The famous and excellent children’s entertainer Raffi Cavoukia’s website has two “songs for peace” available for free download. One is “Salaam Shalom, Side by Side“, a liberal zionist song for peaceful co-existence between Palestinian and Israeli children. Personally, I find the song perverse because in the very act of calling for peaceful co-existence between Palestinian and Israeli children already in Palestine, he ignores the fact that when the song was written, in 2002, the Palestinians were fighting to return to their homeland and for the return of the refugees, which includes refugee children. Palestinian children who are refugees, especially those in Lebanon, live very difficult lives under very difficult conditions, and talking about peace between Palestinian and Israeli children without taking a stance on the larger conflict is a positive way of excluding them, and re-enforcing the liberal zionist idea that the conflict between Israel and Palestine involves only those people living in Palestine today. So, for Raffi, support for Palestinian children does not include support of the armed struggle to liberate Palestine and return the refugees, including refugee children, to Palestine to live “side by side” with the Jews already living there – (how do we so easily forget that co-existence between the Palestinians and Jewish migrants in Palestine has been the Palestinian position since 1970?)
However, right next to “Side by Side”, we find a song for Nelson Mandela called “Turn this World Around”. I’ve written before on Nelson Mandela’s role in the ANC and his longstanding support for armed struggle against the Apartheid regime in South Africa. But because the revolution in South Africa had already been succesful, and happened at least superficially as a result of non-violent resistance, Mandela is a safe figure to support – despite only being removed from the US terrorist watch list in 2008. The ANC fought for the same kind of rights the PLO has been fighting for since the 60s – the right of the indigenous people to live free in their homeland, and to have equal rights with the colonizers and to prosecute the colonizers who committed egregious crimes against them.
It’s possible to imagine an alternate history – a history where the PLO won a long time ago, perhaps in ’82, perhaps in the 70’s, most likely with the aid of Arab nations and in a history where America’s support for Israel was much weaker and public relations campaigns had not successfully associated anti-zionism with racism. In this alternate history we can imagine how the PLO would have achieved the historical status of revolutionaries on the side of justice and freedom, even in common media, and we can imagine how “Zionism” would be universally condemned and scholars the world over would connect Zionism with Naziism and we would understand much better the way the oppressed can easily become new oppressors if they don’t fight on the side of universal freedom.
In that world, Raffi would have a song for the PLO and for Nelson Mandela, because children’s entertainers only support armed struggles after the Revolutionaries have won.