The dialogue and jazz performances by Gilad Atzmon and Rich Siegel in Rochester, NY and in Geneva, NY were a great success in spite of Zionist attempts to silence them and our organization, Deir Yassin Remembered. Both events drew “a full house” with audiences saying how much they enjoyed meeting Rich and Gilad. Typical was one gentleman who wrote, “To hear your individual stories and your political analyses, combined with world-class music, doesn’t get much better.”
The Rochester event was to have been held at the First Unitarian Church, but a simple protest from the local rabbi caused the church to roll over and cancel the event, with no compensation, a mere five days before its scheduled time on June 29th. Fortunately, Rochester Against War, offered us even better space at “The Flying Squirrel Community Center,” complete with audio hook ups. We are indebted to Brian Lenzo and Doug Noble for their support.
The Geneva event was a $100-head fundraiser at Billsboro Winery overlooking beautiful Seneca Lake. In spite of pressure on the winery to not host us and on local people to shun the event, we filled the space and raised $4,800. This is (almost) enough for two additional DYR Scholarships for young people wishing to study in Palestine. (One man drove over 300 miles from Boston just to hear Gilad.)
Both Gilad and Rich addressed the audience on their personal experiences of overcoming political Zionism. Gilad’s grandfather was a commander in the Irgun, the Jewish terrorist gang that committed the massacre at Deir Yassin. Rich was the president of a Zionist youth group as a teenager.
Both Gilad and Rich share my belief that within the borders controlled today by Israel (that is, all the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River) there already exists a single state. It has one electrical grid, one road system, one monetary authority, one postal authority, one water system, etc. etc. The problem is that over half the population within this existing state or those people that are non-Jews, have lesser rights or none at all.
Zionists refuse to recognize this simple fact, because they continue to dream of a state where Jews are in a majority and have superior rights to non-Jews. That dream is based, to a large extent, on “chosenness” or superiority to non-Jews or goyim, a more derisive term. And that obsession has led to the apartheid state that Israel/Palestine now is and to the racist transfers and ethnic cleansing plans that it currently employs.
Here are my opening remarks to give you a better idea of what Deir Yassin Remembered is and why were so proud to have hosted Rich Siegel and Gilad Atzmon. Hopefully we shall see them return next year, perhaps as the NTFADA Ensemble.
The Times, They Are Indeed Changing
(opening remarks by Daniel McGowan for Gilad Atzmon DYR Fundraiser)
A month ago the whole world saw Jewish Power attack unarmed humanitarian activists in international waters with no existential threat to Israel. It was another clear demonstration of the criminal side of political Zionism, meaning the quest to build a Jewish state in Palestine, ignoring the fact that over half the population is not Jewish. It was a demonstration of the colonialism, the discrimination, the collective punishment, the racism, the siege and starvation techniques, the ghetto-ization of the Palestinians, namely the indigenous population.
It was also pivotal event. First, Gaza became recognized as the obscene ghetto Israel created. Second, for the first time, The Holocaust was not used as the shield to justify naked Israeli aggression. Third, the myth of the United States as an “honest broker” was rendered inane. Our government denied the facts, failed to call for an international inquiry, ignored our own citizens’ participation, passed resolutions condemning the victims, and turned against our NATO ally Turkey whose citizens were killed and wounded.
General David Petraeus said that the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict is endangering the lives of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Senator Schumer, Howard Berman, and other Israel-Firsters couldn’t care less. When Petraeus fainted last week at a Senate hearing, some of them viewed it as divine punishment.
Deir Yassin Remembered is a not-for-profit organization of Jews and non-Jews working to build a truth and reconciliation center at Deir Yassin, site of a massacre on April 9, 1948 of over 100 Arab men, women, and children by Jewish terrorists of the Irgun and Stern Gang. The massacre was a pivotal moment in Palestinian history, one known to virtually every Palestinian and a historical fact that has been deliberately flushed down the memory hole by political Zionists and those who tell only the Jewish narrative of the conquest of historical Palestine. (By the way Gilad’s father, a devout Zionist, was a member of the Irgun.)
Deir Yassin Remembered was founded in 1995 at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. Over the years The Colleges hosted several of its Board members, including Sahar Ghosheh, Mubarak Awad, Edward Said, and Hanan Ashrawi, and The Colleges were to have been the repository for the DYR Archives. Today, the only memorial to the dispossession of the Palestinian people, the only one in the United States, is located on the lake frontage of Houghton House, which is the Colleges’ art department.
As part of our mission the Deir Yassin Remembered Scholarship Fund is designed to help young people receive college education in Palestine/Israel under the motto of “Peace Through Education.” Last year we gave seven scholarships. Tonight’s fundraiser, donated by Gilad Atzmon and Rich Siegel and by contributions from DYR members from all over the world will allow us to give an additional two scholarships this year.
Rich Siegel is a free-lance pianist/vocalist/songwriter/bandleader. He has appeared as a piano-vocal soloist in various venues including the Carlyle, the Waldorf Astoria, the NY Inter-Continental, Tavern on the Green, 21 Club in New York; Nova Park Elysees and Maxim’s de Paris in France, Bowden Square Club in the Hamptons, Upstairs in Montreal, Le Jazze in Quebec, Club Baron Shimaguchi in Japan, and “Bleu Marine’ in Abidjan, West Africa.
You may have seen him in the national ad for Steinway Pianos or accompanying pop stars like Laura Branigan or various other jazz and cabaret artists in NY scene.
Before becoming a pro-Palestinian activist and a Board member of DYR, Rich was a former teenage president of a Zionist youth group.
Gilad Atzmon is a world renowned jazz musician, author and blogger. He was born in Israel and trained at the Rubin Academy of Music in Jerusalem, where he learned to play saxophone and clarinet.
But Gilad is not just an outstanding musician. He is an unrestrained political activist who serves music with raw political passion and a message. His views, born from experience can be unsettling – especially to an American audience taught to avoid all criticism of Israel for fear of being destroyed with the tar brush of anti-Semitism.
Gilad’s main instrument is the alto saxophone. His jazz style is bebop/hard bop, veering at times into free jazz. The London Times calls him, “the hardest-gigging man in British jazz … the music here is subtle, ambiguous, often beautiful … a saxophonist playing deep from the heart.”
But if his eclectically inclusive music prompts rave reports, his stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and his intensely anti-Zionist views have provoked outrage, not least among some other anti-Zionists, and he has been condemned as an anti-Semite and even a Holocaust denier.
Ask him about such claims and he sounds cheerfully, indeed pugilistically, unrepentant. He refutes accusations of Holocaust denial, arguing that it should be treated as historical fact rather than as “religious myth.” So far as being labeled in some quarters as a “self-hating Jew,” he responds: “Self-hating Jew is almost correct. I would say a proud self-hating Jew,” and continues, unabashed, “I would remind you that great thoughts have been contributed by Jews who were self-hating – Christ, or Marx, or Spinoza… whenever you come across a mega-Jewish thinker, there’s always this element of anger against oneself.
Gilad has earned many jazz awards including the “Best Jazz Album of 2002” (BBC Jazz Award) and is regarded as one of the greatest saxophonists of this generation.
In 1982 he completed obligatory military service during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, where his experiences brought about a major change in his thinking. He currently lives in exile in Great Britain and regards himself as a Hebrew-speaking Palestinian.