Note: I don’t speak French, I’m responding to a Google Translate version of the original post, so I’ll refrain from my usual special attention to semantics, in order not to dwell on what may be a technical mistake in translation.
Last Wednesday, Jacky Terrasson’s agent, Christophe Deghelt, responded to the massive campaign to boycott the Israel state sponsored Red Sea Jazz Festival (more details on the government and corporate connections of the festival in this article). Since thought did actually go into this post, I think we in the BDS movement should respond. So here it is, point-by-point. I hope this furthers public discussion, as BDS so often does, because just like Christophe Deghelt, this is a “debate that I hold dear”.
On Notions of War, Peace, and Popular Struggle
This is a post that may make waves, but I wanted to share here a debate that we hold dear.
For some time, the artists invited to concerts in Israel are routinely arrested by associations asking them not to occur in this country, and not to support the government and its policy, arguing that the state of Israel practices a apartheid, a policy of colonization and war crimes against the Palestinians. It is obvious that in this region of the world in a war without respite, long and violent debate is extremely busy and complex. Culture seems to be an issue now see a new battlefield this sad conflict.
The last two sentences seem to frame the rest of this post. I’d like to address them here and now, so we can put some notions to rest:
There is no war in the occupied Palestinian territories, there is a military occupation which turns parts of the area into a war zone, and other parts into “safe havens” for people that the occupying power identifies as “of the Jewish faith”. In the war zones Israel’s army is in military control of Palestinian civilians. Over the 65 years of this military control, there has been and still exists Palestinian armed resistance to the occupying army. It is small and weak, especially in comparison to Israel’s army, which is the 4th most armed in the world, assisted by the United States of America with over $3 billion dollars a year in military “aid”.
Unlike the armed resistance, which is a tool of the few in Palestinian society, there is a very wide popular resistance, which is exemplified in a saying, very popular in these parts:
To exist is to resist.
Indeed, when “breathing while being Arab” (as a friend of mine defined it) is defined as a crime by the state, then mere existence becomes dissent by default. This situation- inherent in Israel’s military occupation- aside, numerous examples of popular resistance can be found across the Palestinian occupied territories, such as the weekly protests against the apartheid wall, the latest in a series of direct action against specific mechanisms of the occupation, legal proceedings, and of course, the BDS movement, which points out that culture has always been in this battlefield.
I understand that this massive amount of information is not easy for a person to wrap their heads around. No 65 years (and then some) of history can be. I just want to make sure that the argument that “this is complex” serves as a starting point of education, and not as a definitive answer that makes it easy for us to wash our hands of these grave travesties, as it so often does.
The Red Sea Jazz Festival Conflict
In recent days, two jazz artists, Erik Truffaz and Jacky Terrasson are taken sides in a controversy fierce, via facebook, social networks, websites, discussion unleashes passions by their arrival at the Red Sea Jazz Festival in Eilat Israel this month. Both artists are known and recognized for their talent, their human qualities, their open-mindedness, their pacifist position and generosity.
So here in this post our position in this debate. To try out a difficult debate, and avoid the pitfalls of Manichaeism, blindness, handling and intolerance.
For context, first of all here is a brief history.
On 12 December 2012, we concluded a contract for two concerts at the Red Sea Jazz Festival Jacky Terrasson Trio with festival organizers.
On January 2, we received a letter from France BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) asking us to boycott the concert. Here is the letter:
January 4th, I made contact with the representative of the association, Mr. Dror Warschawski. We’re talking a good hour on the phone, we try to explain why we have agreed to play in Israel and our refusal to be exploited in this conflict, and our refusal to boycott the festival and our fans in Israel while explaining our sympathy the Palestinian cause, our sadness in this fierce war, and our primary mission, namely to deliver a message of peace.
It seems that Christophe Deghelt has already made his choice (I wonder if Jacky Terrasson has made his?). He wants Mr. Terrasson not to be “exploited in this conflict”. I’m not sure which “conflict” he’s refering to; the so-called “Israel-Palestine conflict”, or the Read Sea Jazz Festival conflict. Either way, I understand what he is saying as “we don’t want to get involved in any of it”. Although I’d argue that if you see a policeman beating a child (off the top of my head) and you “don’t want to get involved”, you’re taking the armed policeman’s side (and Desmond Tutu tends to agree with me…).
My second argument is that by playing in Israel, an artist puts themselves smack dab in the middle of the situation. The BDS movement is reaching out specifically to these artists, not to ones who never chose to get involved with this area of the globe in the first place. And not only do these artists involve themselves; In the case of the Red Sea Jazz Festival, they take money from the occupier, his institutions, and corporations profiting off of a situation of war. It follows then that if you are accepting blood money, you cannot expect the victims to stay silent, or not express their disapproval of the choices you make. “Sympathy” (or “sympathie”) is a rather empty gesture, if every other gesture you make is that of indifference, hostility and disapproval, and your “message of peace” is bound to be lost.
Talking “Peace”, Shooting the Messenger
At the same time, the RTS (Radio Switzerland) organized a debate on Sunday evening live on the presence of Eric Truffaz at the Red Sea Jazz Festival (its leader who contacted us in the weekend, but we were not available to participate in this discussion). We find that the walls facebook fan pages Erik and Jacky are flooded with comments, pressures, not our usual fans, but activists. Some comments are rude, and it’s really harassment and denigration characterized. The walls become battlegrounds between activists boycott activists, fans and Israeli and pro-Israeli. How sad!
As my regular readers know, I’ve been focusing on that strange notion that politics and music don’t mix. Being that culture is not created in a vacuum, it stands to reason that some music fans will have more to say- to their artist-of-admiration- than just “you rock”. It’s a very silencing attitude in the above paragraph, that does nothing but further a shallow celebrity culture, ironically positioning an “activist” as dishonest and a “fan” as honest and that the two somehow negate each other. I remind the managers, making a percentage off of the artists they represent (allow me to quote myself):
Celebrities embody a unique and very emblematic space in the capitalist system in which they are both human individuals and a brand name at the same time. They often endorse products and services they enjoy. Of course, one would be naive to assume that their enjoyment of these products and services and consequent endorsement is an organic process. Understanding the leveraging power of the celebrity status, corporations woo big name actors and musicians with thousands of dollars worth of sample gift baskets and free services, hoping the celebrity would tie their brand name with the corporation’s brand name.
The problem with this system, as is common with capitalism, is that in the majority of cases the celebrities don’t check the label, so to speak, and often endorse corporations which abuse the environment, animals and humans.
“How sad” indeed! But isn’t it wonderful that the spaces of artists become bustling with political relevance?!
January 7, further communication from BDS, this time by email. In doing more pressing. The festival is marked by the “seal of shame.” Here this email:
The enamels are now sent directly to our office, artists, persons unknown, and it is a true tidal wave. Faced with this pressure and harassment we decided to meet, publish the answer on our blog and social networks and defend our position. I think our response shows a third way, more just, tolerant to out of this conflict where one wishes to exploit artists. The following:
Dear Dror Warschawski
As I have said on the phone, we do not share your methods of “pressure on artists’ Cultural Boycott web. We refuse to be manipulated and we will not give your pressures by mail, email, phone and on facebook.
A few remarks before we go on:
1. Yes, it is shameful to participate in the Red Sea Jazz festival. Not for it’s content, but for the political exploitation of it by the state of Israel, whitewashing its war crimes against the Palestinian population under its control.
2. The BDS movement does not exploit artists, it provides information about artists’ venues, which happen to be in a war zone, and by that a chance for artists to make an informed decision about their performances.
3. Defining petitioning to brand names as harassment limits civil society’s ability to protect itself from harm. We simple folks don’t have the governments privilege of court-ordering when demanding justice (as it should be), so applying popular pressure is our only recourse. Conflating a desperate and loud cry for help, with “bullying”/”manipulating”/”intolerance”/”terrorizing” is an act of cowardice, and is often the privilege of those who have choices (not to mention it falls in line with the State of Israel’s definition of any act of resistance by Palestinians or their allies).
Playing in Israel does not mean that we endorse the policy of his government, does not mean that we do not understand the distress and suffering of the Palestinian people. Your attempt to lock artists in a Manichean dilemma is intellectual dishonesty. Claim is that we play the Red Sea Jazz Festival so we support Israel’s policy or we cancel and we show our compassion for the Palestinian people is an attitude far too simplistic, and we refuse to enter into any of these boxes there .
It is a Manichaean dilemma, but it was not created by the BDS movement, only identified by it. Unfortunately, once you accept money from the state of Israel, you’re accepting money from the entity that controls Palestinian lives, and does a criminal job of it. Additionally, culture has been taken by the state as a venue of distracting the international public from it’s violations of human rights, thus funneling artists’ participation in its cultural events for this goal precisely. To put it simply: Playing in Israel amounts to endorsing its policies and taking an active role in whitewashing them.
1/Jacky has not played in Israel for over 15 years and we have many fans who are looking forward to his coming. We love human beings, be they Israeli, Palestinian, Jewish, Muslim, and we will play again for humanity. We do not segregate our audience and our fans.
Playing in Israel means that about 4 million Palestinian human beings, whom you love, trapped in besieged Gaza and the permit system in the West Bank, will not be able to attend your performance (which, I’m guessing, is the least of their problems). You may not segregate your audience and fans, but Israel does. If this is acceptable to you, by all means, play on.
2 / We do not have a policy and we play music, and we carry a word of peace and love. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is extremely complex, we disapprove any act of violence, and both sides are deeply saddened by this conflict and its consequences.
As I said, if the situation is complex to you at this moment, please take the time and care to study it, before you make your decision.
It is true, that in both sides there is much sadness over the consequences of Israel’s military occupation of Palestinian lands and apartheid system employed on the Palestinian population, but let us not loose sight of who’s oppressing who, and why we must act in order to put an end to this oppression.
3 / If the Eilat Festival is funded in part by the Israeli government, it is a sign of openness to culture and jazz, and it may be beneficial to compare our cultures. A dictatorship does not invite foreign artists, quite the contrary. Jacky fans in Israel are like all jazz fans people human, peace, and hope for peace in the region. They are your best friends and you seem to want to punish them. In addition, the festival is a festival of Eilat internationally recognized for its quality and openness to the world.
Indeed, the government of Israel is open to Jazz culture and the world. It’s less open to Palestinian culture and Palestinian presence, which is the source of our problem. A dictatorship does what it can to perpetuate its mechanisms of control. Though Israel does not fit the definition of a dictatorship, it’s more of a tyrannical ethnocracy. As a citizen of Israel, I don’t really need an explanation about the humanity of “Israeli fans”. As a BDS activist, I get to see their human side, hoping for peace, quite often [1,2]. I’d hardly call them my “best friends”, and personally I tend not to decide on my friendships by inspecting an ID card (in Israel, by the way, the ID card also denotes religion, and this determines your freedom of movement).
4 / boycott the festival, it is a message unfair to the entire Israeli population, to our fans and friends, and it is stigmatizing a population and a country instead of contributing and peaceful message hope. We are free in Israel to express our beliefs, and I spoke with the festival organizers. Push through your reasoning, no more foreign artist has not happen in Israel … more jazz festival … who will win? where is the openness, freedom? the possibility of bringing a different culture? to express our opinions? What about the artistic policy in Iran, Syria, Mali today? No more foreign artist is invited. Is that your sense of openness and dialogue?
I hope that by now it’s clear that what is on the balance is the “right” of registered citizens of Israel to be entertained vs. the right of the unrecognized Palestinian population to life, movement, water, safety from arbitrary arrest and torture, education, occupation (“work” that is), self determination and countless other basic human rights which Israel violates on a daily basis. I, as a citizen of Israel believe the least I could do, is give up the privilege of going to a Jazz festival, so that Palestinians could take one more step towards liberation. I believe that if a citizen of Israel objects to this last statement, they are either knowingly selfish and extremely cruel, or need to study the situation in order to make a conscientious decision.
You may be free to express your beliefs in Israel, but Palestinians are not. And I am not. Just recently Israel passed a law that prohibits these boycotts. This means that just by writing this reply to you, I’m exposed to corporate law suits that won’t even have to prove damages. Where is the openness, freedom, the possibility of bringing a different culture, to express our opinions?
As for Iran, Syria, Mali, and any other places in the world which inhibits free speech, by all means, please go and take the action that its local inhabitants desire. But don’t use one dire situation in order to encourage another.
5 / You tell us that some Palestinians can not attend the concert of Jacky is actually very sad, but we will be happy to play in Palestine if we prompts (which has not been the case). We are not responsible for this situation and can only deplore. Is a long way to a better world.
As I mentioned above, 4 million Palestinians not being able to attend your concert because they are under Israel’s military control, is hardly the point. This point is made to artists in order to illustrate to them the impact of the military control. Obviously, the point being made is the military control itself, and not the lack of entertainment. Let’s be serious now.
6 / We join Eric Truffaz’s response, if we were to agree with the policies of governments that invite us, we would not have many places where we play. Our mission is also in the music and in the hope of bringing a message of peace and tolerance, to the peoples of our planet.
Once again, the analysis of the connection between cultural events in Israel to a policy of whitewashing its war crimes and human rights violations, is specific to Israel. Other places have other analysis of the situation and actions to rectify the situation. Palestinians ask that their analysis of their oppression be respected by those who sympathize with their pain. As I said, if you only sympathize in words, your musical “message of peace” will ring hollow.
Well, That Escalated Quickly…
7 / Your activism and your intolerance is intolerable. “Fake fans facebook” publish messages asking specifically for musicians not to play in Israel, and it is the harassment that you do with artists. It is also very surprising because these fans who claim to influence artists are not real fans, but just your beautiful little army soldiers who pollute a peaceful and positive facebooks walls are artists.
8 / In our phone conversation, you insinuated slyly enough that you are a big fan of Jacky Terrasson and you buy these discs and come to these concerts, but you’ll think twice now that you know that plays in Israel. About these questionable as the tone of your last email not change our beliefs. I do not believe for a moment that you’re a fan of Jacky Terrasson.
I already answered these points, but i will point out that civil society movements aren’t armies. If the idea is talk about the fact that we’ve managed to successfully organize, and vilify that fact, I suggest you look into who’s agenda you’re propagating.
9 / What bothers me most about your approach … is hatred of Israel you a morbid hatred, blind and of course hidden by the “politically correct”. By your actions, not the Palestinians that you like and that you defend, it is the Israelis that you hate. At other times, we know very well that this could lead to madness our world. You are antisionniste and slyly and paradoxically anti-Semitic (You little son of a rabbi known for his humanist), you hide under the pretext of humanitarian organization, and avenger of the world.
There’s nothing morbid, or “politically correct” about hating a violent regime that systematically ruins the lives of human beings because they are Arab, Muslim, or Palestinian. What bothers me about your approach is that Dror’s approach (which, by the letters you posted, can mostly be characterized as polite and genuinely concerned for what might happen to Mr. Terrason’s image, if he decides to go on with the Red Sea Jazz Festival) bothers you more than what the state of Israel is doing to Palestinians and their use of Mr. Terrasson’s concert to whitewash it.
I find this dichotomy of “Palestinians that you like” and “Israelis that you hate” rather strange, coming from someone who has “sympathy” for Palestinian pain, especially when regarding Dror, whom I don’t know personally, but his name is specifically Israeli. This attack on him, his character, and the digging into his personal life, calling him antisemitic and insinuating the yey ole’ “self hating Jew” insult is, in fact, harassment and intolerable intolerance. There are many citizens of Israel and people of the Jewish faith in the movement, as there are many Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and Wiccans. This should strengthen your faith in this anti-racist movement, all the more, not encourage you to make statements that- quite frankly- have a tinge of antisemitsm to them.
10 / If Stanley Jordan, Portico Quartet have canceled their concert at the Red Sea Jazz Festival, that is their choice, which we respect. Some of our artists refuse to play in Israel. These are their political beliefs and we live in a democracy, and we sincerely respect all opinions. But respect ours, we think most useful being invited to express our music for the Israeli people rather than refuse to come and play in a country where we disagree with government decisions. Jacky Terrasson free to make his own opinion, after his arrival. Do not force people to believe what you want them to think … it is the intellectual dictatorship and manipulation, the same one that you pay for Israeli leaders.
We respect your opinion, your sympathy, but we cannot respect your willingness to take money from Israel’s apartheid regime for the purposes of whitewashing it’s war crimes. Asking us to respect that is immoral. Once again, I am forced to reiterate, the BDS movement is not an army, nor is it a government capable of enforcing “intellectual dictatorship”. A civil society movement is built of people (they can be activists, they can be fans of music, they can be both, they can be neither). These people can only state their case to you and hope that you will listen. We do not attribute tyranny to the state of Israel as an intellectual exercise, we do so, because it is a reality Palestinians and citizens of Israel live in, every day.
11 / Palestine needs international support, affirmative action, and peace is not advocating violence (verbal and intellectual) and intolerance, you will help Palestine. I myself went to Ramallah, to produce a free concert Shakti, supported by the United Nations, and we helped fund a music school for children victim of war. These positive actions pacifists who have a sense of humanity. Put back to back on both sides, this is not working for Peace, is putting oil on the fire.
It’s great that artists want to do community work in Palestinian communities and more power to you. As, I reiterated to Stanley Jordan, several times throughout the debate he opened on Facebook, this option is always on the table, but it has nothing to do with taking part in a concert which is payed for by the apartheid government, and is used to whitewash it’s war crimes. You can always do both. You can respect what Palestinian civil society considers “affirmative action”, and cancel the complicit concert, and do community work in Palestinian communities, who’s pain you so sympathize with.
12 / Your comparison with apartheid in South Africa is false. Apartheid South Africa was condemned by the United Nations and is defined by racial segregation, which resulted from 2 December 1968 to a recommendation to suspend all cultural exchanges, educational and sports with South Africa and in 1973 by the UN resolution 3068. We would not go play in South Africa … and I think the skin color of Jacky Terrasson (as you seem decidedly not know, it becomes laughable) do we have of course not allowed to be invited. Regime in South Africa was a totalitarian regime illegitimate, undemocratic and racist. To date, the UN has not publicly known or resolution to boycott Israel, neither France nor the United States are the two countries Jacky Terrasson. If this were the case, we would not play in Israel?? El.
Unfortunately the comparison with apartheid South Africa isn’t false, and this is the case, and Jacky Terrasson is about to play in apartheid Israel. I’m very glad you have deep, detailed knowledge of what happened in apartheid South Africa, so to complete the picture, I’d like to give you deep, detailed knowledge about what’s happening in the palestinian occupied territories. Fortunately, others have done this quite meticulously, so I’d recommend you and Mr. Terrasson would take the time to study a few resources:
In my office, I represent Muslim artists, Israeli artists, many different religions, nationalities, and it is a place of tolerance, peace and dialogue. I produced over 3000 concerts in the world, and this is the first time I receive many letters unpleasant. You the man of science, you should have confidence in the rigor of the analysis instead of going into open conflict with the artists.
Since your office is a place of tolerance, peace and dialogue, it probably wouldn’t like to be stained with the above rigorous analysis. If you believe it isn’t, you may want to provide a rigorous analysis of your own, refuting the rigorous analysis of others. I point out that you have yet to do so.
I will end with this quote from Kofi Annan, “Tolerance is a virtue that makes peace possible.”
Tolerance is indeed a virtue that makes peace possible. Israel’s lack of it and then some is the reason there is none.
A Debate That We Hold Dear : Can we still go to concerts in Israel?
Some links to feed your consideration, we have deliberately left all opinions are expressed.
Site BDS – Page on Jacky Terrasson
Site Creative Community for Peace
Facebook page – Stand with Us
Facebook page Jacky Terrasson
Facebook page Erik Truffaz
Replay the broadcast on RTS
Blog The World And if the Israelis were more open than their political parties in Palestine?
Before I address the bottom line, I’d like to address some of these links, you’ve provided, in order to make sure that you understand their political context. I take it into consideration that posting these links doesn’t mean you endorse them.
Stand With Us is an organization working for and with the government of Israel in foreign campuses. I highly recommend Tom Pessah’s rigorous analysis of such groups, to further understand the political context in which they operate (in case the flags in their banner hadn’t tipped you off yet). They work together with the so-called “Creative Community for Peace“, which is an organization of agents of the most successful celebrities in the world, who are also working in tandem with Israel’s government, and receiving its funds, in order to propagate its agenda. They disingenuously claim to be non-profit, when in fact they are acting to shut down efforts of making sure their artists don’t profit off of the military occupation. In return, the state of Israel has turned boycotts that “harm the state of Israel” to a “civil wrong” with the implication of enabling corporations to sue individuals, for boycotting them on moral grounds, with no need of proof of damages.
Regarding the article you linked, it’ll take another article for me to seriously reply, to it, in the meantime, I provide articles that are relevant to the point this article is trying to make.
Nearing the end of this long discussion piece, I’d like to note that posting on a blog that has no commenting option slightly stifles the ability to have this “debate that we hold dear”. But where there’s a will, there’s a way. I’ll be happy to be contacted for more information. I’d even be happier if you’d continue a public discussion.
Lastly, to your question:
Can we still go to concerts in Israel?
Yes, you can. And so can Jacky Terrasson. You have the privilege to do whatever you like, but out of respect for Palestinians under the boot of Israel’s oppression, we ask that you cancel your performance in Israel, backed by it’s oppressive apartheid government and used to whitewash it’s violations of human rights of Palestinians.
International artists still booked to the winter Red Sea Jazz Festival
Jacky Terrasson Trio
- Jacky Terrasson, Piano
- Burniss Travis, Bass
- EJ Strickland, Drums
Benjamin Taubkin and friends
- Benjamim Taubkin, Piano
- Joao Taubkin, Vocals
- Amos Hoffman, Guitar & Oud (Israeli)
- Itamar Doari, Percussion (Israeli)
- Amir Shahsar, Woodwind Instruments (Israeli)
Erik Truffaz Quartet (Special Vocal Guest: Anna Aaron)
- Erik Truffaz, Trumpet
- Marcello Giuliani, Bass
- Marc Erbetta, Drums
- Benoît Corboz, Fender Rhodes & Keyboards
- Janusz Wojtarowicz, Accordion
- Paweł Baranek, Accordion
- Marcin Gałażyn, Accordion
Yuri Honing Acoustic Quartet
- Yuri Honing, Tenor Saxophone
- Wolfert Brederode, Piano
- Ruben Samama, Bass
- Joost Lijbaart, Drums
Kurt Rosenwinkel Standards Trio
- Kurt Rosenwinkel, Guitar
- Jason Brown, Drums
- Josh Ginsburg, Bass