of the needs and opinions of New Zealanders (would this kind of campaign work in the US or UK I wonder?), but it does raise some interesting points about TV news in general – or at least what has lacked in TV news.

Old men in Khaki reporting from Hotel bedrooms and cocktail lounges no longer suffice, when you have Chinese students blogging about human rights atrocities in Beijing, Burmese feeding up-to-the-minute reports on riots to traditional news media or Iranians tweeting photos of Basji attacks.

The ongoing division and revision of media is what this particular advert  is about. Media. Not Israel and Palestine – but the use of the conflict to market a media product. The point isn’t that Sky may or may not change it’s modus operandi – it’s about selling the promise that it doesn’t need to. It may not be smart journalism, and it is generally accepted that  TV isn’t exactly the place for smart journalists any more – but it is clever advertising, and that’s what counts.

You Can’t Stop the Music
November 20, 2009, 8:24 AM
Filed under: Comment, Israel | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Usually my Thursdays are a mixture of Glee-ful indulgence and some kind of beer-based afternoon beverage, but yesterday I pushed my cultural boundaries and instead of watching over-styled pop-musical theatre on a box, I sat in a blissfully cool auditorium and listened to The Jerusalem Quartet and Zvi Plesser.

For those not of the classical music ilk, the Quartet is four guys with string instruments, blasting out Handel, Schubert and Vine. Zvi Plesser is an Israeli cellist with a 200-year-old cello and hands that are insured for a small fortune – a Julliard graduate, and all round musical genius. Zvi was brought out to Australia especially, but Musica Viva have counted Alexander Pavlolvsky, Sergei Bresler, Amichai Grosz and Kyril Zlotnikov as Quartet in residence for the past four years, and this concert series was their farewell to Australian audiences across the country.

Bringing down the average age of the audience by about 40 years, I turned up on a stinking hot afternoon, and while I was waiting for my friend to turn up with tickets, I noticed three middle-aged ladies with placards and pamphlets congregating near the entrance. Yep, you guessed it, the protestors were out in force, and after a few minutes, a fourth joined her fellow rabble rouser posse, and they proceeded to hand out flyers to patrons entering the venue.

So after unsubtly walking past a couple of times, I eventually went over and asked for a flyer.

“We do hope you enjoy the Jerusalem Quartet’s performance this evening. Music can so lift up the spirit!” read the opening sentence. Apparently it’s also a propaganda tool used by governments to reel you in with promises of beautiful cello duets and sexy Russian men who know how to gently rest a lady-shaped instrument on their shoulders, and then leave you with convenient impressions that everyone in Jerusalem plays the viola and can read music.


I am all for diplomatic/economic/political sanctions on a country, but you cannot tell me that boycotting (read: refusing to attend, not being unable to afford to attend) a music recital, or film, or concert series will in any way be a useful, effective means of voicing your concern with that country’s government policy.

Boycotts are not a useful, meaningful way of engaging with an issue or igniting the passion of the masses – it is a complete disengagement, a refusal to enter into discussion, and a means of stifling debate. It tells our children that some people are not worth talking to, or being heard – and that is not the way to inspire tolerance and understanding in the next generation. If Barack “Talkin’ bout a revolution” Obama is right, the only way forward is not through cultural boycotts, but through measured and sincere dialogue.

With that being said, if you are going to boycott a nation-state’s musicians and artists, you better be aware of what it is you are giving up – amongst other things, like a ripsnorter of a night out, getting crunk to Schubert y’all.