Sunday, January 9, 2011

An Open Letter to William Parry and the New Left Project

Based on this Article

William Parry reviewed Artists 4 Israel’s website, news articles and blog and, in an article published in the New Left Project, found that we were an organization who supports Israel because Israel has freedoms and rights that support the arts. He saw pictures of children playing and artists creating beautiful works and he got all confused. He made a few determinations that are, to paraphrase his wording, “extraordinary, contradictory and distorting.”

At first he says that our President, Craig Dershowitz and, by extension, Artists 4 Israel are “difficult to take…seriously.” Yet, then, he writes a protracted essay about us. He calls Gaza “besieged,” yet ignores the constant rain of rocket fire from there (over 9,000 since 2001 resulting in 28 deaths) onto the innocent civilians of Sderot and Israel’s south.
He says that when we attempted to paint the Security Fence we were bringing an “artistic siege” against the Arab citizens in the area, yet he supports the tiny few who tried to place a cultural siege against Ariel. He vehemently protests our attempts to paint the Security Fence but champions the artwork on the “Other Side of the Wall.” It seems, so far, that the only issue Mr. Parry has is with constructive dialogue and a peaceful, creative exchange of ideas.

Mr. Parry’s contradictions continue when he claims that graffiti is mostly used by the “dispossessed, the marginalised, as a means of expressing socio-economic-political commentary and undermining authority.” Yet, he then lists the artists whose work he finds so appealing on the Other Side of the Wall. Banksy, Blu, JR, Swoon and Ron English are among the world’s most wealthy and commercially successful street artists. Banksy is one of the world’s richest artists, period. These artists are so rich, partially, because of their ability to market themselves. Doing things like painting in a controversial place gets you more attention which gets you more mentions in books like those by William Parry which gets you more money.

As an aside, it is an interesting question to ask where each of these artists slept, partied and hung out on their trips to the Middle East. Each one spent a majority of their time in Israel. I wonder if this was because the oppressive, totalitarian regimes on the Other Side of the Wall made living as an artist too fearful and dangerous a proposition?

On the other hand, Artists 4 Israel brings the real graffiti artists, the actual counter-culture forces who, growing up in the economically disenfranchised neighborhoods of Brooklyn, Mexico, Spain, Queens, the Bronx, Puerto Rico and elsewhere truly use their art to express truth and knowledge. That is why, while Mr. Parry’s list reads like a whose-who of celebrity fame monsters, our list of participating artists is a roster of graffiti legends and current kings. We have brought NICER TATS, CYCLE TC5, Sue Works MTA, Belin, Myrhwan, 2ESAE and SKI. We have also been supported by countless others, including TRACY168, COPE2, MED, SMART Crew, Cash4 and many others. We would have brought thousands more artists if only we had money to buy enough spray paint.

Another distortion by Mr. Parry is that we are “throwing money” and part of a coordinated PR offensive. We wish! Every artist on our trip to paint the bomb shelters in Sderot, so that the children of that area need not be traumatized further, volunteered their time. Every artist on our trip to break the cultural siege of Ariel volunteered their time. Every artist on our trip to the paint the shelter for battered women in Jerusalem volunteered their time. They slept on the floor and ate rations as our funds were so small and limited. After all, we are a young organization, a grassroots movement of conscious artists.
Further distortions abound in Mr. Parry’s mouthpiece, the New Left Project. But, in very different ways. According to the New Left Project’s About section, they are guided by:

“1. A belief in the value and equality of human life;
2. An endorsement of the fundamental rights that flow from this (as set out for example in the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights); and...
3. The view that those rights are best honoured by cohesive, co-operative societies based primarily on collective and democratic social organisation and run on the principle of economic and ecological sustainability.”

They claim point 1 above, yet, they allow a writer to defame a Security Fence that has prevented murder.

“During the 34 months from the beginning of the violence in September 2000 until the construction of the first continuous segment of the security fence at the end of July 2003, Samaria-based terrorists carried out 73 attacks in which 293 Israelis were killed and 1950 wounded. In the 11 months between the erection of the first segment at the beginning of August 2003 and the end of June 2004, only three attacks were successful, and all three occurred in the first half of 2003.
Since construction of the fence began, the number of attacks has declined by more than 90%. The number of Israelis murdered and wounded has decreased by more than 70% and 85%, respectively, after erection of the fence.”

They claim point 2 above, yet, they allow a writer to take issue with a nation that has free and equal rights for all citizens over a mass of land, controlled by dictators where women are oppressed, homosexuals are murdered and political debate is stifled.

They claim point 3 above, yet they deny the validity of the only true democracy in the Middle East - a democracy that has done more to protect the environment they claim to love than any other group. Instead, they allow a writer to champion the murderous dictators of a nearby area whose last election was met with the hanging and public beatings of political opponents.

The greatest contradiction and distortion revolves around Mr. Parry’s favorite topic – money. Further in the New Left Project’s About Us they lament that the “goals of power and profit” win out “over the principles of human equality and freedom.” Yet, Mr. Parry’s book is available on their website for 14.99 pounds. Mr. Parry is, literally, making a profit off the back of the very people he claims to care most about. The people of Gaza and the West Bank do not profit from this Security Fence. Israel does not profit from this Security Fence. Mr. Parry profits from the Security Fence. And, Mr. Parry profits from the work produced by these graffiti artists. Does Mr. Parry provide these artists with a royalty? Do they receive a portion of the proceeds from his book? Or, is Mr. Parry exploiting these artists, just as he is the people of Gaza, for his own nefarious, capitalist purposes?
Perhaps this is why Mr. Parry finds it so outrageous that on the Israeli side of the Security Fence there are trees and nature. Perhaps, he was planning to publish the “Other, Other Side of the Wall” and perhaps the New Left Project was planning on, once again, shilling for him.

Instead, Israel has chosen to do two things that would greatly benefit their enemies in Gaza to consider. First, they have sought to help protect the environment. Israel is the only country to have started this century with more trees than last. Second, they have chosen not to wallow in the mire and trauma of war. Like in Sderot, where Israel rebuilds bombed out houses and rocket-ruined homes, Israel refuses to let its citizens suffer in a constant state of desperation in order to manipulate them for public opinion.

Instead of ruins, Israel has bomb shelters. Instead of staged imagery of children crying, Israel tries to make the best of a life lived under the constant threat of a Hamas terrorist attack. Unlike Mr. Parry, the New Left Project and the thugs of Hamas and Fatah, Israel chooses beauty and creation over destruction. Artists 4 Israel supports Israel because Israel is dedicated to creation.

Reporting from the other side of the wall for so long, with a camera in one hand and a cash register in the other, Mr. Parry has probably forgot what freedom and creation look like. I hope our artists remind him.

1 comment:

  1. I just heard William Parry last night. The commission on a book for fifteen bucks isn't enough to pay for his food or transportation while researching this book. While a few graffitists have become very rich, of course most of the aren't, and Banksy has actually raised lots of money for charity. The insistence that all the photos of children crying are staged is deluded. Go visit Gaza. Go visit the West Bank, where there's a wall between you and your livelihood. Please, just go look.