Editor’s Note: This essay reflects the views of the author and not necessarily the views of the Detroit Jewish News. She is writing in response to the op-eds and letters that came to the JN in response to the cancellation of her concert at Adat Shalom.
To my friends in Detroit and elsewhere:
Using Walt Whitman’s metaphor, leaders, like captains, are elected in order to steer the ship to a safe haven on the shore of the people’s promised land.
Captains are chosen based on merit and experience.
The word Zeitgeist well describes the context in which leaders of democratic countries are elected. It is the dominant set of ideals and beliefs that motivates the actions of the members of a society in a particular period of time.
Leaders can hardly ever get elected by ignoring the zeitgeist. But it is their duty, if they ever wish to become worthy of the title ‘leaders,’ to steer the country to a just and moral shore regardless of where the popular wind is blowing.
It is my view that both PM Netanyahu and President Donald Trump are summoning ill winds of hate, ultra-nationalism and racism, surfing an ominous, dark wave which is threatening to drown us all.
Was my criticism of both leaders legitimate? Was it harsh? In both cases the answer is yes. The sound of an alarm siren is piercing and painful to the ear. But the pain inflicted by an advancing tsunami is far greater. Being a singer-songwriter, I am a siren in more ways than one. Artists throughout history always have been, and continue to be to this day. Notice how many American artists have sounded their alarms in the past year only!
Today we see many American citizens, both Democrats and Republicans, regretting their apathy when alarms such as mine were sounded. Similarly, many Israeli citizens, including politicians and top army officers, left and right, feel the same.
So, what were the triggers that led to my piercing alarm?
Consider the following utterances:
Netanyahu: “Left wingers have forgotten what it means to be Jewish!” and during the last elections, “The right-wing government is in danger. Arab voters are heading to the polling stations in droves,” he wrote. “Left-wing NGOs are bringing them in buses.” (The Prime Minister was referring to the 20 percent Arab citizens of Israel. He was clearly inciting against citizens of the country he is supposed to be serving!)
Trump on women: “Rosie O’Donnell is disgusting, both inside and out. If you take a look at her, she’s a slob. How does she even get on television? If I were running The View, I’d fire Rosie. I’d look her right in that fat, ugly face of hers and say, ‘Rosie, you’re fired.’
Trump on Muslims: “A total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”
Trump on Mexicans: “They are not our friend: believe me” … “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
Remarks about American bereaved Khizr Khan family: “If you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say. She probably — maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say. You tell me.”
Ridiculing disabled reporter: “Now, the poor guy — you ought to see the guy: ‘Uh, I don’t know what I said. I don’t remember,” Trump said, as he contorted his arms in an apparent imitation of Serge Kovaleski, who suffers from arthrogryposis.
These quotes are but the tip of the iceberg. Do I strongly criticize any Trump supporter, Jew or Gentile? I certainly do!
Now, here are some of the claims made against me by my vociferous opponents, which I feel the need to address clearly:
“Nini, contrary to her protests about not supporting BDS, has been in the BDS movement for many years through her involvement with organizations that support BDS, like B’tselem, a member organization of Fédération Internationale des Droits de l’Homme (FIDH)and Breaking the Silence”
This is a blatant lie.
For many years BDS activists have been demonstrating against me, putting horrible posters of my face alongside bleeding Palestinian children, throwing buckets of red paint at the doorstep of theaters where I perform, picketing and handing out flyers, and bombarding every possible media platform, calling to boycott me.
I have been very outspoken against the BDS idea and its tactics, partly because by silencing a voice such as mine they are silencing the Israeli peace camp in its entirety.
“B’tzelem” is the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. It was established in February 1989 by a group of prominent academics, attorneys, journalists and Knesset members who all strove to create a human rights culture in Israel.
Here are a few notable “B’tzelem” public council members: Chava Alberstein; Gila Almagor-Agmon; Ruth Dayan; David Grossman; Prof. Ariel Hirschfeld; Dani Karavan; Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer; Prof. David Kretzmer; Dr. Alon Liel; Prof. Avishai Margalit; Ronit Matalon; Rivka Michaeli; Amal Murkus; Amos Oz; Rabbi David Rosen; Prof. Yigal Schwartz; Prof. Alice Shalvi; Prof. Sammy Smooha; Prof. Sasson Somekh; David Tartakover; Abraham B. Yehoshua; Prof. Neta Ziv…
Are these distinguished Israelis all traitors, enemies of the state and BDS supporters?
The FIDH: The International Federation for Human Rights (French: Fédération international des ligues des droits de l’homme; FIDH) is a non-governmental federation for human rights organizations. Founded in 1922, FIDH is the second oldest international human rights organization worldwide after Anti-Slavery International and brings together 184 member organizations in over 100 countries, as at 2016. FIDH is nonpartisan, nonsectarian, and independent of any government. Its core mandate is to promote respect for all the rights set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
“Breaking the silence” works in full cooperation with the IDF and are supported, among others, by two heads of Shin-Bet , Major General Ami Ayalon and Yuval Diskin, General Amiram Levin, commander of the IDF Northern Command as well as Sayeret Matkal and Mossad deputy Director, and Alik Ron, commander of IDF “Shaldag” commando, “Yamam” (anti-terror) elite units and top police commanding posts. It is difficult to climb higher than this foursome in the IDF heroes list. Are they challenging the current regime? Of course they are. Are they all traitors? And BDS supporters??
Now for the “Parents Circle” and the Alternative Memorial Service. I’ve already written about this noble peace-making effort by bereaved families reaching out their hands in peace across a wall of pain and suspicion. I have read claims that the service included the honoring the Arab “terrorist” Ziad Jilani. Most authorities have already concluded that Ziad was most likely not a terrorist but an unfortunate victim who was in the wrong place at the wrong time and panicked. His American wife, Moira, appealed to a higher court but charges against the soldiers that killed her husband were not pressed, since from their perspective, the event was a terror attack. This exemplifies the ongoing tragedy that gave rise to the alternative memorial service in the first place: both side’s refusal to see the other’s narrative, rights and woes, preferring to demonize each other and thus justify ongoing hatred and violence. Moira, instead of cultivating this hatred, chose to participate in the Alternative Memorial Ceremony alongside Jewish and Israeli families!
Are David Grossman and his wife, Michal, who lost their son Uri in the last hour of the second Lebanese war, traitors? Are they against the state of Israel? They were also present at the Alternative Ceremony! Look them in the eye and give them a lecture about patriotism.
I happened to have dual citizenship. I love and care for both my countries: Israel, the homeland of the Jewish people, my birthplace, where I raise my children who speak and dream in Hebrew, the language of the Bible, where my husband and I and all my family and friends have served in the army and where my child, too, will serve in two years’ time. And the United States where I grew up, land of the free and home of the brave, the beacon of democracy, liberty and equal opportunity, land that opened its doors to immigrants from around the world, land that followed the amazing trajectory from slavery to freedom to Barack Obama, land of Martin Luther King, Paul Simon, Leonard Bernstein, Woodstock, Jazz and the list goes on forever. The United States that gave my family incredible opportunities for development for my children and the children of manly millions of people around the world, something to dream of and aspire to. I care deeply for both these incredible countries; my roots are on both sides of the sea.
I may completely disagree with Netanyahu, Trump and their supporters, but I will not doubt their intentions; they all want the best for their respective countries. But they have stripped me of MY right to be both critical of and dedicated to my country. Inciting against the left as the “enemies from within” is the cruel terminology of dark regimes we remember well, the embodiment of fascist attitudes coming from the extreme right everywhere — even in places like Farmington Hills, where I have many friends and have performed memorable concerts on numerous occasions.
I believe the light will prevail over this darkness.
Looking forward to singing for you all again in 2018 :)
May 22, 2017