Enlisting Bruce Springsteen to Validate Apartheid Israel

The Times of Israel is what I call “junkbox journalism.”  In its entire short history, I can’t recall it ever broke a major news story.  Though it had generated its own set of mini-journalistic scandals: like when one of its bloggers complained that the stress of Operation Protective Edge was making her fat; or another in which a white supremacist posted an anti-Arab diatribe in the name of a respected American lawyer; or when an extremist settler advocated genocide against the Palestinians.  Oops, all of them disappeared in a puff of smoke from the online pages of TOI.

Further, TOI’s idea of what is news is quite suspect.  Like other Israeli media outlets, it sees itself as much as a booster of national morale as a serious journalistic enterprise.  This is true despite the denials of its hedge fund financier, Seth Klarman, who disingenuously claimed TOI would be non-partisan.

Amy Kalman claims her 15 seconds of fame and a hug from Bruce Springsteen in pursuit of persuading him to reject the international cultural boycott of Israel

Yet another example of this boosterism is an article, Bruce Springsteen: I really need to play in Israel, by the managing editor, David Horovitz, which co-opts Bruce Springsteen in the fight to legitimize Israel.

As anyone who’s ever heard the name “Springsteen” knows, Bruce is in the midst of a book tour promoting his new memoir, Born to Run.  Fans have the rare opportunity to meet  him at bookstores around the country, scores some concert tickets and even get a selfie with their idol.  I imagine that the True Believers who’ve followed him going all the way back to his musical origins would travel quite far for such an opportunity.  But one Israeli-Canadian outshone them all.

Amy Kalman, a mother of four, flew from Israel to give Bruce a hug and beg him to normalize Israel by performing there.  Here’s how she described the meeting:

“When we met, I said to him, ‘I just want you to know that I’ve flown in for the day from Israel,’” Kalman told The Times of Israel.

“And he said, ‘Well, that gets a hug.’”

Kalman went on: “I’d been thinking on the plane about, how could I say to him, nu, play in Israel already. But I didn’t get to say any of that because he immediately said, ‘I really need to play there.’”

“And I said, ‘Yes, you really do!’”

Then, Kalman said, she told Springsteen, “Thank you for sharing your hopes and dreams, music and love with so many people. And he said, ‘Thank you, I appreciate that.’ And by then, my time was over. I’d had my moment.”

Now, Kalman never admitted her purpose was to persuade Springsteen to publicly reject BDS (about which he’s never made any public statement).  In fact, she falsely claimed to have no political mission in her meeting with him.  But as anyone who follows the Israeli hasbara apparatus knows, it’s precisely those who deny political motives about whom one should be most skeptical. Here’s how she characterized her motives:

Kalman said she has no desire to get into the political dimension of a Springsteen concert in Israel, and just hopes he adds the Holy Land to his concert map.

She said she took Springsteen a gift of a jar of Israeli honey; fans’ gifts, with a personal message, were welcomed, and fans were assured they would be given to Springsteen later.

In her accompanying message, Kalman wrote to Springsteen, “My wish to you on this New Year is that it should be a sweet and healthy one for you and all those you love, and, that you will bring your own sweet soul to Israel in the coming year.”

Clearly, her goal was to lobby for a political outcome in purely personal terms. Quite an effective ploy. Admittedly, the hasbara apparatus isn’t usually this skilled. So all credit to her for concealing her motive so well.

Kalman’s claim that she flew from Israel all the way to Freehold just to meet Bruce rang a few alarm bells in my head. Further, she’s done quite a bit of jet-setting following her hero around the world:

In July, she, her husband, two sons and a daughter-in-law flew to Zurich to see his concert there, incidentally running in to Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid and his wife, who had made the same journey for the same reason.

IDF 7th Armored Brigade tank, whose photo accompanies Kalman’s fundraising campaign on its behalf

How many of us can afford multiple roundtrip international flight just to meet a childhood idol? Well, clearly she can. Why? Because her husband, Jonathan, is an Israeli venture capitalist, who is the CEO of Dion Investments and sits on no less than thirteen corporate boards. He is the managing director of Neuroderm as well, a pharmaceutical company dedicated to marketing drugs to treat Parkinson’s.

Ms. Kalman’s claim to not be a pro-Israel advocate is stretched thin by a fund the couple established to buy military gear on behalf of the IDF’s 7th Armored Brigade:

We are raising funds to provide the soldiers of the 7th Brigade of the Armoured Corps with dust goggles, multi-purpose Leatherman tools, mobile phone chargers, water packs, head mounted flashlights and more.

You’d think that recent $38-billion military aid deal Obama just worked out with Netanyahu might cover the cost of some of these items…

Kalman’s description of this IDF unit is also instructive:

…In 2014, the soldiers of the 7th Brigade are once again battling for the security of the people of this country. The IDF is a citizen’s army, and comprises a complete cross section of the population. It is a place where people of different backgrounds come together with a common purpose to defend the Jewish People.

Hey, I don’t know about you, but I’m part of the Jewish people and I don’t need defending from the 7th Armored Brigade, the Mossad or any other Israeli entity. This attempt to conflate Israel with the Jewish people is classic hasbara.

I doubt Bruce would be too keen to support an army of occupation like the IDF, which is what his Number One Fan, Amy Kalman does.

Contrary to Steven Van Zandt’s ignorant claim that the Israel-Arab conflict was too complicated to be compared to the South African struggle against apartheid, it really isn’t.  Here is what he tweeted a few months ago:

“The problems there have existed for a thousand years and you want the solution in 140 characters?” and, finally, “I understand how it might appear that way but your analysis is incorrect. It’s a lot more complicated than SA.”

What is complicated is the discomfort and ambivalence that the tens of thousands of Palestinian dead arouse in the minds of liberal Zionists.  Van Zandt had no problem with the ANC’s violent resistance to the white South African regime.  Probably because it was graphically clear that 4-million whites shouldn’t govern 17-million Blacks.  Israel has no such imbalance.  So you have to look a bit harder to understand the real, pervasive injustice.  Nevertheless, it doesn’t take a genius to understand that Israel is as apartheid a country as South Africa ever was.  Not to mention that Israel has killed far more Arabs and Palestinians than white South Africa ever killed Blacks.

So why do liberals like Van Zandt have problems with Palestinians resisting their dispossession just as South African Blacks did?  Certainly at least one element is that he could understand the plight of Black folk much easier than he could the plight of Arabs.  We in the west are trained to see Muslims and Arabs as violent, uncivilized, homophobic and misogynist.  That’s a lot of baggage to overcome.  The same kind of baggage that white liberals had to overcome in 1950s America before they acknowledged the struggle for civil rights.

I urge Bruce Springsteen to think long and hard about exactly what a performance in Israel would mean.  No doubt he would want to reciprocate a performance to an Israeli audience with a performance to an Arab-Palestinian audience.  But where could he perform after headlining in Tel Aviv?  Who would have him?  Leonard Cohen tried doing precisely the same thing and it didn’t go over too well.

Unfortunately, this is one of those situations in which liberal humanism doesn’t work.  There are some situations in which you have to take a moral stand.  You can’t equivocate.  You can’t have a little bit of this and a little bit of that.  You need to take a stand like the one the E Street Band made in boycotting a performance in North Carolina after it passed a discriminatory law forcing transgendered people to use the bathroom of their birth gender.  Why are transgendered Americans any more deserving of justice and support than Palestinians?