The Annexation Festival

Haaretz Editorial
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A Midburn festival in the Negev, May 21, 2015.
Haaretz Editorial

The plan by members of Israel’s “Burner” community to hold a Burning Man-style event in April in the northern Dead Sea area, near the settlement of Almog in the West Bank’s Area C, has clear political implications that cannot be obscured by apolitical intentions. The organizers have yet to get final police approval for the event, but tickets are expected to go on sale this week, and they were given a preliminary okay to host up to 15,000 people.

The organizers insist that the decision to hold the event in Area C has no political significance, but that’s a childish idea, because every activity over the Green Line – not least a mass music festival with an international reputation – inevitably provides support for annexation, normalizes the idea of imposing sovereignty and blurs the distinction between Israeli and Palestinian territory. This is certainly true now that America’s “deal of the century” has raised the option of unilateral annexation of the territories under U.S. sponsorship, over the objections of the Palestinians and the opposition of the international community.

The planned festival is not considered an official event of the Midburn association, which is the official representative of the U.S.-based Burning Man organization. In fact, the Midburn association said that in the past the idea of holding one of their main festivals in that area had come up, but it refused, to keep the community free of political discourse. The April event was initiated by members of that community, because in recent years the association has had difficulty finding a place to hold the festival.

The announcement of the event last week generated controversy in the Burner community over whether holding such an event in the territories has political significance. But the fact that there is a dispute at all is the best proof that this is indeed a political act. One of the organizers of the April event posted, “While the location is over the Green Line, recently they’ve been talking about annexing this land. So if in a momentary decision this could be inside the Green Line, there’s no cause for concern.” Speaking to Haaretz, he explained that he isn’t interested in politics, and that “All this definition of A, B and C are political issues and I don’t want to deal with them.”

But his remarks ignore the fact that there is another party to the conflict. Like the right-wing government, the event organizers err when they think that an Israeli decision, even with American support, is enough to render the occupation, the settlements and annexation kosher.

The Midburn association, which, as noted, isn’t involved in organizing this event, hasn’t taken a position, on the grounds that it is apolitical. That, too, is wrong. Not taking a stand on this is the same as agreeing to it. The association must issue a strong call against this move, which would turn a cultural institution that symbolizes freedom, brotherhood and love of music into a stamp of approval for the occupation and annexation.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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