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Letter to City Paper regarding Ottobar cancellation

On June 8 at 8:00 p.m. activists from the Baltimore and Washington DC chapters of SUSTAIN (Stop US Tax-funded Aid to Israel Now) were looking forward to attending a benefit on behalf of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) to be held at the Ottobar. Billed as, “Music & Rhymes of the Global Intifada Tour”, the event was to feature folksinger extraordinaire David Rovics, hip-hop by the Iron Sheik and spoken words by Excentrik. Unfortunately, the Ottobar abruptly cancelled the show, literally at the last hour. They didn’t contact any of the organizers of it (not even the woman who booked the event.) They simply changed their website to indicate that the show was cancelled and walked away as many people arrived only to be greatly disappointed.

The excuse that was later given was that they wanted to remain “neutral” on the political issues involved. However, by canceling an event shortly before it was to happen after it had been laboriously promoted they were definitely taking a stand against free speech. In addition, they revealed themselves to be a low-class music venue by discarding the first rule in their business, namely that the show must go on. Finally, the Ottobar has besmirched Baltimore’s reputation among the people who arrived from out of town expecting to see the show. (Later in the evening the performers entertained about 30 at the Progressive Action Center.)

Let’s forget the Ottobar for now. What’s so threatening about either SUSTAIN or the ISM? SUSTAIN recognizes that UN 242 remains the most relevant United Nations resolution concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. UN 242 calls for Israel’s withdrawal from the Occupied Territories. It is overwhelmingly endorsed by most of the world, with the crucial exceptions of the US and Israel. Because of US and Israeli rejection of UN 242 the Palestinians are currently enduring the 36th consecutive year of being occupied.

This occupation is among the most brutal in human history. To help fund it US taxpayers lavish Israel with direct funding and loan guarantees worth five billion dollars annually. Israel in turn uses this fortune to buy Apache helicopter gun ships, F-16s, M-16s, tanks, bulldozers and other heavy armaments that they use almost without reservation against a largely defenseless and certainly stateless population. Collective Punishment is the norm by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). To this end, Israel is continuously building illegal settlements, bulldozing homes almost at random, denying Palestinians building permits, forcing Palestinians to endure daily humiliation at checkpoints, seizing crucial supplies of water and in innumerable other ways trying to make life extremely difficult for all Palestinians. They’re even constructing a monstrous wall (on Palestinian land) that is designed to enclose the Palestinian population and make their survival completely dependent on Israel.

The ISM and SUSTAIN are both working to end the Occupation. There is nothing controversial about trying to put an end to this nightmare, not only for the Palestinian people but for the Human Race. It is unfortunate for Baltimore that the Ottobar doesn’t have the class to follow through with a benefit that would have assisted activists in this cause.

Scott Loughrey

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