Brian Eno’s Take on the Gaza Conflict Appears on David Byrne’s Web Site


On his web site, former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne writes:

I received this email last Friday morning from my friend, Brian Eno. I shared it with my office and we all felt a great responsibility to publish Brian’s heavy, worthy note. In response, Brian’s friend, Peter Schwartz, replied with an eye-opening historical explanation of how we got here. What’s clear is that no one has the moral high ground.

First comes Eno’s clearly heartfelt condemnation of civilian deaths in Gaza (particularly the death of children) and America’s apparent indifference to what’s happening there:

Today I saw a picture of a weeping Palestinian man holding a plastic carrier bag of meat. It was his son. He’d been shredded (the hospital’s word) by an Israeli missile attack – apparently using their fab new weapon, flechette bombs. You probably know what those are – hundreds of small steel darts packed around explosive which tear the flesh off humans. The boy was Mohammed Khalaf al-Nawasra. He was 4 years old.

I suddenly found myself thinking that it could have been one of my kids in that bag, and that thought upset me more than anything has for a long time.

Then I read that the UN had said that Israel might be guilty of war crimes in Gaza, and they wanted to launch a commission into that. America won’t sign up to it.

What is going on in America? I know from my own experience how slanted your news is, and how little you get to hear about the other side of this story. But – for Christ’s sake! – it’s not that hard to find out. Why does America continue its blind support of this one-sided exercise in ethnic cleansing? WHY?

What follows is part of futurist Peter Schwartz’s response, which, rich in historical detail, splits the blame somewhere down the middle. Echoing Byrne’s sense that the two sides have lost their moral positions, Schwartz notes:

Even though I have no support for the Israeli position I find the opposition to Israel questionable in its failure to be similarly outraged by a vast number of other moral horrors in the recent past and currently active. Just to name a few; Cambodia, Tibet, Sudan, Somalia, Nicaragua, Mexico, Argentina, Liberia, Central African Republic, Uganda, North Korea, Bosnia, Kosovo, Venezuela, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Zimbabwe and especially right now Nigeria. The Arab Spring, which has become a dark winter for most Arabs and the large scale slaughter now underway along the borders of Iraq and Syria are good examples of what they do to themselves. And our nations, the US, the Brits, the Dutch, the Russians and the French have all played their parts in these other moral outrages. The gruesome body count and social destruction left behind dwarfs anything that the Israelis have done. The only difference with the Israeli’s is their claim to a moral high ground, which they long ago left behind in the refugee camps of Lebanon. They are now just a nation, like any other, trying to survive in a hostile sea of hate.

We should be clear, that given the opportunity, the Arabs would drive the Jews into the sea and that was true from day one. There was no way back from war once a religious state was declared. So Israel, once committed to a nation state in that location and granted that right by other nations have had no choice but to fight. In my view therefore, neither side has any shred of moral standing left, nor have the nations that supported both sides…

I don’t think there is any honor to go around here. Israel has lost its way and commits horrors in the interest of their own survival. And the Arabs and Persians perpetuate a conflict ridden neighborhood with almost no exceptions, fighting against each other and with hate of Israel the only thing that they share.

To read the complete exchange, head over to Byrne’s site and read Gaza and the Loss of Civilization.

Related Content:

How David Byrne and Brian Eno Make Music Together: A Short Documentary

Listen to “Brian Eno Day,” a 12-Hour Radio Show Spent With Eno & His Music (Recorded in 1988)

Jump Start Your Creative Process with Brian Eno’s “Oblique Strategies”

David Byrne: How Architecture Helped Music Evolve

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Comments (9)
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  • Cornflour says:

    Why has such a blatantly partisan political statement been placed here? The so-called exchange is little more than an argument over the degree of Israel’s culpability.

    Shouldn’t this site be at least politically nonpartisan? Better yet, apolitical.

    Also, this entry has been categorized with the keyword “music,” which is laughably misleading.

    Taken as a whole, this entry’s dishonesty is beyond shameful.

  • Sean says:

    Israel.. Commits horrors in their own interest of survival. WTF does this asshole think war is, a picnic. How dare the Israelis wage war just to survive. Would he prefer they walk into the Palestinian death camps submissively like they did with the Nazi’s. Never again. The Israelis lost the moral high ground because they want to survive against the barbarian Islamist terrorists in this jerks mind. I’d say stick to music, but neither of these guys have made any music of any consequence in many years.

  • Joseph Murphy says:

    Have Mr Eno and Mr Byrne watch this. As Golda Meir once said; “Until the Arabs love their children as much as they hate Jews there will be no peace in the Middle East.”

  • Jason says:

    When one starts listing other countries to justify Israel’s crimes against humanity, one remembers Heidegger comparing Nazi death camps with agriculture in Soviet Union in order to say hey this was also bad!

    we need to remain moral, whether we like Israel or not.

  • Hanoch says:

    Eno and his ilk are perfect examples of the phrase “useful idiots”. Hamas’s ultimate goal is genocide, as stated forthrightly in their founding charter. They seek no less than the total destruction of Israel. One of their despicable tactics — among many — is to make it certain that Arab civilians and children will be harmed when Israel attempts to defend itself. That is why Hamas locates their terrorists and weapons in schools and hospitals. They publish the pictures and dutifully report the civilian death totals to enlist gullible fools like Eno in their cause. The sad irony is that people like Eno actually encourage Hamas to continue with this sick form of propaganda.

  • jr says:

    Every time a barely critical article, piece of news, blog entry or mere headline is published, the usual voices appear immediately condemning it for daring to say anything that does not conform entirely to the pro-Israel narrative. What is particularly appalling on this occasion is that the article is as mild as it can possibly get considering the brutality of the massacre taking place in Gaza as we write. In this specific example, it is also worth considering that the barely critical part (Eno’s) is countered immediately afterwards by another response, supposedly “rich in historical detail”. Leaving aside the inaccuracies, omissions and racist connotations in Schwartz’s piece, it is hard not to see these two points of view together to be a balancing act, an attempt at reaching a compromise.

    The first article is absolutely uncontroversial for the majority of the population who have not lost their moral compass and feel shock and horror before pictures of murdered children, and merely poses the question of why US mainstream media appears to be uncritical towards Israel’s actions – again, an uncontroversial fact about which rivers of ink have been and are being written. The second one is a cacophony of thoughts, historical commentary (most of it terribly incomplete and lacking in context) and faulty logic mashed up together with the purpose of equating both sides and diluting criticism in the view of the current, horrific actions by Israel armed forces and the almost universal condemnation that they are eliciting.

    It is extraordinary that even this mild entry, which includes an obvious attempt to whitewash and relativise Israel war crimes, is considered propaganda, blatantly partisan and dishonest. That after 1800 Palestinians have been killed, most of them civilians, many of which children – the very definition of terrorism – some people are still parroting in a completely uncritical fashion the usual lines about Hamas radicalism and intransigence, is simply staggering.

  • Andrew says:

    Eno wrote his piece in response to a picture. His question was something like, “How can [one] justify an image like this.” The answer is revealed by the question. Eno is a superficial twit (whether or not he is a brilliant producer is another issue). Any still photo of wartime is going to be shocking, heart-rending, gory and graphic. It should get our collective blood boiling. But a still image is also devoid of context. Enter Mr. Eno, who sees fit to provide his own, and rely upon the apparent political gravitas he thinks his lengthy music career affords him. I’m sure Mr. Eno hasn’t read the 1988 Hamas Charter, I’m sure Mr. Eno is not really steeped in the larger moral/political discussion’s nuances. But because that one picture broke his heart, he decries Israel as the evildoer. Go back to the studio, Mr. Eno, where at least there you seem to know what you are doing.

  • Hanoch says:

    When I was young, I could never understand how something like the Holocaust could happen in a “civilized” world. Now that I see the thousands of people around the world who eagerly come to the defense of a genocidal terrorist organization when Jews have the temerity to defend themselves, things have become much clearer. Some things never change.

  • jr says:

    If only those who so readily mention the tragedy of the Holocaust had some respect for its victims they wouldn’t dare to denigrate their memory trying to justify the atrocities committed by Israel.

    In view of the most up to date figures for the current military operation, whereby 1875 Palestinians were murdered – 430 of them children – against 67 Israeli victims – 3 of them civilians – it is reminiscent of stalinism propaganda that these events should be described as an act of self-defence. It would perhaps be too simplistic to blame the extraordinarily severe cognitive dissonance required to hold this claim on the biased reporting of mainstream media. Although it is evident that media play an major role in framing the debate about the conflict, it is difficult to understand how apparently well functioning and rational human beings abandon basic logic and uncritically embrace the most wild distortions offered to them.

    But for the sake of the argument, and only for the sake of the argument, let us suppose that the Hamas organisation is indeed determined to destroy Israel and have no interest in reaching a peaceful resolution of the conflict. This, the argument goes, is enough justification to bomb indiscriminately densely populated areas, destroying civilian infrastructure that includes schools, hospitals, mosques, the only power station, and thousands of homes. Let us forget for a moment that there is no question whatsoever that under international law these all are war crimes, and let us remember what Moshe Feiglin, the Deputy Speaker of Israel’s parliament, proposed a few days ago. Namely, that Israel should invade Gaza, expel the entirety of its population, destroy it and proceed to annex it to Israel, for he considers Gaza to be part of the Land of the Jewish State. In other words, a prominent Israeli politician, from the political party that is currently in charge, is calling for an ethnic cleansing operation. There is no doubt that this is a blunt negation of the right of Palestine to exist, a call for the most brutal aggression on Gaza, and certainly shows zero interest in reaching a peaceful solution. Now, applying the same set of standards some profess, the Palestinians would be entirely justified in bombing Tel-Aviv as an act of self-defence, killing thousands of civilians, children, and destroy significant parts of their infrastructure. Which would be, of course, an outrageous thing to defend, and the entire world would be rightly condemning it, calling for immediate sanctions and expressing solidarity with the victims. That is to say, the justification of recent killings based on what Hamas purportedly say does not hold unless one is prepared to accept the morality of the counterexample. Since I suspect this is not the case, these justifications are nothing but extremely hypocritical excuses made in bad faith.

    Fortunately, there is some reaction to all this. Several South-American countries have recalled their ambassadors and condemned Israel’s actions, Spain has frozen its military exports, a British Foreign Office minister has resigned in protest calling for a tough stance towards Israel, the coalition partners of the current UK government are requesting the suspension of arms exports…More examples from people with first hand information are found in the multiple human rights organisations that operate in Palestine and Israel, and many public figures have expressed their outrage at the events. One can attempt to explain all these reactions by all these people, political representatives and various organisations invoking – quite disrespectfully – the ghosts of the Holocaust. Alternatively, and infinitely more constructively, one can try to understand the nature of the conflict with an open mind, acknowledging the suffering and injustice inflicted on the Palestinians, who no doubt have taken the worst hit in the past 40 years of hostilities, while certainly remembering there has been suffering on the other side too.

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