Monday, January 14, 2013

Cultural Boycott fail :"We play music, and we carry a message of peace and love"

The  "B" in BDS must stand for bullying.  Any artist that dares perform in Israel- any store that dares sell products from Israel opens themselves up to endless bullying.  Some, sadly  give in to the bullying. But most resist.

This wonderful open letter originally appeared on the blog of Christopher Deghelt of Deghelt Productions -a booking and management agency for Jazz artists and was addressed  to Mr. Dror Warschawski a French BDS activist.  The English translation  by Talia Shulman Gold is here, the Creative Community for Peace website.

[Mr. Deghelt replies to letter from Mr. Warshawshi, of The BDS Campaign in France]

As I pointed out to you over the telephone, we do not agree with your "pressure tactics on artists," or your Cultural Boycott.  We refuse to be made into instruments, and we won't give in to your pressure, whether by email, by mail, by telephone or on Facebook.

Performing in Israel does not mean we approve of the Israeli government or its politics, and it doesn't mean we don't understand the turmoil and the suffering of the Palestinian population.  Your attempt to railroad artists into a black-and-white dilemma is intellectually dishonest.  To allege that by performing at the Red Sea Jazz Festival we are supporting the Israeli government, or that by cancelling our concert we'll be showing our compassion towards the Palestinian people, demonstrates an extremely reductive attitude. We refuse to be placed in either category.

1)    Jacky hasn't performed in Israel for more than 15 years and many of his fans are elated by his impending arrival.  We love human beings, whether they are Israeli, Palestinian, Jewish or Muslim, and we will always perform for humankind.  We don't segregate our audience or our fans.

2)    We are apolitical, we play music, and we carry a message of peace and love. The Israeli-Palestine conflict is extremely complex. We disapprove all acts of violence on both sides and are profoundly saddened by this conflict and its tragic consequences.

3)    If the Eilat Festival is financed in part by the Israeli government, it demonstrates their openness towards culture and jazz, which only benefits the examination of cultures in general.  A dictatorship would not invite foreign artists, quite the reverse.  Jacky's fans in Israel are like all other jazz fans, humane, pacifist and hoping for peace in this part of the world.  They are your best allies and yet you seem to want to punish them.  Moreover, the Eilat Festival is an international festival recognized for its quality and its openness to the world.

4)    Boycotting this festival sends an unjust message to the Israeli population as a whole, to our fans and to our friends, and stigmatizes a population and a country instead of contributing something peaceful and sending a message of hope. We are free to express our convictions in Israel and I've spoken about this to the Festival organizers.  Let's push your reasoning to its conclusion.  Assuming no foreign artist appeared in Israel and the jazz festival ceased to exist...who would win? What would happen to the openness, the freedom, and the chance to present a different culture? What would happen to expressing our opinions?  What about the arts policy in Iran, Syria, and Mali today?  No more foreign artists.  Is this your sense of openness and dialogue?

5)    You say that certain Palestinians won't be able to attend Jacky's concert and that is indeed very sad; we would be happy to play in Palestine, if ever invited (this still hasn't been the case).  We are not responsible for this situation and can only deplore it.  The road to a better world is a long one.

6)    We concur with Erik Truffaz in his response to you: if we had to agree with the politics of the countries inviting us to perform, we wouldn't have many places in which to perform.  Our mission lies elsewhere, in music and the hopes of carrying a message of peace and tolerance to the people of our planet.

7)    Your activism and your intolerance are abominable.  Phony Facebook "fans" have posted messages expressly asking our musicians not play in Israel.  This is sheer harassment.  Moreover, it's really quite surprising because these fans purporting to sway the artists are not fans at all, but simply your army of little soldiers polluting the calm and positive spaces of our artists'Facebook pages.

8)    During our phone conversation, you insinuated quite slyly that you were a big fan of Jacky Terrasson, that you used to buy his records and attend his concerts, but that you would think twice about it now, knowing he plays for Israel.  Your questionable words, like the tone of your last email, won't change our convictions.  I don't believe for an instant that you are a fan of Jacky Terrasson.

9)    What bothers me the most about your your hatred of Israel, a pathological hatred, blind and most assuredly hidden behind a veil of "political correctness."  Your actions don't demonstrate a love or defense of Palestinians but rather a hatred for Israelis. At one time, we knew full well in what direction such madness had driven our world.  You are an anti-Zionist and deceitfully and paradoxically an anti-Semite (you, the grandson of a rabbi renowned for his humanistic views). You hide this under the pretext of representing a humanitarian organization, under the pretext of being a defender of justice.

10)    When Stanley Jordan, the Portico Quartet, cancelled their concert at the Red Sea Jazz Festival, it was their choice, which we respect.  Some of our artists refuse to perform in Israel.  Those are their political convictions, we live in a democracy, and we sincerely respect all opinions.  Well then, respect ours as well.  We believe we can be more useful by being invited to play for the people of Israel, than by refusing to perform in a country of whose government's decisions we disapprove.   Jacky Terrasson is free to draw his own opinion, after his arrival.  Don't force people to think what you would like them to think...this is intellectual tyranny and manipulation, the same tyranny and manipulation you attribute to Israel's rulers.

11)    Palestine needs international support, positive actions and peace, and it's not by advocating violence (both intellectual and verbal) and intolerance that you'll help Palestine.  I myself have been to Ramallah to produce a free concert featuring Shakti, which the U.N supports.  We helped finance a school of music for children victimized by the war.  These are positive actions, non-violent, meaningful and humane.  Pitting both sides against each other is not striving towards peace; it is adding fuel to the fire.

12)    In my agency, I represent Muslim artists, Israeli artists, and people of many different religions and nationalities.  My office is a place of tolerance, peace and dialogue. I have produced more than 3000 concerts in the world, and it's the first time I have received such obnoxious letters.  You, a man of science, you should stick to the rigors of analysis instead of engaging in an open battle with artists.

I will end by quoting Koffi Annan who said, "Tolerance is a virtue that makes peace possible."

Very cordially yours,

Christophe Deghelt

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