Exclusive interview with American singer David Rovics



Kourosh Ziabari – Fars News Agency: An American singer and songwriter who has composed several songs in solidarity with the people of Palestine says that Israel is conducting a campaign of slow genocide in the Gaza Strip.

David Rovics believes that the Israeli regime kills the Palestinian people with impunity and no country in the world dares to take military action to prevent it from carrying out its project of mass killing in the Occupied Territories.

The Oregon-based singer, who has been called an anti-Semite by the Israeli-allied media in the United States for his outspoken criticism of the Israeli regime tells Fars News Agency that the truth should be said regarding the nature of this regime: “I have been branded as anti-Semitic for stating the obvious many times. But it is most certainly not anti-Semitic to point out the obvious fact that Israel is an apartheid state with a fundamentally racist and genocidal orientation toward Palestinians and others in the region.”

“Nor, I would add, is it anti-white American to point out that the US is also an apartheid state that is institutionally racist in nature. Nor is it anti-Muslim to point out that King Fahd is a misogynistic dictator,” he added.

Born in 1967, David Rovics is an indie singer and songwriter. Rovics, who has put all of his albums for free downloading on the internet, has dedicated the majority of his songs to political themes, especially the 2003 Iraq war, globalization and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A vocal critic of the George Bush’s administration and its unconditional support for the Israeli regime, he has released more than 20 albums, and composed lyrics on the recent issues such as the Occupy Wall Street movement in the United States.

During the recent Israeli military aggression against the Gaza Strip in which more than 2,100 Palestinians were killed, Rovics released a song entitled “Gaza” which starts with these verses: “1.8 million people, surrounded on all sides / Refugees since ’48, since ’67 occupied / The only reason they’re not starving is down to the UN / Most have never left there, stuck in the lion’s den / The most crowded place on Earth, and there they’ll stay / They can’t visit cousins a half hour’s drive away.”

In an interview with FNA, Rovics talked of his passion for the people of Palestine, his reactions to being called anti-Semite by the American media and his feeling about Israel’s 52-day-long deadly incursion into the Gaza Strip. The following is the text of the interview.

Q: David; the dust surrounding Israel’s 52-day-long deadly offensive into the Gaza Strip has settled, and the beleaguered coastal enclave is now rising from the ashes of destruction and carnage again. What do you make of the Israeli onslaught in the Gaza Strip and the killing of more than 2,000 Palestinians? What have been Israel’s motives and objectives, and how do you see the international community’s response to the humanitarian tragedy that played out in the occupied Gaza?

A: Israel is trying, it seems to me, to commit a sort of “slow genocide” in Gaza and the West Bank as well.  It’s a sort of “everything but the gas chambers” kind of genocidal policy. Bomb and starve the Palestinians as much as you can without alienating their paymasters in the US, without causing another major country’s government to militarily come to the defense of the Palestinians.

Much of the international community’s response has been impressive. There have been regular, huge demonstrations in countries throughout the world, including in cities across the US. Some governments have made bold moves in solidarity with the Palestinians, such as the government of Venezuela. But unquestioning support of anything Israel does continues on the part of both ruling parties in the US, the Democrats and the Republicans. As long as that continues to be the case, unfortunately it doesn’t seem to matter much what anybody else thinks.

Q: Some analysts believe that Israel launched the massive war on the Gaza Strip in order to ruin the chances of Palestine’s gaining statehood at the United Nations after the two rival parties Hamas and Fatah signed a unity deal, which the Israeli officials were extremely angry and infuriated at. Do you agree with the point that Israel is pulling out the stops to prevent the Palestinians’ bid for full membership to the UN from gaining ground?

A: I don’t know what caused the timing of Israel’s latest bout of war crimes, personally. But what is very clear from recent history is that Israel often times its atrocities to coincide with things like that. They time things in order to disrupt Palestinian political processes, to disrupt the “peace process,” etc. I’m sure that was the case with this latest “war.” And certainly, the ruling parties in Israel don’t want Palestinian statehood. Regardless of the nice things they say every once in a while at a press conference with the US Secretary of State.

Q: The actions of the Israeli regime in the Gaza Strip, including the deliberate targeting of civilians, the destruction of civilian infrastructure, the torturing and jailing of children below the legal age and the maintenance of the illegal blockade amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. Is there any powerful and efficient international body that can investigate these crimes and hold Israel accountable?

A: Yes, I completely agree. What Israel has just done – and continues to do with the ongoing siege of Gaza and the ongoing expansion of settlements in the West Bank – are war crimes and crimes against humanity, under the standard understandings of those concepts. This is recognized by people and organizations around the world. But as long as the US government doesn’t care, and Israeli politicians can just accuse UN officials of being anti-Jewish and then just dismiss their allegations, I don’t know what anyone can do in terms of holding Israel accountable.

Q: During the recent Israeli operation into the Gaza Strip, you composed and released a song in solidarity with the people of the besieged territory, that was translated into a dozen of languages and circulated widely on the web. Why were you motivated to make that song, and why do you think it’s important to express solidarity with the people of Palestine through the artistic forms?

A: Music is powerful. A song won’t stop a war, but I’m sure it is the most powerful and most efficient way to win over hearts and minds that is possible within the space of three minutes. So that’s what I do. In itself it’s nothing, but hopefully in combination with social movements around the world, a song can have a vital role to play in convincing some people who might be on fence to act, and in influencing the thinking and the feelings of others who might not have thought about things that way before. I fantasize about turning into Iron Man or the Hulk and chucking Israeli tanks into the sea, but I can’t do that. I can write songs, though.

Q: For your outspoken criticism of the Israeli atrocities against the defenseless people of Palestine, you’ve been branded anti-Semitic by your opponents and those who classify every condemnation of Israel’s racist policies and practices as hatred against the Jews and anti-Semitism. Is it really anti-Semitic to criticize Israel for its unrestrained killing of the Palestinians? Doesn’t this strategy of vilifying the critics of Israel represent a threat to intellectual freedoms and freedom of expression?

A: Yes, I have been branded as anti-Semitic for stating the obvious many times. But it is most certainly not anti-Semitic to point out the obvious fact that Israel is an apartheid state with a fundamentally racist and genocidal orientation toward Palestinians and others in the region. Nor, I would add, is it anti-white American to point out that the US is also an apartheid state that is institutionally racist in nature. Nor is it anti-Muslim to point out that King Fahd is a misogynistic dictator. These are all statements of the obvious to anyone who’s paying attention.

Q: What’s your viewpoint regarding the efforts made by the world’s conscious artists such as Gilad Atzmon and Roger Waters to shed a light on the plight of the Palestinian people and bring the global attention to the difficulties they’re suffering under the Israeli occupation? You’re one of these global artists yourself. Do you believe that such cultural endeavors can contribute to the alleviation of the pains of the Palestinian nation and draw worldwide condemnation of Israel?

A: Yes, I think musicians and other artists have an extremely important role to play in affecting the hearts and minds of people around the world. Of course, if you’re an artist with a conscience, you’re basically in a battle for the hearts and minds with the richest, most powerful men in the world, and the media outlets and educational systems they control. But a friend of mine said 10 minutes of truth can counteract 24 hours of lies, and I believe he was right. So perhaps there’s hope.

Q: The mass media in the West often fail to tell the truth about the predicament of the Palestinians and the dire conditions they’re living under. As an artist who has dedicated his entire professional career to fight against deception and hypocrisy, what’s your viewpoint regarding the mainstream media’s portrayal of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Why do you think they most of the times, if not always, take the side of Israel and intentionally overlook the despair of the Palestinian people, including the recent campaign of mass killing in the Gaza Strip?

A: The concept of “journalistic neutrality” is basically a fantasy. In reality, what stories journalists cover and how they cover it is very heavily dependent on who writes their paycheck, as well as questions like where they grew up, their class background, ethnicity, etc. If it’s a white American from some well-off, comfortable suburb, they’re going to be sort of naturally more at ease with Israelis who grew up in a similar environment than with darker-skinned people living in ghettos, who remind them of the class, race divide in America.

Q: With all the hate mails and threats which you receive for supporting the people of Palestine in your songs and lyrics, have you ever thought of abandoning the cause of Palestine and singing about less challenging and controversial issues? Is the choice you’ve made worth to be subject to massive smear campaigns and defamations by the Israelis and their allied media? What’s your message to the suppressed people of Palestine?

A: I’m quite certain that writing songs sympathetic to Palestinians and critical of Israel has not helped me get any gigs in the more mainstream music scene. Even among hipsters and progressive in the US and some other countries, the issue is very controversial. But I certainly have no regrets about my choice to speak out against injustice, whether it’s injustice committed by Jews, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists or anybody else.

This interview was originally published on Fars News Agency.