Musician's Who've Taken Sides in Israel-Palestine Conflict (+Israel/Palestine conflict primer)

[Make sure to check out the cut for an ONTD Original Israel/Palestine rundown I've created!]

To us mere plebeians, social media is often a voyeuristic peek into the glamorous idiocy of celebrity. We get to see their endless slew of selfies, obtain a first glance at whatever new thing they are trying to sell us, and we can chuckle at their all caps, poorly written rants on subpar first class travel or their odes to quinoa.

However, the terrible violence and escalating death toll in Palestine and Israel have seen some celebs taking to social networking sites seriously to offer their thoughts on the crisis -- with mixed results. Rihanna and Selena Gomez quickly deleted or altered their tweets within minutes of posting last week, despite that fact neither were particularly controversial. Pearl Jam frontman, Eddie Vedder, was branded "anti-Israel" by the Jerusalem Post after comments he made about Israeli settlements. Vedder then took to the band's website to state, "Attempting to make a plea for more peace in the world at a rock concert ... is not something I'm going to stop any time soon."

This is not a recent phenomenon. Stars who have articulated their positions on the conflict in Israel and Palestine have received as much of the ire of their fans as they have their support. Here are a few.

Lupe Fiasco

Lupe Fiasco has referenced his support of Palestine on a number of tracks, perhaps most memorably in 2011's "Words I Never Said" in which he takes aim at Israel and America's policy in the area: "Gaza strip was getting bombed, Obama didn't say shit," he spits, while also taking on Muslim fundamentalism, "Jihad is not a holy war, where's that in the worship/Murdering is not Islam!"

Later that year, the rapper appeared at the B.E.T. Hip Hop Awards with Erykah Badu wearing a Palestinian flag. For some reason, two years later, Fiasco was invited to perform at a D.C. inaugural event for Obama and had to be escorted off the stage after he repeated his politically inflammatory lyrics to an unsuspecting audience.


In June 2011, bland rockers Coldplay posted a link to a "Freedom for Palestine" video by the band OneWorld -- a collective of musicians, artists, campaign groups, and charities working to raise awareness of the Israeli presence in Palestine. With lyrics like, "It could be you and your family/forced from your home and your history," soundtracking images of Israeli army checkpoints and security fences. The posting didn't go down well with some of Chris Martin and co.'s fanbase.

Despite receiving 6,000 likes on their Facebook page, the post received 12,000 comments, some calling for Coldplay boycotts and leading to the creation of a Facebook page demanding an apology to Israel from the band. The other side took to commenting too with lines like: "Zionism is racism" and "Israel is an apartheid state."

Glen Beck labelled the song "propaganda" and began to cry -- so, not a total loss then.

John Lydon
Surprisingly to some, the former Sex Pistol refused to boycott Israel as some of his contemporaries were calling on him to when Public Image Ltd played a festival there in 2010. "If Elvis-fucking-Costello wants to pull out of a gig in Israel because he's suddenly got this compassion for Palestinians, then good on him," Lydon told the British press. "But I have absolutely one rule, right? Until I see an Arab country, a Muslim country, with a democracy, I won't understand how anyone can have a problem with how they're treated."

Punk purists saw this is as Lydon abandoning some of the principals that had made him such a vital, visceral, and vilified figure in the past. Lydon didn't agree, playing up the nihilist streak that epitomized "Anarchy in the U.K." and other Pistols' classics. "I mean, I'm anti-government," Lydon retorted, "I have been all my life no matter where I go -- and I shall be making that loud and clearly proud once I'm in Israel."

According to British newspaper, The Independent, one fan emailed PiL's manager, declaring, "I will destroy all my albums and paraphernalia that I have collected over the years if you bastards play that hellhole."

Two more at source

And now for the primer:

Since some people were asking for a brief background on the Israel-Palestine conflict in another thread, I've put together a bit of a primer on the issue. Disclaimer: I work as a global educator at a non-profit, but this particular topic is not my expert area. I am not going to "pick sides" in this discussion, but rather present the facts as unbiased as I can and let you figure your own opinion out.

Pre-Israel Background
Following World War I, Britain and France held semi-colonial authority over several regions of the Middle East known as "mandates." Britain held the mandate over Iraq, as well as what is now known as Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and Jordan. Eventually this mandate was split in two, with Jordan (known as the Emirate of Transjordan) on the east of the Jordan river and the Palestinian Mandate west of the river. The mandate system angered Palestinians, as they had been promised an independent Palestinian state by the British during World War I (read about the Husayn-McMahon Understanding for the history of that mess), and an influx of Jewish settlers created fear that a Jewish state would be formed. Despite the Husayn-McMahon Understanding, the British conflictingly also affirmed support of the formation of a Jewish state in the Middle East. Throughout the 20s, there were multiple deadly clashes between Palestinians and Jews, over both land (Jewish groups often bought large chunks of land from absentee Arab landowners) and over rights to various holy sites important to both groups. Jewish immigrants entered the region in even greater numbers during and after Hitler's rise to power in Germany.

Partition & War
After World War II, the British, unable or unwilling to control clashes, washed their hands of the region, and deferred to the United Nations to make a decision over the region. The UN planned to partition the country into Jewish and Arab areas (with a larger area of territory for the Jewish people), with Jerusalem and Bethlehem serving as neutral territory. Zionist leadership accepted this solution, but the Arabic population considered this unfair and fighting broke out. The Zionist military forces were better armed and better trained, and quickly began claiming territory beyond the partition borders. The British totally pulled out, the Zionists declared the country of Israel, and a regional war broke out, involving Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq. Again, Israeli soldiers were far better armed. In 1949, an armistice was signed and Palestine was partitioned again - with the largest chunk becoming Israel, the Jordan-controlled East Jerusalem & the West Bank, and the Gaza strip, controlled by Egypt.

The war created a huge number of Palestinian refugees (although the exact number is disputed by both sides). Palestinians claimed it was because of methodical expulsion, Israel claimed they had fled on the urging of Arab leaders. Either way, there was an enormous diaspora population created, with the largest diaspora community of Palestinians being in Jordan. Many of those who fled the war still live in refugee camps.

1967 War (Six Day War)
This was a messy and complicated conflict, but essentially in 1967 Israel invaded more Palestinian land, launching a surprise attack on Egypt. Following this conflict, Israel occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. However, a country is unable to acquire territory through war (according to international law), so these are occupied territories only and do not belong to Israel. (Sinai was returned back to Egypt.)

This is getting really long so I'm going to fuzz some history here, but from then on just know that there were continuing violent conflicts in the area, including the Palestinian Intifada (uprising), which was largely peaceful, although the violent aspects were largely focused on in the media. Thousands of Palestinians were killed by the Israeli military, and innocent citizens on both sides were killed. In the 90s Israel gained control of all land, water, and road resources from the Oslo Accords.

Still with me? Here's the current stuff
For obvious reasons, Palestinian frustration is great, as the Palestinians have no nation, few rights, and often live in poverty. Most Palestinians in Israel can not vote (but pay taxes) and have lived under constant military occupation for decades.

As it stands, Palestine has two primary power groups that you've probably heard of: Hamas and Fatah. Hamas governs the Gaza Strip and is classified as a terrorist group by some (Western) countries, while many other countries (mainly Arabic) do not consider it as such. Hamas' military wing has launched multiple attacks on Israel, primarily in the form of rocket attacks. Hamas does hold some popularity among Palestinians, as "Hamas devotes much of its estimated $70-million annual budget to an extensive social services network. It funds schools, orphanages, mosques, healthcare clinics, soup kitchens, and sports leagues."
Fatah is considered the more moderate of the two groups, and they largely control the West Bank. I won't go into their history, as Hamas is more central to the current crisis.

Wait, so why has this conflict broken out again?
This particular conflict was sparked by the killing of 3 Israeli youths by members of Hamas. There is no evidence that they did so by the command of Hamas authority, but the action spurred Israel to make air strikes and massive arrests. One Palestinian protester, a young boy, was murdered by Israeli extremists, which further inflamed anger among Palestinians, and Hamas sent rockets into Israel. This led Israel to invade Gaza, which is ongoing.

Why is this a humanitarian crisis?
Because as of July 23, 687 Gazans and 34 Israelis have died, according to the New York Times. These are largely civilians, as average Palestinians caught in the conflict have nowhere to flee - Gaza has an extremely high population density at 4,500 people per square kilometer. Gaza City is not only dense, but also very small and Gazans have nowhere to flee.

So am I anti-Semitic if I criticize Israel?
No. Obviously a person could criticize Israel in an anti-Semitic way, but a rational criticism based on facts is not anti-Semitic. The thing to remember is this conflict is largely about territory, not religion, and has been for some time.