Local Bar Abruptly Cancels Palestinian Aid Concert
The Ottobar, a bar and entertainment venue in Baltimore, cancelled a benefit concert for the International Solidarity Movement for Palestine that was scheduled to be held at its Howard Street location on June 8.
The benefit event, advertised in advance as "Music and Rhymes of the Global Intifada Tour," was cancelled without notifying the event’s organizers, including members of regional chapters of SUSTAIN (Stop US Tax-funded Aid to Israel Now), or the International Solidarity Movement. The announcement of cancellation was made on the Ottobar website at ottobar.com.
Ottobar owners Michael Bowen, Craig Boarman and Brian DeRan stated on their website that they cancelled the show due to its "being of a political nature, not the actual politics involved." While acknowledging having sponsored political and religious bands and events in the past, they explained that they had recently decided not to host such bands or events anymore so as to remain politically neutral. None of the owners could not be reached for comment by press time.
SUSTAIN and the ISM are both internationally recognized political organizations that endorse an independent Palestinian state in Israel. Both groups advocate an end to US tax support of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, and support the end to the occupation in accordance with the statutes set forward in UN resolution 242.
Granted, the volatile Israeli occupation of Palestine is certainly much larger than a Baltimore nightclub. But skirting this issue is not unlike the behavior of US policy makers who avoid human rights abuses that result indirectly from US tax aid to Israel. The violence against Israel today has arisen in large part from Palestinian frustration over just this.
From American officials to bar owners to local newspapers, this issue has become a "hot zone" seeded not just with political or religious vectors but with germs of economic implications as well. The afflicted victim presents with a fear of bright lights and forgetfulness, combined with a sudden aversion to having strong opinions. The condition is sometimes called the “Hobson’s Choice Syndrome,” and infects Americans who fear that overt sympathy for the Palestinian human rights tragedy will be seen as lack of support for Israel.
In reality, American Jews themselves are not without concern for the Palestinian situation, and have diverse viewpoints concerning the issue.
There is, of course, room for a variety of diplomatic approaches in dealing with Israel and Palestine, such as a redirection of funding toward more peaceful UN-led solutions to the conflict. The US is afraid to appear internationally impotent, which is why it has not pursued such a resolution, but international opposition to current US policy regarding the region dictates that new approaches be taken.
Clearly, there is more than one way to deliver aid to the entire Middle East region—not just Israel—and it is time that US business and government leaders, big and small, take part in the dialogue which grows more necessary with every passing day.
That The Ottobar took a pass on allowing the free expression of ideas on this topic is a symptom of a much larger problem in the US.
Campbell Charshee is about to start his senior year at Gilman School.
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This story was published on July 14, 2003.