SJM Letters Page (June 2015)
Eddie Meyer's column has always been erudite, logical, well informed and interesting. However, this month I was taken aback by how it failed to grasp the real and serious issues at stake. By cancelling Gilad Atzmon’s gig the RNCM has censored Gilad's performance on the strength of a racist lobby group. Eddie, for whom I have a tremendous amount of respect for, seems to be lauding political naivety. He implies that Gilad's views are controversial for the sake of controversy. This is just disrespectful by implying that Gilad's view are not sincerely held.(I have read his book on Jewish identity). Gilad is a musician of integrity who abhors the racism of the government of the state that he was born in.
Eddie says that the tactics of both the pro and anti Zionist groups "are equally as unwelcome". To treat them equally attributes equal worth to their causes. Israel has been stealing Palestinian lands since 1967. Some would say since1948. Only last autumn a massive military assault on Gaza resulted in thousands of Palestinian civilians being slaughtered, maimed for life and their homes and livelihoods destroyed. At the end of it Israel, rather predictably annexed more land. The old fashioned word for this is imperialism. Israel carries this out through ethnic cleansing.
Many of us used to support the boycott of South Africa in the fight against apartheid. That was a racist regime that stopped black and white jazz musicians playing together as well as oppressing it's black citizens. Israeli racism is no better and deserves the same resistance. Would Eddie have said the same things about the anti-apartheid campaign? Intelligent observers should surely differentiate between anti-racist and racist campaigns rather than assuming art is above all that?
And finally, by mentioning the Charlie Hebdo issue Eddie seems to fall into the trap of conflating anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism. This is a position that Israel encourages. Many anti Zionists are so because of their anti racist values. The most fervent anti-Zionists are Jews.
I look forward to Eddie's return to an incisive column in the next issue of SJM.
Eddie Myer’s Response
Thanks you for your kind comments about my column. It’s very gratifying to hear that anybody actually reads it.
Unfortunately my last column, in which I discussed the recent cancellation of Gilad Atzmon’s RNCM gig, did not satisfy you. Any article on a controversial issue will inevitably itself invite controversy. This is all the more true if the article has anything to do with the state of Israel, a subject upon which many onlookers in the UK have adopted intractable and irreconcilable opinions. The subject of my article was the intrusion of politics into the world of music; as I made clear, it was not my intention to be drawn into a debate on any single issue. If I describe Gilad’s views as deliberately controversial, it is because they are; the anti-racist group Hope Not Hate are not alone in distancing themselves from him and his writings. However, the inference that I doubt his sincerity is entirely your own.
Your views on the Israeli-Palestinian struggle are obviously strongly and sincerely held but neither your interpretation of the situation nor your suggestions for an appropriate response are universally accepted; they represent a single, partisan body of opinion. Jazz has a tradition of attracting enquiring and free-thinking minds, and I trust that the readers of Sussex Jazz Magazine are sufficiently mature to acquaint themselves with the facts and to draw their own conclusions, without needing to be told what to think. It was my deliberate intention to tread a careful middle path; if the results do not satisfy the supporters of any one faction then I will have succeeded in this aim.
Thanks for your letter, and I hope you continue to read and enjoy my column,
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