“You are not a Palestinian Israeli, you are Arab Israeli!”
A female voice pierced the silence in the room. A few members of the crowd sounded murmurs of discontent. And from above the stage I said: “I think I have the right to decide that for myself”.
The crowd applauded.
“No, you don’t!” insisted the woman.
Now the crowd was agitated’ “Of course she does!”,
“You are Arab Israeli!”
“Oh, leave her alone already”, voices in the room started repeating.
“Madame, I do insist it is my right to decide how to define my own identity like it is your right to decide yours.”
The woman stood up and left the room.
A man with a Yamuka shared how identity is imposed on him as well, just because of his Jewishness, assumptions are made, and expectations are of a very certain type. And he asked how I deal with that.
I told him I do it better now. With the years I obtained the self confidence to be who I am.
No one knows how to be YOU better than YOU, assuming you know who YOU are!
I feel comfortable in my own shoes today. This backbone is essential when you encounter someone who wants to deny you of the most basic right : To define who you are.
Later on, when I finished my talk, I opened the floor for questions, and a woman asked the question I knew was coming: “You are here, at the TLVinLDN festival, and outside, the BDS are protesting, how does that make you feel?”.
“Like there are too many abbreviations in one sentence!” I joke and the crowd laughs.
I recall the last few days, as many of my friends back home were worried for me when they heard of the BDS presence at the London event. I calmed them down, the protests outside are made of a few people with signs, not the massive attack that Gilad Erdan is portraying in the media, in order to glorify himself as "Hero defender of the state". My friends then expressed their worry for the complexity of the situation for me “How will you ever pass this field of landmines?”.
“There is a big complexity here indeed", I start explaining to the audience. "To tell you the truth, I cannot say I disagree with a lot of what’s being said in the protest outside. I, too, want occupation to end this very instance. But we differ in the technique. Had the boycott been economical I might have signed up. But I don’t believe in cultural boycott. In fact I believe in exactly the opposite, I seek cultural and artistic collaborations between Israelis and Palestinians, to convey an alternative narrative, of togetherness vs separation. So, while I consider the BDS one more tool of resistance, and of applying pressure, I believe it is very important to maintain a dialogue, a conversation is always better than non communication.”
A young man suggested we call the BDS people into the room, to have that “conversation”, and I welcomed the idea warmly: “Let’s!”, but then added :”If you manage to get them through security”. The crowd laughed, although I did not mean it as a joke at all, but as a reminder of reality, that probably the festival will not let them in, or that maybe the BDS are not really interested in having that conversation themselves.
With a hand over my heart, I want to add something in utter honesty.
Sometimes I am used as a fig leaf, I know it, I feel it. I am that smiling face that can show Israel as the liberal multicultural place that it so wants to appear. And by including me, the box of whatever category I was put in, can be checked! Be that the minority box, the female artist box, etc...
However, as long as I get to present myself, my music and my ideas, uncensored, I will use any platform to do so.
However cautious, there is no way for me to really eliminate the possibility of being used by other people’s agendas. It has happened before, after signing contracts with a festival or a producer or a venue, that a new sponsor came on board, and a new logo appeared over my head in the poster, which I had no control over. So nowadays I add a new clause to contracts, stating that I need to approve changes in event definitions, agendas or sponsors, and I try to check better, and on and on.. BUT at the end, it comes down to how much courage one has to be out there in the world.
I stopped being afraid of who I am, and what I bring with me to the table. And I trust that somehow I will (I do) find my way in the field of landmines which is my life.
And if not... Well... Then: Boom!...