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September 20, 2011

Alicia Bridges, The West Bank Calls! (Update)

In 1978, Alicia Bridges scored a crossover hit with her performance of “I Love the Nightlife,? a disco song in which she sings those immortal lines:

I love the nightlife
I got to boogie on the disco round, oh yeah
I got to go where the people dance
I want some action
I want to live

Apparently, Bridges somewhat hedonistic outlook on life also has its fans among the community of “peaceandjustice? activists who work in the West Bank. This admission came in an article “Why Your Streets Are Full of Foreigners,? by Kieron Monks published a few months ago in This Week in Palestine.

In the article, which has largely gone unnoticed except for a perceptive critique at The Counter Intifada, Monks makes some stunning admissions about why the Palestinian cause is so popular with the peace and human rights community.

The West Bank provides a great quality of life for high-minded internationals! In a passage that sounds like something a travel agent could write, Monks tells his readers that the West Bank’s

Quality of life is becoming rapidly more apparent in the “A? areas. In cities like Ramallah and Nablus, expensive restaurants and high-powered financial institutions are common now. Nightlife and entertainment is expanding to cater for international tastes.

And you thought Snapshots was overreaching in our opener!

Monks admits it! They love the nightlife!

They love it so much, a few of the locals are starting to worry about the impact the internationals are having on their society. Monks reports that “more than once I’ve heard the fear voiced that our influence will damage the traditions of Palestinian society.? While he makes a gesture of respect to their sensibilities, he closes his piece with a dismissive “you’ll just have to get used to us.?

Of course, mixed in with this hedonism and disdain is doctrinaire view of the Arab-Israeli conflict and a totalitarian inability to tolerate disagreement. Monks reports that

In London, where I grew up, this conflict was a “red-line? topic. If you took the wrong position on Palestine-Israel, it was as bad as supporting the death penalty, or liking Margaret Thatcher, and you would be considered the devil incarnate. As I overhead at a Kensington dinner party: “You cannot be a good person if you think the Occupation is okay.?

Monks’ apparently approving reference to the “Kensington dinner party? is such a nice touch, isn’t it? It makes obsessive anti-Zionism and its ever-present twin – indifference to the oppression of religious and ethnic minorities in Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East – seem oh-so respectable.

But seriously, the vast majority of Israelis would love not to have to put soldiers into harm’s way, but the problem is that they have learned the hard way that when Israeli soldiers withdraw from hostile territory, more violence follows.

Israel withdrew from cities and towns in the West Bank under the Oslo Accords only to see those towns used as recruiting grounds for suicide bombers during the Second Intifada. It withdrew from a buffer zone in Lebanon in 2000 only to be attacked six years later from that country by Hezbollah. And we all know what happened when Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005 – except of course for the internationals who remain willfully ignorant of all this.

Ah, but who is going to let a few historical facts to get in the way of youthful idealism when Shrangri-La beckons! Monks writes:

Since the International Solidarity Movement was established in 2001, over 200 NGOs have sprung up in the West Bank and Gaza. Their presence is proof of how favourable conditions have become. “Palestine is the best-kept secret in the aid industry,? I am told by Emily Williams, an American project manager at a medical NGO. “People need field experience and Palestine sounds cool and dangerous because it can be described as a war zone, but in reality it’s quite safe and has all the comforts that internationals want. Quality of life here is so much higher than somewhere like Afghanistan, but we don’t tell anyone so that we are not replaced or reassigned.? [Note to Emily Williams: Don’t worry, this will be our little secret. We won’t tell anyone. We promise!]

There’s trouble in paradise however. Monks highlights the deaths of peace activists such as Rachel Corrie, Furkan Dogan and Tom Hurndall “who have died taking actions when their governments would not.? Monks writes “Many more have taken their place.? Interestingly enough he makes no mention of Vittorio Arrigoni who was strangled to death with a plastic cord by Islamists in the Gaza Strip earlier this year.

(Update 10/23: Although This Week in Palestine notes the "last update" of Monks' article was in May 2011, he maintains that the piece was written before Arrigoni's death in April 2011.)

Studio 54 had its dark underbelly, so does pro-Palestinian activism.

In any event, the cynical manner with which Monks invokes the deaths of these “internationals,? who thoughtlessly put themselves in harm’s way by siding with terrorists who call for Israel’s destruction, is simply appalling. Monks uses the deaths of these misguided souls to sanctify the self-serving and self-aggrandizing rumspringas of privileged Westerners looking to burnish their résumés and work for international NGOs where anti-Zionism is de rigueur.

Posted by dvz at September 20, 2011 12:53 PM


Vittorio was killed after I wrote the article. Also, I didn't feel it was inappropriate to mention the dead activists, because although conditions are favourable in Ramallah, there is plenty of idealism behind the international presence too.

Kieron Monks (not Marks, not a girl)

Posted by: Anonymous at October 22, 2011 11:26 AM

Nice article. And thank you for the credit and compliment.

Y.M. Ben-Caro

Posted by: Yared M. Ben-Caro at October 23, 2011 10:11 AM

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