We at BSR cover arts and culture in the greater Philadelphia region: we’re not an outlet for breaking news or world events. But our team is watching the devastating news this week in Israel and Gaza and we know it affects our community.
We cannot judge a whole people by their presidents or rulers. (US citizens should know this as well as anyone else.) There was and is no justification for apartheid. There was and is no justification for bombing civilians and children, for leaving them in darkness, for starving, raping, kidnapping, torturing, or murdering them. There was and is no justification for Islamophobia, racism, or antisemitism. We can deplore cruel and oppressive policy and military actions, and work for liberation, without spewing hate at Muslim people or Jewish people, who live in diverse communities around the world.
This week, I’ve seen many people criticize the opportunistic sanctimony of suddenly waking up to the violence now, only now that rockets and bombs are flying, splashed across the headlines: Why did you ignore the oppression of Gaza before? Why didn’t you stand up for the Jewish community before? All you’ve shown is your bias. What if my response is yes, you’re right, I’m working on it? We’re all responsible for fighting our own biases, because the work is never, ever finished. The work was never about scrabbling onto a moral high ground and knocking others off with a slew of whatabouts.
When we came into our jobs here, in our arts media lane, the current BSR team prioritized recognizing and combating white supremacy, gender discrimination, ableism, and any other force that wants to rip Philly’s cultural scene into us versus them. It’s often painfully vulnerable work, when community members rightfully point out missteps, or send angry messages because we’ve gone too far—or not far enough. We don’t do it perfectly. Nobody does. We want to keep an open line. As our associate editor Kyle puts it, “Too many conversations don’t leave room for people who want to learn but are too afraid to ask.”
We know there’s nothing simple about the factors, history, or narratives of the current war, except for one thing: no civilian deserves terror, suffering, and death because of their race, ethnicity, or religion—including our own writers, one of whom experienced antisemitic hate speech on the job for BSR this week. We stand with her and every victim of bigotry. We reject the idea that we can contextualize our way into accepting or even cheering violence.
So we go into this week and every week’s newsletter heavily holding all of this, and continuing to turn to the arts as something that brings us together and sustains us.