Code Pink, Madonna and Palestinian resistance

Madonna and war criminal Netanyahu, Israel, 2009

by Phil Duncan

Code Pink, a US-based peace and social reform group, has issued a call to Madonna not to perform at Eurovision which, this year, is being held in Tel Aviv.

They note, “Israel’s regime of military occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid is shamelessly using Eurovision as part of its official Brand Israel strategy, a propaganda campaign showing ‘Israel’s prettier face’ in order to to whitewash and distract attention from its war crimes against Palestinians.”

And further: “The call for artists to boycott Eurovision in support of Palestinian rights has been going on since last year, so it’s extremely disappointing that Madonna is planning to cross this picket line. Add your name now to our petition asking Madonna to show love and empathy for Palestinian children by cancelling her performance.”

Code Pink also mention that Madonna criticised the Israeli assault on Gaza in 2014 and she declared back then, “The children of Gaza need our support” and “Who has a right to destroy (the children)?”

Madonna also posted a Peace picture on Instagram with the caption: “Cease fire on both sides! The children of Gaza need our support!”

Presumably Madonna’s mentioning of children in 2014 is why Code Pink is challenging her with the issue of children.  But this tactic is rather dubious.

Firstly, the big majority of Palestinians murdered by the Zionist state are adults.  For instance, of the over 2,000 people killed in the 2014 assault on Gaza, 1450 were adults and 550 children.

Concentrating on children in the way their appeal to Madonna does makes it look like these adult lives don’t matter (although I’m sure Code Pink would say this is not the case).  We can only avoid this by talking about all Palestinian lives.  This, of course, does not exclude mentioning how doubly horrific the killings, beatings and imprisonment of children is – we just need to make sure this is not done at the expense of talking about adults.

Secondly, this children focus continues the Orientalist approach of portraying the Palestinians as helpless victims.  In fact, the Palestinians have built and sustained one of the most impressive resistance movements in world history.  They have done this both with and without arms.  They haven’t just suffered; they have fought and fought and fought, and continue to do so, providing inspiration to people all over the world who seek liberation.

Back decades ago, the Catholic Church used to get people to give donations for children in Africa and knit squares that could be sewn together for blankets.  The message was “Suffer the little children”.  Happily a section of Catholics got radicals and stopped this patronising, imperialistic line and started organising solidarity with people struggling for liberation.

It’s sad that in 2019 organisations like Code Pink have gone back to the gush of 50 years and more ago.  Especially so when the latest Israeli elections were a contest over which establishment parties could be most anti-Palestinian.

No, Madonna, don’t open your heart to suffer the little children.  Show what side you’re on.  The side of an armed-to-the-teeth murderous state which butchers civilians – adult women and men and female and male children – or the side of the oppressed struggling to be free.

While it’s commendable that Code Pink is marshalling support for BDS, the same challenge apparently also lies before them.  And before activists in this country.

Further reading: For a campaign of solidarity with the Palestinian struggle

See also: Pimping for Israel: Lady Gaga, Madonna and Dionne Warwick