We would like to make it clear that our group did in fact find its inspiration, and its catalyst for launching, in the announcement of Jello’s Tel Aviv gig. Indeed, while there have been countless performances and cultural BDS campaigns launched against musicians performing in Israel in the past–which each of us have participated in to a greater or lesser extent–something about the audacity of this gig, coming from someone we all so revered for his radical politics, triggered a response in us. In the words of our e-mail to Jello, his then-planned gig in Tel Aviv “made us all realize how important it is to us that punk music always stand in solidarity with the oppressed and never with the oppressor.” And so PAA was born. None of this can be denied.
Yet, we find it strange that Jello, in his response, takes this to be a smoking gun: He writes that “Whoever started punksagainstapartheid.com now admits it was aimed solely at one person – me.” Jello was never meant to be the only focus of Punks Against Apartheid. It is the first of many projects and campaigns we hope to be involved with. Canceling Jello’s gig was only our initial launching pad and rallying cry. We fully intend to develop PAA into a network of musicians, artists, communities, and voices coming together in the spirit of cultural exchange and solidarity against oppression.
This is flat-out wrong, and skates dangerously close to the kind of anti-Arab, Islamophobic stereotypes that we’re constantly fed by what Jello refers to as “McNews.” Anyone who does any basic research on Palestinian youth culture will see how vibrant and diverse it is. We find it rather shocking that Jello hasn’t bothered to examine these facts. He is, in essence, dismissing an entire region as culturally backward, primitive, unworthy of patronage. It’s not a new phenomenon; in fact, it’s part of a long and shameful history of Orientalism.
We hope that during Jello’s trip to see things for himself he really has the opportunity to see what things are like for Palestinians on a daily basis. We implore him to go refugee camps such as Jenin or Dheisheh and to villages such as Bi’lin where Palestinians lead a non-violent democratic popular struggle against the apartheid wall that separates farmers from their farmland. At its best, punk has always been about amplifying voices like these–marginalized, repressed and otherwise ignored by the mainstream. It’s extremely disappointing to see Jello ignore those exact same voices that have always been so crucial in renewing punk’s vitality.
We think of Aida M, vocalist in Lebanese punk band DETOX, when she said in her signature of our petition “We in Lebanon never had a punk band play here, and it makes us fight harder for our beliefs, and find our own meaning of what punk is…What you big punk bands don’t know is that your music means more to us in times of war and chaos, than it does in the West.” We received hundreds and hundreds of similar e-mails from groups from around the world during our campaign to get Jello to cancel. The incredible diversity of people who contacted us laid bare the myth that punk “is”, once and for all, a white, male phenomenon: no, it has a much farther reach than that; it’s a question of where and how you look. It’s a question: if you come with the intention of hearing other voices, or only your own.
Jello’s claim that he “didn’t recognise” many names on the petition should have been a sign that there is a world of punk beyond the one he is used to being a part of–one that is contradictory, complex, and multilayered–instead, he saw it as evidence that these people weren’t “real” fans and that they probably weren’t punks anyway.
… as we see it, our role is not to “create” a network of alternative voices in punk. Rather, it is to link together the vibrant, already-existing subcultures of political punk to more effectively work together, to stand clearly and definitively stand against apartheid and ethnic cleansing, and to work towards multiracial justice, both in our own communities and for those we stand in solidarity with.