Britain’s high-culture Corbynistas

How could the Tories have won such a massive victory in the British parliamentary elections? After all, the Labour Party was headed by a man who speaks of Hamas and Hezbollah as “friends”; who has praised Hugo Chavez and his successor as president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro; who is a longtime admirer of the Communist regime in Cuba; who is an ardent supporter of the Palestinian cause; and who is widely viewed as a dyed-in-the-wool anti-Semite.

Jeremy Corbyn

Most sensible observers considered the mass defection of working-class voters from Labour – resulting in that party’s worst showing in an election since the 1930s – a thumbs-up for democracy and patriotism and a rejection of the far left. Not everybody cheered Jeremy Corbyn’s loss, however. In a post-election letter released by a group called the People’s Campaign for Corbyn, over 100 members of Britain’s artistic community, some of them quite high-profile, paid tribute to Corbyn, praising him for his “humanity, courage and insight” and for “raising political awareness in our country to a level not seen since the end of World War II.”

Ken Loach

Among the signers of the letter was film director Ken Loach, who, as we noted earlier this year, “has belonged to the Workers Revolutionary Party, the Socialist Workers Party, and the International Marxist Group, has been involved with Jeremy Corbyn and with the bilious Jew-hater George Galloway, has campaigned for a number of boycotts of Israel, and has condemned efforts to address anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.” In 2002, when 11 directors from around the world were asked to contribute a segment to a film, 11’09″01 September 11, about the reactions to the 9/11 atrocities in their own countries, Loach chose to diminish the jihadist attacks by focusing on another September 11 – namely, the US-backed Chilean coup of September 11, 1973, in which the Communist-allied Salvador Allende was ousted and replaced by Augusto Pinochet.

Brian Eno

Another signatory was musician Brian Eno, who has a long record of criticizing Israel and whose 1978 song “RAF,” as we noted in 2016, “incorporates ‘sound elements from a Baader Meinhof ransom message made by public telephone at the time of the Lufthansa Flight 181 hijacking.’”

Among the other signers: Nigel Kennedy, a violinist whose onstage image has been compared to that of Liberace and who condemned Israel during an appearance on a BBC Proms broadcast in 2013; Alexei Sayle, a standup comic who, after joining the pro-Soviet Young Communist League in his teens, decided that the USSR was “going soft” and thus switched to Maoism and the Chinese Cultural Revolution, and, at 67, still says he holds to the politics of his youth; and John Rees, a leader of the Stop the War Coalition and of Respect, who at the time of the Iraq War called on his fellow socialists to “unconditionally stand with the oppressed against the oppressor, even if the people who run the oppressed country are undemocratic and persecute minorities, like Saddam Hussein.” In other words, Saddam, apparently by virtue of being a person of color and an enemy of the West, counted as an oppressed person, even if he was, in fact, one of the world’s most notorious oppressors.

Saddam Hussein, victim of oppression

Such is the kind of thinking that goes on in the heads of those who lined up to declare their solidarity with Jeremy Corbyn. As unsettling as it is to know that there are so many people with such ideologies in roles of cultural power in the UK, it is comforting to know that ordinary UK citizens, in overwhelming numbers, recognized these views as totalitarian and un-British and rejected them decisively on December 12.

To Israel, with hate

Netta

Every year, the Eurovision Song Contest, that annual marathon of mostly horrible songs from countries all over Europe, plus Israel and Australia, is held in the homeland of the previous year’s winner. Last year, the winner was Netta, a spunky, offbeat chanteuse from Israel who came out on top with an absolutely abominable tune called “Toy.” So this year the show is being broadcast from Tel Aviv. The first semifinal was on Tuesday; the second is tonight; the finals are on Saturday.

Julie Christie

Cue the protests! As we noted in February, the BDS crowd was quick to protest the plans to hold Eurovision in Israel. In Britain, fifty-odd people who described themselves as laboring in the “creative industries” wrote a letter to the Guardian urging Eurovision officials to relocate the show to some other country and expressing concern about Israel’s “crimes against…freedom.” Among these people who cherish freedom so deeply were directors Ken Loach and Roy Battersby, both former members of the Workers Revolutionary Party; actress Maxine Peake, a former Communist Party member and winner of a 2014 award for an Outstanding Contribution to Socialism; stand-up comedian Alexei Sayle, also a former Communist Party member; actresses Julie Christie and Miriam Margolyes, both of whom are pro-Palestinian activists; playwright Caryl Churchill, whose play Seven Jewish Children has been described as “anti-Jewish agitprop” that seeks “to demonize the Jewish people”; and musician Roger Waters, whose deeply sick obsession with Jews we’ve written about a number of times on this site.

Hatari

Fortunately, the protests were unsuccessful. On Tuesday, the first semifinal went off without incident, but not without controversy. Among the performers was Hatari, a self-described BDSM band from Iceland whose entry is a hideous three-minute stretch of noise entitled “Hate Will Prevail” that expresses the band’s disapproval of the rise of populism in Europe. Note, by the way, that BDSM stands for bondage, discipline, sadism, and masochism, and should not be confused with BDS, the anti-Israeli movement that calls for boycott, divestment, and sanctions; in this case, however, BDSM and BDS went hand in hand. For Hatari is not only into sexual kinks but also into the delegitimization of the Jewish state, the overthrow of capitalism, and the introduction of Communism. For we all know how tolerant Communism is of sexual deviance.

Tuesday night’s semifinal

Anyway, before going to Tel Aviv, the members of Hatari felt compelled to make a statement about the idea of holding Eurovision in Israel. They called it a whitewash. “Eurovision is, of course, a beautiful thing in that it is based on ideas of peace and unity,” band member Tryggvi Haraldsson told the Guardian, “and this year it’s held in a country that’s marred by conflict and disunity….Letting the narrative of the fluffy, peace-loving pop contest go on unchallenged in this context in our view is extremely political. Everyone who takes part in this is taking part in a political statement whether they are aware of it or not.” As a show of solidarity with the Palestinians, the members of Hatari went to Hebron, on the West Bank, and spoke out against what they called “apartheid in action.”

All of which raises one big question: if Hatari hates Israel so much, why didn’t it boycott Eurovision? Why is it in Tel Aviv now? It’s a question Palestinians and BDS campaigners have asked. Haraldsson’s answer: if Hatari hadn’t traveled to Israel, it would have missed out on “an opportunity for a critical discussion.” But has Hatari actually sought to engage anyone in Israel in critical discussion? Not that we know of. Besides, Haraldsson added, if Hatari had refused to go to Israel, Iceland would’ve sent somebody else. It’s not exactly the world’s most principled-sounding position, but, hey, it’s a mistake to look to Israel-haters for principle. Finally, asked by the Guardian what’s next for the group, Haraldsson said they wanted to perform “in countries where there currently is not an illegal occupation taking place.” Why not try one of Israel’s neighbors, such as Syria, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, or the United Arab Emirates? Or why not set something up in Hebron or Gaza? Since you care so much about them, we’re sure their response to your act will be, um, explosive.

Oh, by the way: on Tuesday, international voters sent Hatari on to the final. So it’ll be performing again and may actually go home with the gold. Tune in on Saturday, if you have a high threshold of tolerance for bad music.

Poisonous Waters

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Hilary Swank collecting her paycheck in Grozny

It’s a weird, upside-down planet we live on. Consider this. Around the globe, there are almost too many savage, monstrous regimes to keep track of. They steal their people blind. They employ death squads. They imprison, torture, and murder members of the political opposition. They harass and kill independent journalists. They execute gays and persecute Christians. And so on.

And world-famous stars clamor to entertain them and eulogize them. As we’ve seen on this site, Hollywood actors like Hilary Swank and Jean-Claude Van Damme have traveled to Chechnya to praise and perform for Ramzan Kadyrov, Putin’s puppet president.  Jermaine Jackson has fawned all over Yahya Jammeh, the brutal dictator of Gambia.  A boatload of luminaries – among them Steven Seagal, Sharon Stone, Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell, Gérard Depardieu, and Mickey Rourke – have partied with Putin himself. Danny Glover and Harry Belafonte palled around with Hugo Chávez. And soccer great Lionel Messi has cozied up to Gabon’s child-murdering dictator, Ali Bongo. 

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Sharon Stone with Putin and unidentified child

And yet which country on earth is the sole target of an organized campaign to pressure show-business figures into turning down invitations to perform within its borders? Israel, of course – the only democracy in the Middle East.

The BDS movement – the letters stand for “boycott, divestment, and sanctions” – has a wide reach. It’s not just concerned with entertainers. It’s out to cut off Israel as fully as possible, in every way possible, from the rest of the world. But the effort to break cultural ties is particularly high-profile – and alarmingly successful. In February, several hundred British artists signed a statement announcing that they would “not engage in business-as-usual cultural relations with Israel,” meaning that they would “accept neither professional invitations to Israel, nor funding, from any institutions linked to its government. Among the artists were Palme d’Or-winning film director Ken Loach; Mike Leigh, the Oscar-nominated director of the 2004 movie Vera Drake; and musician Brian Eno.

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Roger Waters

A number of entertainers have been outspoken in their support of the BDS movement. But few of them are as ardent as musician Roger Waters, formerly of the band Pink Floyd. For Waters, there are apparently no gray areas when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: consistently, he not only condemns Israel but also defends terrorists. He’s called the Israeli government a “racist apartheid regime” and accused it of “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing.” He’s slammed what he calls the “Jewish lobby” in the U.S. and Israel’s “propaganda machine.” He’s accused Israel’s rabbis of viewing Arabs as “sub-human.” And he’s mocked Israeli concern about Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, calling it a “diversionary tactic.”

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Waters’s pig balloon

In the summer of 2013, his concerts featured “a pig-shaped balloon adorned with Jewish symbols, including a Star of David.” In December of that year, he explicitly compared Israeli treatment of Palestinians to Nazi treatment of Jews. “The parallels with what went on in the 1930s in Germany are so crushingly obvious,” he told an interviewer. Rabbi Schmuley Boteach, a noted American author and public speaker, offered a memorable reply to these remarks. We’ll get around to that tomorrow.