Jani Allan
South Africa's first celebrity columnist

Madonna’s Palestine Paradox

Madonna poses for photographers upon arrival at the world premiere of the film 'The Beatles, Eight Days a Week,' in London, September 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

The Queen of Pop’s pursuit of the Palestinian political cause is painfully at odds with progressive values.

In a week – no, a year – heavy with tragedy and destruction, Twitter adds to the insanity. Twitter’s Vice-President of Public Policy Sinéad McSweeney  pronounced that the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei’s tweet in which he called for the genocide of Israelis and the destruction of the Jewish state ‘did not violate the company’s rules of hate speech.’

How long will the world silently watch this insanity continue?  The events are like an Egon Schiele painting. 

In recent weeks, Madonna published a series of Instagram stories expressing solidarity with ‘Palestine.’

Nothing divides the nation like a debate about the image of the Material Girl and her political activities.

Some gush. Others groan. These days the groaning outweighs the gushing. When Madonna sang ‘Material Girl’ she was a chubby, exuberant woman, filled with the best potential. She started writing her life with an energetic, nervy pencil tip. She seemed to know what dots needed to be connected. Now she is adrift in the doldrums, both creatively and spiritually. 

The Madame X singer shared two images claiming that Apple and Google had removed the fictitious state of Palestine from their maps, a viral rumor that has since been disproven.

The mother of six demanded that the tech titans ‘put Palestine back on the map’ before adding ‘#IStandWithPalestine.’

Then came a quote attributed to the political activist, Angela Davis: ‘Black solidarity with Palestine allows us to understand the nature of contemporary racism.’

She is also vocal about De-funding the Police. Of course she is. She has enough money to have private body-guards. It is the poor marginalized communities that she purports to care about that suffer from her asinine political attachments.

Rubbing salt in the wounds, she shared a trailer for a Fourth of July address by Nation of Islam leader, Louis Farrakhan as she sought to curry favor with Black Lives Matter supporters.

Farrakhan’s black self-help mantra is impossible to divorce from his grizzly catalog of antisemitic incitement. (Has anyone actually bothered to read about the abhorrent beliefs of the Nation of Islam?).

Farrakhan was even name-checked for his appalling antisemitism by a Jewish character, Louis in Tony Kushner’s tour de force, Angels in America when it premiered on Broadway in 2003.

Madonna’s aggrandizement of Farrakhan and the Palestinian movement is not only problematic – it is puzzling given her past involvement in Kabbalah, the esoteric branch of Jewish mysticism.

She became a newly minted acolyte of the Kabbalah Center in the late nineties – an extraordinary period of artistic and spiritual rehabilitation for the singer.

Just when we had impatiently dismissed her as a demi-talented attention-seeker, she fought her way back into the scrum of pop culture relevance with the determination of that was used by Khonsu in the construction of Karnak.

Ray of Light, her spiritually charged 1998 LP cemented her seamless transition from hypersexualized rebel to celestial goddess. The New Madonna was an ecstatic earth mother, weaving several sound philosophies through the consciousness of the record like a tapestry of life-learning logic.

Madonna’s star wattage and cultural authority has since waned, eclipsed by the mega-success of her younger peers.

Her subsequent attempts at reinvention are far from the nuanced – and advanced – spiritual and psychological state of being on display in Ray of Light.

The former wife of actor Sean Penn and director Guy Ritchie attempted to forge a movie career of her own. These ambitions fell flat, with critics lambasting her performance in 2002’s Swept Away. Her record sales of late have also failed to match the spectacular commercial success of her zenith.

Her misguided embrace of ‘fashionable’ political causes could be read as a cynical attempt to connect with a younger audience. Any audience.

After Donald J Trump was elected, she showed up in Washington DC to tell the crowds: “The revolution starts here. The fight for the right to be free to be who we are to be equal. Let’s march together through this darkness.’

There was more. Lots more about how angry she was, and how outraged she was and ‘Yes  I have thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House….’ 

Somehow she doesn’t make the synapse connection that it is the freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution drawn up by the Founding Fathers that gives them the freedom to be ridiculous in public. It is the Constitution that gives – gave – the right to freedom of speech. The right of which the Ayatollah enjoys but the Leader of the Free World is these days denied.

Horrific moment of darkness? That Twitter should deem it acceptable to call for the genocide of Israelis as a horrific moment of darkness. 

I get the feeling that needles to discontent are sewing in the silence in her stone asylum.

The 61-year-old defines the financially secure white woman that Kat Rosenfield calls out in her Tablet essay ‘Master Cleanse’. Rosenfield explains this solipsistic brand of social justice: ‘for those whose activism begins and ends with hashtags and book clubs, the narcissism is undeniable, and arguably even part of the appeal.’

Madonna runs the risk of becoming a parody of a superannuated ‘woke’  woman. 

Madonna’s embrace of the Palestinian political cause is painfully at odds with the values of a progressive woman who once lived in a Queens synagogue-turned-commune.

Her stupefying hypocrisy is breathtaking at times.

Yigal Walt and Tamer Nashef explore this paradox in their 2018 Haaretz column (‘The Palestine Paradox: Why Do Leftists Love a Palestinian Cause That Rejects Their Values?’).

As Madonna’s cultural authority waned so too did the secular and western intellectual values of the Palestinian political movement.

The Palestinian movement has for decades embraced the Islamic Resurgence or Awakening (al-sahwa al-islamiyya), reasserting the nation’s Islamic identity and repudiating Western doctrines.

Walt and Nashef explain: ‘The vision of a democratic and secular Palestine is now fervently challenged by calls to expel all Jews and create a Sharia-based or otherwise conservative entity.’

The ruthlessly ambitious star’s Palestinian awakening is also inconsistent with her status as an LGBT icon and ally. In the Palestinian Authority, LGBT activists and residents are routinely subjected to severe persecution.

In the 2012 Israeli drama, Out in the Dark, a Palestinian psychology student Nimer (Nicholas Jacob) begins a romance with a Jewish lawyer, Roy (Michael Aloni). Nimer is rejected by Palestinian society because of his sexual orientation. In a harrowing scene, Nimer is forced to watch his friend Mustafa executed in the PA for being a homosexual and an informant.

This is at odds with Roy’s hometown of Tel Aviv, a veritable gay mecca in the Middle East. In June this year, the Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality announced that it would allow co-habiting same-sex couples to register their relationship and enjoy marital rights.

Madonna’s life is an ongoing love affair with controversy. This is a woman who makes intensity her modality.

It is my fervent desire that Madonna will come to the other side of this plague of darkness – the nadir of political discourse – and eschew her current beliefs.  May she rediscover the Ray of Light – a nuanced – and advanced – spiritual and psychological state of being.

About the Author
Jani Allan is South Africa's first celebrity columnist. She wrote a popular column for the Sunday Times, the country's biggest-circulating weekly newspaper. Her columns have appeared in the Evening Standard, the Daily Mail, The Sunday Times and The Spectator. She is the author of Jani Confidential (Jacana, 2015). She lives outside New York and writes regularly for The Epoch Times and RT.
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