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Fascism and Big Business by Daniel Guerin

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Popular Frontism & Israel

Open Letter To Pete Seeger

Monday 22 November 2010

Dear Pete Seeger,

I have been your friend and admirer for nearly half a century. Like hundreds of thousands throughout the world, I have been inspired by your example as a singing campaigner for peace, justice and freedom

We cheered when you challenged the House Un-American Activities Committee taking your banjo and music into the courtroom.

When they took away your passport, we campaigned for your right to travel and when at last you were able to visit London, I was proud to welcome you into my home.

I know you support the work of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions in the occupied territories and that you donate some of your song royalties to them.

This is why when you decided to participate in the so-called Virtual Rally For A Better Middle East on November 14 organised by the zionist Arava Institute, I wanted to give you the benefit of the doubt.

While it seemed to me to be a serious error, I hoped that you would use this platform to stand up for the Bedouin people who are being driven from their ancestral lands in the Negev desert and East Jerusalem.

The Arava Institute and its partner organisation the Jewish National Fund are complicit in this ethnic cleansing. They are planting fast-growing pine trees on the ruins of demolished Bedouin villages, destroying the ecology of the region.

Having tuned into your webcast, I have to say my hopes that you would speak out for these persecuted people were terribly disappointed.

You sang us two songs, one about the way population is doubling all the time, the other in memory of the peaceful non-violent resistance of Dr Martin Luther King Jnr. And you also spoke of the necessity for dialogue. You did not mention that Dr King was killed because of the dialogue he had entered into with the Black Muslim leader, Malcolm X.

I wonder - when the mob at Peekskill were throwing rocks at you and spitting racist abuse at Paul Robeson - did you speak of dialogue with them? You sang of holding the line.

When Dr King was murdered, did you enter into dialogue with his killers? Would you have dialogue with the Ku Klux Klan?

Did you use the webcast to engage in dialogue with those who are carving up Palestine into a series of tiny bantustans separated by roads forbidden to the indigenous population of that colonised land? No, you did not.

I have some experience of dialogue in this region. When I met my first Israeli soldier who was guarding an apartment block where the inhabitants were confined to their homes 24/7 and even their children were forbidden to go out to play, I greeted him with "shalom" (peace) and asked him how he was. "I wish I wasn't here," he said.

My hearing was damaged by an Israeli stun grenade so that it is difficult now for me to sing in tune. Why? Because I was trying to get relief for 20 inhabitants of another apartment block, confined to one room without any water or toilet facilities.

I have met with Combatants For Peace, the organisation of former Israeli soldiers and their antagonists in the Palestinian resistance. They are engaging in true dialogue, not uttering platitudes about how the murderers and their victims ought to shake hands and be nice to each other.

I love and admire you, Pete. But sometimes it is necessary to lay the hard word on those we love. Call it tough love.

When you sang about laying down the gun, who were you addressing? The misnamed Israeli Defence Force or the families attempting to defend the brothers and sisters of the 500 or so children who were killed by them during the assault on Gaza?

Long ago you taught us the words of the song Which Side Are You On? by Kentucky miner's wife Florence Reece, which is set to an old Scottish folk tune.

Which side are you on today Pete? That's what I and thousands of others throughout the world, who urged you to boycott this phoney "peace" initiative, want to know.

It's how history will judge us all in the end.


Karl Dallas

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