Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The ICA Gives Terrorists the Wink

Every so often an organisation is so desperate for publicity or notoriety that it does something so incredibly stupid which alienates its core members. The Institute of Contemporary Arts has just fallen into that category by holding a satellite discussion with Hamas. Quite what that has to do with contemporary Art is not for a cultural philistine like me to question. But let us remember that Hamas is a terrorist group and has been designated as such by both the EU and US. Helen Szamuely at the New Culture Forum has a good post questioning the ICA's motives (and sanity). Here's an excerpt...

The ICA [is] employing a soi-disant diplomat and negotiator, Alastair Crooke, in fact a man whom most of us would call the Islamists’ “useful idiot”, to break the laws of the land and have a discussion with a known terrorist, as one cannot be a high-ranking member of Hamas without being a terrorist. This could be of some value if instead of the discussion there would be a debate. If either serious opponents of victims of terrorism, specifically of Hamas terrorism, had been scheduled to take part; if any of the myriad writers who have analyzed Islam and Islamism were to be on the platform; if, indeed, a representative of Fatah, an organization that Mr Crooke cannot disdain completely, were allowed to take part in the interview, then there could be some value to this event.

The ICA and Mr Crooke are not, however, interested in a discussion of terrorism, its causes and effects and alternative political activity. Their intention is, presumably two-fold. In the first place, misunderstanding the sayings of people like Baudelaire, they are out to ├ępater la bourgeoisie, to shock the complacent middle classes or the establishment or whatever. This ignores the fact that, as far as the arts in this country are concerned (and, indeed, as far as many other institutions are concerned) the establishment is not the bourgeoisie but those juvenile left-wingers who use state hand-outs, which is not something the likes of Baudelaire would have approved of, to scream at the top of their voices of their own moral superiority because they undermine political and ethical decencies.

The second intention is considerably more straight-forward: Mr Crooke’s aim for whatever motives, is to make terrorists and mass murderers acceptable, their followers objects of compassion and to present the one democratic state of the Middle East, Israel, as an oppressive ogre. No other point of view is to be allowed in his universe. Using those state hand-outs the ICA supports him in this less than laudable endeavour. Perhaps, they can no longer find enough contemporary art they can actually approve of.


The ICA should be held to account for this misjudgement by its patrons and members.

12 comments:

canvas said...

the only daft winks that are going on are with that lunatic Sarah Palin.


"Both the United States and the European Union have designated Hamas as a terrorist organisation, and refused to engage with it. In this unique event, Alistair Crooke, founder of Conflicts Forum, organiser of US and European unofficial dialogues in 2005 with Hezbollah, Hamas and other Islamist movements and former adviser to European Union high representative Javier Solana, circumvents this ban by having a conversation with Usamah Hamdan, a member of Hamas's governing council, via a live satellite link to Beirut. The discussion will be followed by questions from the audience."


Perhaps the idea is that people can't begin to understand the complex problems and cultural differences unless there is some sort of dialogue going on.

Doesn't seem to be that radical an idea really.

Hedley Lamarr said...

Alistair Crooke is a former MI6 officer with extensive experience in that region. He understands that you cannot win these conflicts militarily, something armchair strategists and columnists would do well to remember.

Jah Pensioner said...

"Terrorists" they may well be, but they were elected terrorists. As well as terrorism, they also help their own people, rather than helping themselves to EU handouts, like the failed leadership of Arafat & cronies.
In the end, the 'moralists' of the EU and USA will all talk to the 'terrorists'. In their usual hypocritical way, the moralists will always claim the high ground. And finally the 'terrorists' will become the 'establishment', like for example the Israeli Government, or Mandela in RSA, Adams et al in N.I. Forget the name-calling and get talking sooner rather than later....

Anonymous said...

Are you an idiot Dale, and here you highlight how you are completely unsuitable for modern politics.

Anonymous said...

"Hamas is a terrorist group and has been designated as such by both the EU and US"

Iain, exactly the same facile, hard of thinking criticism was going on when Red Ken wanted to talk to Sinn Fein.

Which, er, later became Government Policy.

Just chill out will you - jaw-jaw is better than war-war...

canvas said...

Anon: I think it is a bit harsh to call Iain an idiot. He's not. That's just mean of you.

However, Iain can be easily influenced by reactionary people with reactionary views. Ian sometimes speaks before he thinks. That doesn't mean he's an idiot - it just means that Iain doesn't think things through carefully sometimes. His views are sometimes very misguided - but never malicious.

Anonymous said...

Well just to attempt to achieve a little balance on this thread I strongly agree with Iain and think that it is unacceptable for an organisation largely funded by my taxes to be engaging in dialogue with a hate driven murderous terrorist organisation in a public manner.

Yes perhaps there is a case for secret talks between governments and terrorists, as there was with the IRA, but not this kind of propaganda exercise which is nothing to do with reaching a peaceful resolution of anything, merely with the ongoing agenda of making fundamentalist violent Islamic terrorists seem socially acceptable.

they are two different types of dialogue and this is the one that is patently wrong.

Anonymous said...

talking is a good thing. It's all we have, really.

tdansmug said...

I think the take home message from most of these comments is "talking to terrorists is good if the terrorists are going to blow up people that you do not like very much". Jolly reassuring.

manwithabrush said...

One question is whether art and politics should mix. Many of us react to politics and political events on a visceral level and the views of artists, whether I agree with them or not, enable me to understand my own complex interactions to events and the people involved. If this was a writer who was writing about Hamas and had talked to several Hamas members would you be so upset?

Of course the ICA is rarely important in these matters and frequently self-important. They should be ignored.

Anonymous said...

Hamas are also the democratically elected representatives of the people of Gaza.

You can't have it both ways. Either you support democracy at all times, or you only support it when the outcome suits your prejudices. If the latter, they have a vacancy for you in the Florida Republican voter registration offices Iain.

Simon - London said...

What an absurd comment Dale, it's precisely the lack of transparent dialogue around this issue that perpetuates the Israel/Palestinian conflict.

While you don't mention it specifically I have to assume you were not present on the night so are completely unqualified to comment on the merit of the evening, I was, as were many others both friend and foe of the Palestinian cause who I imagine all felt it was a very relevant and useful discussion with a rational and well spoken representative of the freely elected government of Palestine.

Side lining the key players in the argument has been the Israeli tactic from day one, that is, pretend "they" don't exist and control the representation of anything "they" don't exist to the outside world so Israel (whom has never been so) looks like the victim.

One would hope that in presenting an uncensored version of the argument, the rest of the world (whether they like the message or not) may begin to understand that there are indeed views other than Israel's, and force the very one sided "negotiations" into something resembling fairness.

Given main stream political and media institutions (and pundits like yourself) have failed so miserably to facilitate/encourage this sort of dialogue, it is left once again to the artistic community take on challenging topics in a reasonable way, the ICA was bold and to be commended for tackling the topic head on.