* As dispatches on this email list are so often depressing, I sometimes try to send some “lighter” items. This dispatch, the first of two such lighter dispatches this week, contains articles on media, music and art.
1. Dr. Ruth to help Israeli army
2. The BBC to train news staff about the Middle East using hummus
3. Al-Jazeera to feature “The Baaas” – a family of Welsh sheep
4. Sting, Ricky Martin & 50 cent to play in Israel
5. Damien Hirst donates artwork to Israel museum
6. Arab-Americans rap against “Israeli oppression”
7. “Dr. Ruth to lecture IDF officers” (Ynet news, March 31, 2006)
8. “The Arab-Israeli conflict? ‘It’s humus v falafel’” (Sunday Telegraph, April 2, 2006)
9. “A family of Welsh sheep – the new stars of al-Jazeera” (Times of London, April 3, 2006)
10. “Sting coming to Israel” (Ynet news, March 22, 2006)
11. “Netanya awards honorary degree to CNN host Larry King” (Itim, April 3, 2006)
12. “Top U.K. artist donates to Israel Museum” (European Jewish Press, March 15, 2006)
13. “Arab-Americans rap against ‘Israeli oppression’” (AP, March 24, 2006)
[Notes below by Tom Gross]
DR. RUTH TO HELP ISRAELI ARMY
Dr. Ruth, the renowned American sexologist and TV personality, has offered her professional services to the Israeli army and will lecture IDF officers on family life, relationships and sex, according to Israel’s Yediot Ahronot newspaper.
IDF Personnel Directorate Head Elazar Stern said after meeting Dr. Ruth that “Army officers often face challenges regarding their family life, and I believe we must not only see to it that they receive vehicles and other benefits, but also see to it that they lead a healthy family life.”
Dr. Ruth (Westheimer) is a Holocaust survivor, who was wounded while fighting for Israel during her 1948 War of Independence. For more on Dr. Ruth and her solidarity visit to Israel in 2002, see Dr Ruth and “Star Wars” Queen stand up for Israel (July 1, 2002).
THE BBC TO TRAIN NEWS STAFF ABOUT THE MIDEAST USING HUMMUS
The (London) Sunday Telegraph reports that the BBC’s Middle East editor, Jeremy Bowen, is introducing a training course for 8,000 BBC news staff so they can better understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – by using the Middle East delicacy hummus.
According to the article (attached below), “Bowen says hummus and falafel are national dishes for Palestinians and Israelis. ‘They both claim to have invented them. There are two versions of the truth.’”
He continues “Now, what about the life-and-death issues here that really matter? Jerusalem; the Holy Places; the control of land and water; the future of Palestinian refugees? Well, just like hummus and falafel, there are two competing narratives.”
His contribution, available on the BBC’s intranet, is one of three training modules. The others deal with overall editorial policy and reporting on the European Union.
AL-JAZEERA TO FEATURE “THE BAAAS” – A FAMILY OF WELSH SHEEP
The new Al-Jazeera children’s channel will feature an “extended family of mixed-breed sheep that rap and sing opera while promoting recycling and racial tolerance,” according to the Times of London.
The Welsh programme called “The Baaas” has been re-voiced in Arabic and the scripts have been checked for any alleged anti-Islamic subtexts. “The Baaas” was chosen as it depicts an extended family which is said to reflect living arrangements in the Muslim world.
Criticized in the West for screening tapes of Osama bin Laden, Al-Jazeera is softening its image with a new children’s channel, designed to educate and entertain the region’s young.
Nia Ceidiog, the Welsh producer of The Baaas, said: “I was surprised and delighted that our show proved so popular with Al-Jazeera.” The programme will be seen across Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon, Libya, Palestine, Saudi Arabia and Sudan. Al-Jazeera was voted the fifth most influential global brand behind Apple, Google, Ikea and Starbucks in a 2004 poll for brandchannel.com.
For more on Al-Jazeera, see Al-Jazeera to be launched in English in America (March 23, 2005). New Al-Jazeera news channels are also planned in Urdu, French, Spanish and Turkish.
STING, RICKY MARTIN & 50 CENT TO PLAY IN ISRAEL
Following hot on the heels of Pink Floyd bassist Roger Waters, who is giving a concert in Israel in June, it has been announced that Sting, Hispanic superstar Ricky Martin, and rapper 50 cent, will also perform in Israel.
According to the Ynetnews article below, Sting “has voiced expressed anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian sentiments on many occasions.” Sting previously played in Israel in 1995.
In other Israel-related celebrity news, CNN star Larry King has been awarded an honorary degree by Netanya College. (For more details, see the article below.)
DAMIEN HIRST DONATES ARTWORK TO ISRAEL MUSEUM
The leading British contemporary artist, Damien Hirst, has donated a collection of artwork to the Israel museum in Jerusalem that may be worth almost 1.5 million euros (around 1.8 million dollars).
The Israel Museum was the first museum in the world to buy Hirst’s work. His donations are part of the 40th anniversary celebrations of the Israel Museum.
ARAB-AMERICANS RAP AGAINST “ISRAELI OPPRESSION”
The final article attached below reports on Arab-American rappers whose songs “express longing for Jerusalem and anger at the hardships of life in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.” The rappers have never been to the Middle East, and have picked up much of their information from the media.
Omar Offendum and Ragtop of Los Angeles, have co-produced an album titled “Free the P”. The “P” stands for Palestinians. Although many of their songs focus on Palestinian issues they also rap about being Arab-Americans in a post 9/11 world. (Please note that this article contains quite a number of disputable points.)
I attach seven articles below.
-- Tom Gross
RENOWNED SEXOLOGIST TO LECTURE IDF OFFICERS
Dr. Ruth to lecture IDF officers
Renowned American sex therapist to lecture next generation of army commanders on family life, relationships and, of course, sex
By Yossi Yehoshua
March 31, 2006
Renowned sexologist Dr. Ruth Westheimer is set to appear before IDF officers on a regular basis as of next year, Israel’s leading newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported Friday.
Dr. Ruth will lecture trainees at the IDF Command and General Staff College in Glilot on family life, relationships and, of course, sex.
Officers attending the college are marked as the next generation of IDF commanders.
During his recent trip to the U.S., IDF Personnel Directorate Head Elazar Stern met with Dr. Ruth, who offered her professional services to the IDF. Stern was enthused by the idea, saying he intended on adding Westheimer to the college staff.
“Standing army officers often face challenges regarding their family life, and I believe we must not only see to it that they receive vehicles and other benefits, but also see to it that they lead a healthy family life,” Stern said.
During a recent meeting between IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz and the wives of IDF Battalion commanders at the Command and General Staff College, the wives complained of not seeing their husbands enough. Halutz immediately instructed college staff to grant the officers leave at least once a week so they may visit their families; he also ordered the cancellation of Friday physical fitness tests, as the activity came at the expense of weekend quality time for the officers and their families.
“JUST LIKE HUMMUS AND FALAFEL, THERE ARE TWO COMPETING NARRATIVES”
The Arab-Israeli conflict? ‘It’s houmous v falafel’
By Chris Hastings
The Sunday Telegraph (London)
April 2, 2006
For more than half a century, the Arab-Israeli conflict has been one of the most complex and intractable struggles.
But, if the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen is to be believed, understanding the origins of houmous – mashed chickpeas with oil, lemon juice and garlic – and falafel – deep-fried chickpea balls – provides the key to unlock the Middle East.
Bowen, the Middle East editor, is introducing a training course to help 8,000 news staff understand the conflict. His contribution, available on the BBC’s intranet, is one of three training modules. The others deal with editorial policy and reporting the European Union.
The courses, overseen by Vin Ray, the deputy head of news gathering, are a response to the critical Hutton Inquiry into the death of David Kelly.
Journalists are supposed to spend more than an hour tackling imaginary news scenarios, and can make progress by ticking the correct boxes.
Some are refusing to do it. The module on the Middle East is the most controversial. In it, Bowen says houmous and falafel are national dishes for Palestinians and Israelis. “They both claim to have invented them. There are two versions of the truth,” he says.
“Now, what about the life-and-death issues here that really matter? Jerusalem; the Holy Places; the control of land and water; the future of Palestinian refugees? Well, just like houmous and falafel, there are two competing narratives.”
One BBC employee said that the course was an insult to staff who risked their lives covering the conflict. “It has not gone down well with staff who have spent a lot of time in the Middle East.”
A BBC spokesman said the courses had seen a positive response. “The course on the Middle East introduces some very serious issues.”
THE BAAAS, A FAMILY OF WELSH SHEEP – THE NEW STARS OF AL JAZEERA
A family of Welsh sheep – the new stars of al-Jazeera
By Adam Sherwin
The Times (of London)
April 3, 2006
It is the Arabic broadcaster accused of being a mouthpiece for terrorists. But now al-Jazeera promises to bring harmony to the Middle East after signing a family of opera-singing Welsh sheep.
The wife of the Emir of Qatar, al-Jazeera’s founder, has fallen in love with The Baaas, a Welsh-language children’s series screened by S4C.
Criticised in the West for screening tapes of Osama bin Laden, al-Jazeera is softening its image with a new children’s channel, designed to educate and entertain the region’s young.
The new station is managed by Sheikha Mozah, the Emir’s wife. Its first stars will be The Baaas, an extended family of mixed-breed sheep that rap and sing opera while promoting recycling and racial tolerance.
Al-Jazeera has bought all 52 episodes of The Baaas from S4C for immediate screening. They have been revoiced in Arabic and the scripts cleared after being checked for antiIslamic subtexts.
The Baaas met the approval of al-Jazeera because its depiction of an extended family, with older aunts and uncles part of the unit, reflects living arrangements in the Muslim world.
Clearly taken with Welsh-language children’s television, al-Jazeera has bought a second S4C show, Sali Mali, an animated series based on a series of books written in the 1960s by Mary Vaughan Jones.
The programmes will be seen by millions of children across Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon, Libya, Palestine, Saudi Arabia and Sudan. Al-Jazeera plans to extend the children’s channel broadcasts to North America and Europe.
Nia Ceidiog, the producer of The Baaas, said: “I was surprised and delighted that our show proved so popular with al-Jazeera.
“They wanted a colourful series which depicts the importance of family, citizenship and harmonious relations.”
The channel approved the inclusion of mixed-race sheep, a key element of Ms Ceidiog’s original concept for a pre-school children’s show that reflected multi-racial Britain.
The family has a patriarch, Costas, a Greek sheep, and a matriarch called Baalwen, a “black beauty”.
The opera-singing sheep met and fell in love in the chorus at La Scala in Milan. They are grandparents who live in their Welsh country cottage with daughter Megan and her mixed-race twins, Jason and Medea.
The BBC animated character Fireman Sam will also be dubbed into Arabic for al-Jazeera’s children’s channel. Sheikha Mozah said: “I hope this channel is a bridge for communication between Arab children and children around the world.”
President Bush was reported to have discussed bombing the station’s headquarters in Qatar in 2004 during a conversation with Tony Blair.
But al-Jazeera has also infuriated Arab regimes and is seeking to leave journalistic controversies behind. It has signed Rageh Omaar, the BBC correspondent who covered the Iraq war, and Sir David Frost to be the star presenters of its new international channel, which will be the first Englishlanguage television news service based in the Middle East.
AN ARABIC VOICE
• Al-Jazeera was launched in 1996 with a $150 million grant from the Emir of Qatar soon after the BBC closed its Arabic channel and with the help of many former BBC staff
• It now has staff operating from more than thirty bureaus around the world
• Criticised for screening tapes thought to be from Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders. The most recent believed to be from bin Laden was broadcast in January
• Voted the fifth most influential global brand behind Apple, Google, Ikea and Starbucks in a 2004 poll for brandchannel.com
• In January 2001 al-jazeera.net became the first mainstream Arabic news website
• New channels are also planned in Urdu, French, Spanish and Turkish
STING, RICKY MARTIN & 50 CENT TO PLAY IN ISRAEL
Sting coming to Israel
Long time critic of Israel joins growing list of music superstars planning concerts in Tel Aviv this summer, last appeared in Israel 11 years ago; Ricky Martin, rapper 50 Cent also due to appear
By Hagai Krauss
March 22, 2006
The list of international music superstars on the way to Israel keeps growing. In addition to Pink Floyd bassist Roger Waters, this June will also feature concerts by Sting, rapper 50 Cent, and Ricky Martin, one of Latin America’s biggest stars.
The 54-year-old Sting, the former lead singer of British rock band The Police, has been one of rock music’s biggest names since embarking on a solo career following the band’s breakup in 1984. His music is a combination of soft pop and rock, fused with jazz and world music.
In addition, for years Sting has been an outspoken activist on environmental and human rights issues, and has voiced expressed anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian sentiments on many occasions.
His last studio album, “Sacred Love”, came out two-and-a-half years ago after a four year hiatus. Sting has performed in Israel once before, in 1995. 11 years later, he is scheduled to perform a single show on June 8th at the Ramat-Gan stadium.
Ricky Martin, 34, one Latin pop’s biggest stars, will play five days earlier, on June 3rd, at the Amphitheater in Rishon Lezion.
Rapper 50 Cent, formerly known as Curtis Jackson, is scheduled to perform at the Ramat Gan stadium on June 3. Sources say that negotiations for his appearance are at an advanced stage.
By the age of 12, four years after the murder of his mother, Jackson was already a drug dealer (so was his mother).
He turned to hip-hop music and became known for songs that encouraged violence. When he was 25-years-old, he was shot nine times and, after recovering, established the G Unit record label, which got special attention from the genre’s super producers and artists Dr. Dre and Eminem.
His hits include the 2003 “Get Rich or Die Tryin” and “In Da Club,” which made him into one of the most successful rappers around.
Jewish-German agent and manager Marcel Abraham is responsible for bringing the acts to Israel, in cooperation with Tuvia Kessler from “Kupat Haifa”, Avishai Konfeld from “Rococo” and attorney Hagai Strevis.
NETANYA COLLEGE AWARDS HONORARY DEGREE TO LARRY KING
Netanya College awards honorary degree to CNN host Larry King
Itim (Israeli news agency)
April 3, 2006
Netanya College awarded an honorary degree to CNN host Larry King during a ceremony in Washington, D.C. on Monday.
Larry King’s program on CNN has some 150 million viewers from around the world every evening.
During the ceremony, Netanya College President Professor Zvi Arad said there is no personality more recognized, respected and admired more than King.
King serves on the board of directors of Netanya College’s Dan Avraham Strategic Dialogue Center.
The center is headed by former finance minister Dan Meridor.
DAMIEN HIRST DONATES ARTWORK COLLECTION TO ISRAEL MUSEUM
Top U.K. artist donates to Israel Museum
Damien Hirst gives artwork collection worth half a million euros
By Ashley Perry
European Jewish Press
March 15, 2006
Top British artist Damien Hirst has donated a collection of artwork to the Israel museum in Jerusalem that could be worth almost one and a half million Euros. Hirst has produced 40 paintings with each being sold for a minimum of 25,000 euros.
Hirst’s donations made their fundraising debut at last week’s British Friends of the Art Museum of Israel dinner at Sotheby’s. One painting was sold at that event for 35,000 euros and over half of the 40 paintings have already been sold.
Hirst’s debt to Israel
The Director of the White Cube Gallery, which represents Hirst’s work, explained that Hirst is repaying a debt to the Israel Museum. Speaking to the Jewish Chronicle, director Daniela Gareh said, “The museum’s curator of contemporary art, Suzanne Landau, first met him in Paris in 1991 and was seriously looking at his art work long before anyone else.
“Then in 1994, a year before he won the Turner Prize (the UK’s premier contemporary art award), the Israel Museum became the first museum in the world to buy his work.”
The donated paintings are a series of diptychs, a folding pair of paintings, depicting coloured butterflies. The paintings are all part of a series which is titled ‘Love Love’.
Damien Hirst has a reputation of being not only one of the most gifted artists but also one of the most controversial. He often portrays motifs of death, mortality and rebirth and has been known to show cut-open animals in formaldehyde, such as the cow and sheep which were part of an exhibition which won him the Turner Prize in 1995.
40th anniversary of the Israel Museum
Hirst’s donations are part of the 40th anniversary celebrations of the Israel Museum. Although Hirst is by far the biggest name donating to the museum, he is by no means the only artist.
More than 50 artists agreed to auction their work to raise money for the institution. Israeli artists Zadok Ben-David and Gideon Rubin donated art as well as attending the dinner.
Israel Museum Curator Marie Shek, said “Everyone wanted to participate, Jewish or non-Jewish. I have been working in this job for 30 years and never have I had such an enthusiastic response.”
ARAB-AMERICANS RAP AGAINST “ISRAELI OPPRESSION”
Arab-Americans rap against ‘Israeli oppression’
Far away from the their parents’ homeland in Middle East, Arab-American rappers are trying to find their own voice in United States, rap about checkpoints, military oppression and refugee camps. ‘Palestinians in Israel and the territories are second-class citizens,’ Arab hip-hop artist says
The Associated Press
March 24, 2006
They rap about checkpoints, military oppression and refugee camps. Their songs express longing for Jerusalem and anger at the hardships of life in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
But they grew up in Tennessee or Virginia, live in Los Angeles and perform in New York City. Far away from the their parents’ homeland in the Middle East, Arab-American rappers are trying to find their own voice in the United States – expressing the frustrations of the Muslim world at a time when anti-Islamic feelings are on the rise following the Sept. 11 attacks. Their neophyte movement is spurred on by the success that rap and hip-hop have in voicing the grievances and reflecting the lives of other minorities in the United States.
Two of the Arab-American rappers, Omar Offendum and Ragtop of Los Angeles, are on the forefront of this small but growing trend in hip-hop music.
“Hip-hop has always been trying to voice resistance in the face of oppression,” said Omar Offendum, the performance alias of 24-year-old Omar Chakaki. “And if you’re growing up Arab, politics are very important because they affect every level of your life in many different ways.”
“There’s definitely a feeling of solidarity with other minorities, like African-Americans, and not just when it comes to the music,” added Ragtop, 25, whose real name is Nizar Wattad. “Palestinians in Israel and the territories are also second-class citizens.”
Their political lyrics resonate with young Arab-Americans. During a concert last week, more than 300 fans of mainly Middle Eastern background squeezed into the Coda Club in midtown Manhattan. The gig was organized by the Network of Arab-American Professionals of New York and the bands themselves.
Clapping and singing, the crowd enthusiastically applauded the hip-hop performances of Wattad and Chakaki. The two artists rapped in English and Arabic, combining electronic samples of popular and classical Arabic music from their parents’ generation with fast hip-hop drum beats.
‘We’d even play together with an Israeli band’
“I place my palms to the east where my people seek peace and freedom from police control, checkpoints and patrols,” Wattad and Chakaki rhymed in the song “Free the P” which stands for “Free the Palestinians.” “Domination from another nation; we used to be brothers like Cain; now they got us living under occupation.”
Wattad, who is of Palestinian origin and heads The Philistines, and Chakaki, the Syrian-American lead singer of The NOMADS, are currently on tour and have already played in Detroit, Dearborn, Michigan, and Oberlin, Ohio. The two rappers will perform in Vancouver on Friday.
They are promoting their co-produced album which like their duet is also called “Free the P,” A compilation of spoken word and hip-hop that features 24 different artists from the U.S., Canada and the Middle East. While many of their songs focus on the plight of Palestinians, Wattad and Chakaki also rap about their own experiences as Arabs, and Arab-Americans, in a post-Sept. 11 world where suspicion of Muslims runs high. “After 9/11, I got stripped-searched on 17 flights in a row,” said Wattad, offering an example of what he perceives as growing discrimination against Arabs in the United States.
Despite their anger about incidents like this, the two rappers reject violence as a solution for conflicts. “We don’t believe in violence on either side of the conflict,” said Wattad, referring to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
‘Their music has a future’
“If we can help to clear up the hate, we’d even play together with an Israeli band.” While Arab immigrants in Europe and Palestinian youths in Israel and the Palestinian territories have been expressing their political frustrations and anger through hip-hop for many years, the Arab-American version of rap is a relatively new phenomenon.
In North America, there are only a few other Arab-American rappers like the Iron Sheik from Oakland, California, or the Iraqi-Canadian band Euphrates. Wattad and Chakaki have independently been producing rap songs for more than three years and both recorded a CD. But it is only in recent months that their music has gotten much media attention and that they have established a fan community.
They hope that eventually their fans will include people beyond the Arab-American community. At last week’s concert at the Coda Club, they managed to recruit some new fans, though mostly still of Arab descent. “They are very political but that is part of who we are,” said Mayida Zaal, a 27-year old design student of Palestinian background who had just bought the “Free the P” CD for her cousins.
“This music is like the original hip-hop from the Bronx before it was commercialized,” said Zaal. “I think their music has a future.”