Pop Culture in Political Agenda

Sirikit Syah
Bandar Seri Begawan

It is understandably upsetting for people in the Arab world to learn that Oprah Winfrey is visiting Israel in near future. Especially, when there is no plan for her to visit the rumbled towns in Palestine (Brunei Times, Sunday June 17). Oprah Winfrey is considered as an icon of balance, neutrality, and the voice against discrimination and racism. What she is going to do now would betray people’s trust and her own image.

She hurt many people’s hearts as she said that she had sympathy for the suffering people in Israel. Is she joking? Is she so ignorant for not knowing that it is the Palestinians who suffer –being cut off from the international community and aid and endlessly attacked by the Israeli military- and not the Israeli people, who live comfortably for the cost of their neighbor?

We have to admit that the mind behind this project is very smart: using popular icon from the entertainment world to set agenda. We know there is a long list of celebrities from Hollywood who have been invited or going to be invited to Israel, camouflaging the record of human rights violation that it is constantly conducting.

It reminds me of the cancellation of a theatrical show in a New York theatre last year. Not many people know about it. Who would think that a theatrical show could be banned from performing in the US? But it happened. The show called “My name is Rachel Corrie”. It tells the death of an American Jewish, Rachel Corrie, in Palestine. She is a human right activist, who –with her colleagues- stood in front of an Israeli bulldozer. She stopped it from bulldozing houses, but she was bulldozed to death instead.

The Israeli did not apologize. They even accused Corrie as obstructing the war on terrorism. Some soldiers even mocked her, “She might not get 70 angels in heaven, but she got what she wanted.” It means, the soldiers thought she deserved it.

“My name is Rachel Corrie” was never performed, but the tragic incident can’t be buried through history. It goes from mouth to mouth, piling the number of Jewish people around the world, including in Israel, who question the Israeli agenda. One of the genuine questions raised by Jewish all over the world is: “When and where will we feel safe? Wasn’t that the promise of the foundation of the Israeli state?” But as long as Israel is still occupying Palestine’s land and attacking Palestinian people, they will never find safety.

And what would Oprah Winfrey reaction if she is asked about her opinion on the issue of Rachel Corrie? Where would she stand? It is a shame indeed.

Psychological Violence

If pop icon could be used for political agenda, what is the agenda? The agenda could be an intimidation, a psy-war, a psychological violence. Israel has done all kinds of violence known to socio-psychological scientists. It has done physical violence by bulldozing houses, olive and orange trees, and mosques. Structural violence is done by tightening the regulation for Palestinian workforce who depends on the job in Israel. This includes humiliation at check points. The withholding of the shared tax income is also a structural violence –conducted systematically by the government to destroy the Palestinian economy and humanity.

Cultural violence is a belief that you pass on through generations. “Palestine is the promised land that belongs to all Jewish people” is such a belief. So, any Jewish person who steps on the Israeli ground is guaranteed a citizenship, while an Arab who lives there from generation to generation is not. This kind of violence also allows you to call your neighbor “two-legged beast”, “lice”, or “sub-human”.

The modern way of intimidating the Palestinian people is by inviting very famous celebrity to publicly offer his/her sympathy to the suffering of the Israeli’s citizens. This is a kind of psychological violence, a psycho war.

What the Arab world could do to it is just boycott Oprah or whoever celebrity coming to Israel for not-so-successfully hidden political agenda. If Oprah could and would undermine the real suffering of the real victims, we could also undermine and question her integrity in humanity. Let’s switch her off from our TV screens.

The Brunei Times,
June 18, 2007

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