Gilad Atzmon – May 19, 2011
My visit to America was once again a great educational adventure: I had the chance to meet with so many interesting people. The Palestinians and the solidarity activists I met seem more determined than ever. I also met some Jewish spiritual and political leaders who, for the first time, were courageous enough to debate my thoughts. It is more than clear that the message and call for justice is more and more appealing, more and more urgent, and more powerful.
In NYC I gave a talk about music and ethics, and debated with journalists and Jewish political activists. One of the leaders of JVP summarised our meeting saying, “we agree on very many things, and we disagree on a few,” which is a statement I consider to be a constructive and optimistic way to look at things. That said, it is also true that some healthy dispute adds inspiration, and can only be beneficial to our debate and discourse — when I asked a Jewish activist whether it is at all possible to fight the ‘Jews Only State’ while operating within just another ‘Jews only club,’ the activist agreed with me that such a discrepancy is indeed a reason for a concern. “However” the Jewish activist said, “Gilad you have to accept it; you are engaged in an intellectual discourse, whilst we are running a campaign here.” And I guess that is an acceptable answer. I do not know much about campaigns: I have been subject to many smear campaigns, but I have never run one myself.
In Chicago I gave a talk at Columbia College. June Terpstra wrote an excellent report of the event.
I also met Munir Muhammad at Nation of Islam’s TV and participated in his show, after which I felt that there is potentially a lot of groundwork that could to be done together with The Nation of Islam.
In Dallas I took part in a One Democratic State (ODS) panel at The University of Texas together with Dr. Samir Abed Rabbo and Remi Kanazi. I also met very many young Palestinians. I watched a poetry event performed by Remi and a few of the young female Palestinian students. Never in my life have I encountered such a level of determination and conviction. I am planning to increase my work with Dr. Abed Rabbo and the ODS. The event was documented, and I will link to the footage and write more about it, as soon it is available on-line.
While in Berkley I met Rabbi Michael Lerner and a few members of his liberal congregation. We spent more than three hours together. I presented my thoughts and ideas and answered many questions. This gathering reaffirmed my belief that any form of meaningful shift within the Jewish discourse will be achieved through a spiritual transformation. To a certain extent, it was easier to communicate with the Rabbi and his friends, because, for the Rabbi — unlike in the case of Jewish secular left — Jewishness is a coherent, spiritual notion. It is inherently linked with Judaism. Instead of another manifestation of identity politics, it is actually lived, experienced and expressed as a religion.
To watch footage from the Rabbi’s house:
In Oakland, I participated in a benefit for the US Boat to Gaza at the Lake Merritt United Methodist Church. I gave a talk that was followed by a Q&A and a recital with my longtime friend, pianist Daniel Raynaud. Just before the meeting took place I had a chance to debate four Zionist picketers who were sent by the Israeli Consulate. They were indeed misinformed: they didn’t know exactly why they were there. They didn’t know who I was and what I stood for. The debate was documented and hopefully will be on-line soon.
Since the meeting took place late afternoon (4.30 pm), certainly too early for many working people, we continued to a nearby private house to resume the discussion for another two hours.
In Oklahoma, I gave my ‘Primacy of the Ear’ talk. I went over the story of my life. I tried to throw light on the culture that led to Israeli inherent blindness towards other people’s pain. We continued with a Q&A and then continued with a little musical jam. In the night I discussed with Dr Abed Rabbo and Jeff Salamat, the organiser, some new strategies to spread the message.
I also returned to Denver for the fourth time. This time I had a chance to talk to a few academics and some senior politicians about AIPAC and the Zionist grip over American politics. I also gave a talk at the legendary Denver’s Mercury Café that evolved into a musical gathering with Denver’s leading Jazz players. I love being in Denver and feel very welcome there.
After the event, I heard some familiar beats echoing out from another room within the Mercury complex. I followed the sound and found myself in a belly dancing party. This event reminded me of what America is all about. I was pretty much knocked down by the virtuosity performed by the young ladies.
Those women are performing that Arabian art at the time American soldiers are stationed in Iraq. I thought to myself that in spite of AIPAC influence, the Zionist control of Media and entertainment, I wouldn’t imagine these young beautiful girls dancing Israeli Hora or bopping to the sound of Kletzmer.
In Denver I also participated in the Nakba Day demo. I played Louis Armstrong’s ‘What a Wonderful Day’ because I know that in spite of Netanyahu, Barak, Peres, AIPAC and the ADL, it will be a wonderful world.
Then, just before jumping onto the plane I traveled to Aspen. I met many friends and took part in a radio show. then I slept for three hours and flew back home.
My visit was supported by Texas ODS, UStoGAZAWest, Evelyn Hecht Galinski and Benjamin Hecht, LEARN- Liberation Education Action Research Network, SPP with Support from Jeff Salamat and Argus Fest.