Thursday, May 25, 2006

Is Rock Conservative?

The National Review seems to think so. Check out their list of the top 50 'Conservative' rock songs here. Bob Dylan's pro-Israel "Neighborhood Bully" comes in 12th.

But looking at that list got me thinking....

When I was in high school, I thought rock music was the voice of youth and rebellion. That's what Rolling Stone magazine told me it was, anyway. But the more I paid attention, the more I suspected something else going on, something that had little to do with challenging authority, self-expression, or even Woodstock.

The first hint was rock radio. No matter which station I tuned into, everything they played was stuck in a single format. I tried "Classic rock," which played and played and overplayed the Giants of Rock, all of whom are now museum displays at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. That wasn't youth; it wasn't rebellion. There was some Woodstock there, but that belonged to a previous generation. It was a fun place to visit when the Grateful Dead or Bob Dylan rolled through town, but I knew I couldn't live there.

So I tuned to the local college radio station, the precursor to the "alternative" format. College kids are eclectic, I thought. They're young, and they hate authority. No one's going to tell them what to play. That may be true, but in the 80's, someone should have. The big star on the station was the pre-breakout REM, a band that embodied everything I came to hate about college rock. They cultivated a pretentious aura of having a "message" - which never actually materialized - and their sound came to define that era of college radio. Any band that didn't sound like them had a hard time getting played.

bands that didn't fit either format could still get exposure on the other rock and pop stations, all of which played "the hottest hits first," and kept their playlists down to the top five songs on that week's Billboard magazine charts. After a while I was no longer sure if the songs all sounded the same, or if I there was actually just one song that they played over and over. Either way, it was miles away from being the voice of youth and rebellion. It was youth, but it was about as subversive as a can of Coca-Cola. I wasn't surprised, then, when that song each station kept playing incessently turned up in a Coke commercial. It was only a matter of time.

My next insight into the nature of rock came when I actually started meeting people who played in rock bands. These people were far more varied than rock radio, but it was clear that rock had lost its progressive edge. The more time I spent in the rock scene the more I saw how much the music had become the sound of mainstream culture.

There were also rebels, real ones who chose to live on the edges of society, and they were young. And rock was still a vehicle for their self expression. But no one likes to live as a parody. Throught their eyes, I witnessed rock's death in the rise and fall of Nirvana. These rebels were the first to embrace the band, finding a soul mate in Kurt Cobain. But they were horrified to see the fans the ban attracted as Nirvana climbed up rock's Mt. Everest. As they slowly left the scene, ashamed to be associated with the people they live to subvert, rock lost its last remaining claim to youth and rebellion.

So rock is dead; long live rock. It has gone the way of be-bop - still walking around, breathing the fumes remaining from its creative period. But who needs it anyway. Hip hop, for anyone who hasn't heard, is today's rock music. It's true. I read it in Rolling Stone.

How long before someone publishes a list of the top 50 conservative hip hop records?

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Yom HaAtzmaut in the Old City

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Playing Russian Roulette with Human Rights

If human rights groups genuinely uphold universal principles, why do they ignore the most basic right of Israeli civilians – the right to life?

A group of six Israeli and Palestinian “human rights” NGOs did just that last week when they petitioned Israel’s High Court to reverse the IDF’s decision to reduce the “safety zone” for Palestinians who fire Kassam rockets at Israel.

Previously, when Palestinian terrorists fired Kassam rockets, the IDF refrained from firing back if Palestinian civilians were spotted within a 300-meter radius of their targets. But since this policy made no dent in the number of Palestinian fired at Israel, the army reduced the zone to 100 meters – the length of a football field in every direction.

Palestinian terrorists often fire rockets from residential areas in the Gaza Strip, hoping the Israeli army will refrain from retaliation in order to avoid civilian casualties. Although the tactic is a clear violation of international law, which forbids armed groups from using civilian areas to launch attacks, it has proven successful – thanks to the IDF’s concern for human life.

But the smaller safety zone means terrorists can expect less protection from the Palestinian civilians they exploit - and endanger - for their safety. It also means they have less time to escape after they fire at Israel, preventing them from digging into their positions and taking accurate aim at their targets. Ultimately, it means fewer Israeli casualties.

But the safety of Israeli civilians is not on the agenda of the highly politicized NGOs that filed the petition, including B’tselem and Physicians for Human Rights – Israel (PHRI). These NGOs, along with other human rights groups active in the Middle East, routinely eliminate the context of terror in their reports on the region. In some cases they may also condemn suicide bombings, but their human rights analyses of Israeli responses to terror are usually conducted in a vacuum. Their intention is to create a distorted picture of the security situation, presenting Israel as the constant aggressor, even when it responds to Palestinian attacks like Kassam fire aimed at Israeli schools, houses, and similar targets.

Indeed, the NGOs’ attorney Michael Sfard illustrates this point clearly in his petition, which essentially demands that Israel provide Palestinian terrorists the widest safety zone possible. By reducing the zone, the petition states, “the army is playing Russian roulette with the lives of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip by deliberately including them within firing range.”

Actually, it’s the terrorists who are deliberately including Israeli (and Palestinian) civilians within firing range. And the terrorists leave no “safety zone” for Israelis. The only safety zone Israeli civilians have is created by the IDF’s efforts to stop the Kassam fire.

Human rights NGOs distinguish themselves from political advocacy groups by projecting an image of impartiality. On its website, B’tselem asserts that "all human beings are born equal in dignity and rights." PHRI claims its mission “is to secure the right of all individuals to equal access to health care services regardless of political, national, religious, gender or socio-economic considerations.”

But the sad reality is that these groups abandoned Israeli civilians long ago. And if human rights groups that fly the banner of impartiality no longer care about Israelis, the principle of universalism is damaged. In essence, these NGOs are the ones playing Russian roulette with human rights - but win or lose Israelis will usually pay the price.