Gordon Campbell on Palestine’s Christmas and a holiday music playlist

bac8835e2ecbe3ebe456At this time of year, nominally Christian nations are preparing to celebrate the birth of Christ in Bethlehem. Last week however, the UN Human Rights Commission issued a press release condemning “the rampant Israeli settler violence and excessive use of force by Israeli forces” this year against Palestinians living on the occupied West Bank. This violence resulted in the deaths of 150 Palestinians, including 33 children. This marks the highest Palestinian death toll since 2005, when the UN first began to systematically record such figures. This year also saw the sixth year of a consecutive annual increase in the number of Israeli settler attacks in the occupied West Bank.

Disturbing evidence of Israeli forces frequently facilitating, supporting and participating in settler attacks, makes it difficult to discern between Israeli settler and State violence,” said the experts. “The impunity of one is reinforced by the impunity of the other.”

Under international human rights law, state security forces are allowed to use fire-arms only against those individuals who pose an imminent threat. Yet as the UN Commission says “ the use of lethal force as a first rather than a last resort by Israeli forces, against Palestinians who do not present an imminent threat to life or of serious injury, may amount to extrajudicial execution – a violation of the right to life – and wilful killing prohibited under the Fourth Geneva Convention and Rome Statute”.

In a separate joint statement, the experts on the UN Commission denounced the related actions of Israeli settlers:

“Armed and masked Israeli settlers are attacking Palestinians in their homes, attacking children on their way to school, destroying property and burning olive groves, and terrorising entire communities with complete impunity.”

New Zealand has been quick to denounce the violence and brutality of the Russian forces illegally occupying parts of Ukraine. Nothing like the same expressions of outrage however, have accompanied our statements on the brutal and equally illegal, Israeli occupation of Palestine.

Footnote One: Reportedly, armed settlers have also killed two, or possibly three Palestinians. Palestinian violence was responsible for the deaths of four security personnel, one guard for a squatter settlement, and five squatters on stolen Palestinian land.

Footnote Two: In May 2022, the deliberate killing of the prominent Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh by an Israeli sniper – and the subsequent disruption of her funeral by Israeli forces – caused outrage all around the world.

Earlier this month, the Biden administration opposed moves by Al Jazeera to submit an evidence dossier to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in an effort to have the court mount its own investigation of the killing. The US hostility to such an investigation stands in stark contrast to its previous statements. In June, when US journalists pointed out to US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken that America’s closest allies in the Middle East –Israel and Saudi Arabia – appear to be allowed to murder US journalists (Shireen Abu Akleh and Jamal Khashoggi) with impunity, Blinken had replied:

“I deplore the loss of Shireen,” responded Blinken. “She was a remarkable journalist, an American citizen…We are looking for an independent, credible investigation. When that investigation happens, we will follow the facts, wherever they lead. It’s as straightforward as that.”

Ever since though, the US position has been that the Israelis themselves can be safely left to carry out this “independent, credible investigation.” No surprise to see that the Israelis have since investigated their own actions, and exonerated themselves. For its part, the UN continues to comprehensively denounce the illegal and violent Israeli occupation, and – at para 18 of this recent resolution – the UN calls for the International Court of Justice to become involved.

For its part, the New York Times editorial board wondered last week whether democracy in Israel might now be under threat. (You think?) The NYT also warned us that the likely coming to power of an even more extreme right wing government “is not simply a disappointing turn in an old ally.” Because, gosh:

Anything that undermines Israel’s democratic ideals — whether outright annexation of Jewish settlements or legalization of illegal settlements and outposts — would undermine the possibility of a two-state solution.

So the troubled thinkers at the New York Times came to this resounding conclusion:

America’s support for Israel reflects our two countries’ respect for democratic ideals. President Biden and Mr. Netanyahu should do everything they can to reaffirm that commitment.

Done and dusted. And a merry Christmas from the New York Times to the people of Palestine, under the rule of the gun.

Music, 2022

For the past two years, Covid has been upending lives and doing damage to the social fabric. Among its very, very minor ripple effects, the pandemic has also exposed the lure and futility of those endless “ Best of The Year “ album lists. Hey, we’d like to think there’s a sense of order and a consensus on reality, even if that only consists in making lists of the

Greatest Films Ever, or the Best Electronica albums of the past 12 months, or the binge-watched TV series that delivered the Most Exciting Finales all year. Meanwhile, out beyond the nation’s living rooms, things have been steadily going batshit at a worrying rate all year. But when feeling anxious, make a list.

It can be a therapeutic thing to do. Back in 2020 Fiona Apple’s Fetch The Bolt Cutters was far and away the album that best conveyed those early Covid lockdown sensations of (a) sudden and complete isolation (b) the enforced liberation from normal routines and (c) the anticipation/fear about what might come next. These days though, that album seems like a time capsule. Fetch The Bolt Cutters doesn’t get played much anymore, not even by the people who admired it so intensely at the time.

Come 2022, and there’s not even a fleeting consensus. Many of us feel like we have re-emerged from Covid into a country that at times, we barely recognise. The virus seems to have rubbed raw some of the least attractive aspects of the national psyche. To the point where the ardent anti-vaxxers, the Groundswell activists, the weird conspiracy theorists who call Jacinda Ardern the Queen of Socialism and the people of Timaru responsible for this parade of ugliness …Appear to be living on a different planet, let alone in a different country.

Yikes. Sooo… Plainly, this little Werewolf playlist is no match for problems of that magnitude. Rather than make an attempt at order and ranking, I’ve come up with merely about 25 recent tracks worth your time over the holiday break. Attempt anything more and you end up with Pitchfork trying to argue that Beyonce’s Renaissance is the album of the year. Really. Really? But it was so clearly her weakest, most derivative album ever. When in doubt, hail Queen B.

Here’s the holiday playlist. It is pretty self-explanatory. What to my mind was the best post Roe v Wade protest song – “Be Careful” – was actually a revival and revisioning of a 2002 song by Patty Griffin, as re-written and performed by three queer musicians of note: Madi Diaz, S.G. Goodman and Joy Oladokun. Goodman’s diverse Teeth Marks was one of the albums that I listened to most this year… But enough of that. Here’s the list: