Brian Eno asks Americans: “What’s wrong with you”?

The British musician has written a letter that has been published where he wonders what has happened to the nation that he used to admire that it now allows itself to be identified so strongly with Israel, a country that is behaving in an unbelievably cruel and inhumane way towards the Palestinians.

What is going on in America? I know from my own experience how slanted your news is, and how little you get to hear about the other side of this story. But – for Christ’s sake! – it’s not that hard to find out. Why does America continue its blind support of this one-sided exercise in ethnic cleansing? WHY?

I was in Israel last year with Mary. Her sister works for UNWRA in Jerusalem. Showing us round were a Palestinian – Shadi, who is her sister’s husband and a professional guide – and Oren Jacobovitch, an Israeli Jew, an ex-major from the IDF who left the service under a cloud for refusing to beat up Palestinians. Between the two of them we got to see some harrowing things – Palestinian houses hemmed in by wire mesh and boards to prevent settlers throwing shit and piss and used sanitary towels at the inhabitants; Palestinian kids on their way to school being beaten by Israeli kids with baseball bats to parental applause and laughter; a whole village evicted and living in caves while three settler families moved onto their land; an Israeli settlement on top of a hill diverting its sewage directly down onto Palestinian farmland below; The Wall; the checkpoints… and all the endless daily humiliations. I kept thinking, “Do Americans really condone this? Do they really think this is OK? Or do they just not know about it?”.

As for the Peace Process: Israel wants the Process but not the Peace. While ‘the process’ is going on the settlers continue grabbing land and building their settlements… and then when the Palestinians finally erupt with their pathetic fireworks they get hammered and shredded with state-of-the-art missiles and depleted uranium shells because Israel ‘has a right to defend itself’ (whereas Palestine clearly doesn’t). And the settler militias are always happy to lend a fist or rip up someone’s olive grove while the army looks the other way.

But beyond this, what really troubles me is the bigger picture. Like it or not, in the eyes of most of the world, America represents ‘The West’. So it is The West that is seen as supporting this war, despite all our high-handed talk about morality and democracy. I fear that all the civilisational achievements of The Enlightenment and Western Culture are being discredited – to the great glee of the mad Mullahs – by this flagrant hypocrisy.

The last point he makes is important. The greatest gift that the West has given the world is the Enlightenment and there are many in the world, especially religious fundamentalists like the Islamic theocrats, who hate it because it has spread ideas of equality for all including women and gays, and freedom of speech and action and religion. So by the West being seen as allied with Israel in a barbaric war on the Palestinians, this gives a weapon to those who argue that those high Enlightenment values are just a charade.


  1. Pen says

    The values of the Enlightenment were already contradicted by the formation of a Jewish state. What it brought to the West politically, admittedly in embryonic form, was the possibility of multicultural societies. It did this by protecting and integrating differences of religion, ideas and ultimately, ethnicity, progressive achievements which are rejected in the very concept of a Jewish state. Nevertheless, it’s often the values of Machiavelli which operate in government in the West and elsewhere. It suits the American government to have a non-Muslim power in the middle east.The fact that it also allows them to humor their own Jewish lobby and most-unEnlightenment orientated Evangelical wing is probably a bit of a sideshow.

  2. says

    Michael Oren makes a “superior civilization” to justify Israel’s genocide of Gaza Palestinians

    Admittedly, they have made the trains run on time. Or was that the other superior bunch? I get confused.

  3. md says

    Awfully cheeky of a Brit to lay any problems in the Middle East at the feet of America. Maybe part of the problem was some classicist with a sense of humour digging up the word Palestinian after a millennium of disuse.

  4. ED says

    That article by Peter Hitchens md linked to was historically interesting but the point he made was ridiculous and paternalistic. Palestine is a regional name derived from Philistine because the classical civilizations would have associated the land with the people who controlled the coast through much of ancient history.

    It’s true that there was originally no nation that used the term Palestinian for itself, but nations and their names are a product of history, not some kind of essentialist magic. The Jewish settlers got a nation and called it Israel. Some Arabs founded states of their own and named them; eventually giving rise to national identities.

    People left stateless in areas occupied by Israel began using the name Palestinian. It made sense as it was both a regional and former colonial name that their people were from. Who is he to tell them what name to use? They have an identity based on shared history and circumstances, and have to call themselves something.

    To deny them a collective identity is to reduce them to non-entities who cannot work together for their own welfare, have organized representation or potential nationhood. This is, of course, Hitchens` desire.

  5. Rob Grigjanis says

    md @10: Lucky it wasn’t an Italian, then. Romani ite domum, what?

    Still, nice to see the Lesser of Two Hitchens continue to trumpet his irrelevance.

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