Thoughts On Visit To Israel

So now I have been to Israel. I have also been to Palestine. At least I got a taste of the place, but not in the way I originally hoped.

Many people reading this know the uproar and complicated reasons my band, Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School Of Medicine pulled out of a July 2nd show scheduled in Tel Aviv. In many ways I really wish we had played. But I also share most of the boycott’s supporters’ feelings about Israel’s government, the occupation, and ongoing human rights violations.

I hope people take the time to understand how deeply this has torn at the fabric of our band. The promoter in Tel Aviv lost thousands, and I am eating thousands more in lost and re-booked airfares that I have no idea how I am going to pay, or how I will pay my bills for the rest of the year. Real human beings got hurt here.

This whole controversy has been one of the most intense situations of my lifeā€”and I thrive on intense situations. But the rest of the band was not used to this. How fair was it to drag them in in the first place? This is not like fighting Tipper Gore and the LAPD, greedy ex-Dead Kennedys members or more-radical-than-thou thugs who think it’s OK to put someone in the hospital for being a “sellout.” I gradually felt like I had gotten in over my head sticking my nose into one of the longest and nastiest conflicts on earth. I’d gotten as close as I wanted to one of those Herzog movies like “Fitzcarraldo” or “Aguirre, the Wrath of God.” A responsible leader does not go, “Hey, check out that big storm at the top of Mt. Everest. Let’s go up anyway just to see what happens.”

So with the roller coaster still in my stomach and my head, I flew solo to Israel instead. The mission: to check things out myself and hopefully at least get closer to some kind of conclusion on whether artists boycotting Israel, especially me, is really the best way to help the Palestinian people. The same idea as before, but sadly, no gig.

ARRIVAL

Flight hours are weird here. I’ve never seen an airport swarming with so many people at 4:30am. Same for all the people playing bumper cars with their luggage carts, jostling and cutting in front of each other in the long line for taxis. (more…)

Jello Biafra Writes An Open Letter To Barack Obama

Photo by Erin Lubin

(Jello Biafra’s 1979 mayoral campaign against Diane Feinstein was the first I ever worked on, which probably says a lot. We’re proud to publish his open letter to Barack Obama — jh)

My Friends (couldn’t resist, I had to say it),

Here, by semi-popular demand, are the suggestions I sent to Obama’s Change.gov site for citizen input. It veers from writing to Obama himself to writing for the people who may actually read this. A lot of these ideas may be familiar from my albums and spoken word shows. For the most part I stayed away from the big no-brainers covered by others, and from ideas he would never agree to in a million years.

I did not vote for him because of his record in Congress voting for the PATRIOT Act, the anti-immigrant wall, numerous corporate breaks and subsidies, the FISA bill legalizing all the NSA’s illegal wiretapping, etc. Nevertheless I, too, felt moved by his speech in the park that night in Chicago, seeing Jesse Jackson cry and wondering how Martin Luther King, Jr would have felt. I can only imagine how much this would have meant to Wesley Willis.

And, yes, I am glad that the adult version of the Eraserhead baby and his pitbull pal were not handed the keys to the White House.

I guess that’s why it hurts so much more when the guy we all wish we could hang out with when we see him on TV turns around and backs the wrong position on something important. We expect this from the Clintons and Bidens of the world, but it hurts more with Obama because he knows better. He even said so on the FISA/NSA spying bill that he so eloquently opposed before he changed his vote. His economic and national security teams so far lack anyone from the "change" side of the Democratic Party. Not a good sign.

If you have ideas or comments, don’t just send them to me, send them to Change.gov! Even I have the audacity to hope that if one of these ideas penetrates up top, it is a chance worth taking. Tom Hayden is one of many who have pointed out that it is up to this movement to drive Obama, not the other way around.

Jello Biafra

OPEN LETTER TO BARACK OBAMA

PREAMBLE GAMBLE

Dear Mr. Obama,

Congratulations on your recent victory, and for helping build such a strong mandate for change. In that spirit, please do not forget the other aisle you need to reach across. All the relief and publicity for the middle class won’t do anything for the 40-100 million Americans who are starving, unemployed or just plain poor.

You have gone out of your way to build a bridge to those of us fed up with war, pollution, inequality, corporate lawlessness and business as usual. You have energized a whole new generation who is far ahead of their elders in knowing what urgently needs to be done. I have never seen such an outpouring of heartfelt emotion, hope and support for an American politician in my life, and I remember Kennedy well. You are the first president in my lifetime to have a bona fide grassroots movement behind you and ready to rock. I hope those crowds’ hope and urgency has penetrated deeply enough that you won’t let that bridge be washed away.

I remember another person who had the audacity to exploit and toss aside people’s hope, and his name is Bill Clinton. Democrats fail time and again when they shirk responsibility and settle for being dealmakers instead of leaders. As important as it is to find common ground and build consensus for change, our situation is so dire we cannot afford any more dealmakers. The people voted for a leader. Anything less risks breaking the hearts of an entire galvanized generation who may then decide it is not worth it to get involved and participate any more.

Strong medicine is needed. Here are some ideas:

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