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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