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EXCLUSIVE: Gilad Atzmon on politics in music, Roger Waters, Palestine and humanitarianism

Jazz musician, author and philosopher Gilad Atzmon spoke with The Duran about Roger Waters verses the Israel lobby, the place of politics in music, freedom versus dogma and Palestinian freedom in the 21st century.

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Recently, Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters has been in the news, not for his North America musical tour but for his politics. As an outspoken supporter of Palestine, he has come up against the Israel lobby in many western countries.

Recently, various pro-Israel activists have financed the making of a film against Waters called Wish You Weren’t Here, a mockery of the Pink Floyd album and song Wish You Were Here.

Even among politically minded musicians, few talk about the Israel/Palestine issue. I recently spoke with acclaimed jazz musician, philosopher, social commentator and pro-Palestine thinker Gilad Atzmon about his reaction to the latest attempt to smear Roger Waters over his advocacy of Palestinian justice.

AG: As someone who started life as a musician, I have a special affection for music and I would personally never judge my emotive experience at listening to a piece of music based on the politics of the composers and/or performers. At the same time, I am deeply political and am consequently always attentive when musicians decide to get political.

It is nothing new. From Beethoven’s 9th symphony, to Tchaikovsky’s 1812 overture and Strauss’s 4 Last Songs, musicians have always been immersed in world events. People look to the revolutionary attributes of jazz heroes like Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Roland Kirk and Miles Davis to the folk, pop and rock music of Bob Dylan, John Lennon and Pink Floyd as a source of meaning that ties the political into the emotional and dare I say the spiritual also.

What do you think the connection is and ought to be between music and politics?

 GA: To start with, although historically musicians and artist have been highly involved in politics, I am not so sure that this is the case anymore.  The culture industry has evolved into a subservient operation. First it reduced beauty into a commodity and  then utilized it as a propaganda tool. Our (music) festivals are funded by banks and politically oriented cultural institutes.

There is no doubt, for instance,  that Jazz, the voice of the oppressed, has lost touch with its original poignant revolutionary impetus. It has been mostly reduced into emotionless scholarly noise verging on academic masturbation.

While politicians operate within a giving symbolic order, artists question conventions and re-invent symbolism. At present, the domineering aspect of the industry reduces the artist into a propagator of accepted conventions utilizing acceptable symbolism. I rebel against all of it. I prefer to dig and to seek the truth, I don’t claim to know the truth but I love excavating.

 AG: When it comes to the issue of Palestinian freedom and dignity, three people who can justifiably be called music legends stand out as  artists who have used both their music and their voices to speak out, there is yourself, Roger Waters (Pink Floyd) and Robert Wyatt (Soft Machine). Are these artists different than others who talk about political issues, people who tend to flirt with the establishment for example like Bono?

GA:  First, thank you for considering me a ‘legend.’ Supporting Palestine is no doubt a noble cause. Moreover, since the music industry is largely an extended Jewish syndicate, opposition to the Jewish State is a self-inflicted death sentence. As you would expect, not many reasonable people choose to sentence themselves to death.

Robert Wyatt has been supporting Palestine  because he is the most authentic mench around. Waters performed in Israel a few years ago, he witnessed the oppression, he was moved by it. He joined the solidarity movement. My case is a bit different. I was born in Israel. It took me many years to grasp that Israel was Palestine and I was living on someone else’s land. When I understood this, I immigrated to London where I found that Diaspora Jews who operate politically as Jews (Zionist as well as ‘anti’) are far more obnoxious and even dangerous than Israel is. The Lobby (AIPAC, LFI, CFI, CRIFF) dominates USA, UK and French foreign affairs. It pushes us into wars. Unfortunately,  a similar Jewish lobby dominates the Palestinian solidarity movement and has managed to reduce the Palestinian call for a ‘Right of Return’ into an internal Jewish debate about the ‘Right to BDS’ (Boycott, Divest & Sanction Israeli goods).  I started to ask myself questions relating to Jewish power and the Jewish past. I realised that Palestinians are just the Goyim du jour. If we want to help Palestine, we have to understand that by now we are all Palestinians.

Bono, is an interesting case. I would love to believe that he is a genuine and empathetic human being. But too often his activity somehow coincides with neocon interests, colonial imperialism and mammonism in general. Whether Bono is informed enough or not is beyond me. I have never looked into his case in a scholarly manner.

 AG: Have you ever personally feared that your musical career could be harmed because of your philosophical, sociological and political statements even though you’re an ardent advocate of peace and human dignity for all?

GA: Assaults against my artistic activity occur daily. Promoters and presenters of my work are subject to a constant barrage of pressure and even threats. Very rarely they succeed in having a gig of mine cancelled.

However, this is crucial. In Europe there are broad hate speech prohibitions. Despite the endless attempts to silence me, not once have I been questioned by a law enforcement body anywhere around the world about anything I said or wrote.

AG: Imagine you are the child in a secular Jewish/Zionist home. You like listening to Pink Floyd’s records as almost all young people have done since the 1960s. Your parents then tell you not to listen anymore because of Roger Waters’ views on Palestine. What might you feel? Would listening to Roger’s music become an act of youthful rebellion decades after The Dark Side of The Moon and The Wall were recorded?

GA: If Zionism was a promise to make Jews people like all other people, then stopping your children from listening to Pink Floyd guarantees that they won’t be people like other people.

AG: In addition to speaking out against Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, Roger Waters encourages all musicians to boycott Israel. What are your views on this and if you were invited to Israel to perform your music would you go? If you went would you feel that you would be at risk of violence due to your philosophy and statements?

GA: Yesterday in Prague I met two Israeli musicians who used to work with me in the 1980s. We ended up talking about Roger Waters. They weren’t politically oriented people however, they suggested that Waters is on shaky moral ground because Waters mounts pressure on artists to join BDS and boycott Israel. Let me shock you, I am also troubled by that. The fact that Palestinian solidarity activists can’t differentiate between a tomato and a poet or between an avocado and an historian troubles me.  I am an avid advocate of freedom of speech and expression. I want beauty and ideas to travel freely.

Every discourse is a set of boundaries.  I was invited last year to participate in the 30th Red Sea Festival. My personal boundary is that I will not visit the Jewish State or any other state that is set to serve the interest of one race. I vowed not to visit Israel unless it is a state of its citizens and by that I mean that it is Palestine from River to the Sea.

AG: Roger Waters often pens open letters to fellow artists. Here is your opportunity to do the same. What would you write to Roger?

GA:  Dear Roger:

As a hero of humanity and freedom who made the prospect of a bright future into a song, I urge you to distinguish between Athens and Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the city of revelation and commandments, it provides us with a set of laws that define right and wrong. Athens, on the other hand, is the symbol of philosophy, beauty, science and reason.  Activists belong to Jerusalem, philosophers are from Athens. You cannot fight Jerusalem while being a Jerusalemite. Athens is where you belong. Let’s enable people to think for themselves and learn to make ethical judgements. Let us choose Athens rather than setting a different tyranny of correctness.

AG: Roger Waters is now 73. His musical statement has been very much ingrained on the world and that won’t be taken away. If there was a young man of 17 with the musical talents of for example yourself or Roger and the political views of either yourself or Roger, would you advise them to hold their tongue for the sake of their career assuming you were asked with sincerity and respect?

GA: I guess that I pay a price for being outspoken, but I am very happy. I am a free agent. As I said above, I am not an activist, I don’t advise people what to do or what to say, I endeavor to help people form their own thoughts as they move along. The same rule applies to me, my thoughts are shaped and reshaped constantly. For me this is what Being in Time is all about.

AG: Gilad, you recently played on Pink Floyd’s ‘final’ record, The Endless River featuring the line-up of David Gilmour, Nick Mason with archived recordings from the late Richard Wright. If you are able to do so, can you disclose if your politics were discussed during the recording sessions given that the elephant in the room would have been the fact that your politics are most similar to the ex-Pink Floyd member Roger Waters who was not on that particular album?

GA: We didn’t touch upon politics, we were there for music. What fascinated me was that I initially experimented with my tenor sax. It wasn’t easy, I am not the ideal Pink Floyd saxophonist. Then I went into the control room and told David Gilmour and Phil Manzanera that in my mind, I  heard something completely different—a Turkish clarinet. I played one take, there was silence. David said that it was beautiful but totally foreign to Pink Floyd’s sound.  I agreed, he was correct. But I told him that this was what I heard. I didn’t think that my clarinet would make it into the Album, but it did. The explanation is simple: through art, beauty reveals  itself as an authenticity.

 AG: Do you think condemnation of artists like yourself, Roger Waters, Robert Wyatt and others from the Israel lobby has any negative effect on how your music is perceived and enjoyed? On the contrary does it have a positive effect or is it immaterial to most music lovers?

 GA: If anything, the attacks provide humanity with a glimpse into the vindictiveness that is unfortunately embedded in Jewish Identity politics, both Zionist and anti. My response; the more they attack, the faster and louder I play. Still, there is something I fail to understand. If the lobby is upset by my criticism of Jewish Identity politics, all they have to do is make sure that the saxophone is constantly shoved into my mouth. They should insure that I play 24/7, they should book my gigs rather than try to cancel them.

Gilad Atzmon’s book Being In Time: A Post Political Manifesto is available now

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Brexit Withdrawal Agreement may lead to Theresa May’s downfall (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 151.

Alex Christoforou

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The Brexit Withdrawal Agreement has been published and as many predicted, including Nigel Farage, the document is leading to the collapse of Theresa May’s government.

During an interview with iTV’s Piers Morgan, remain’s Alistair Campell and leave’s Nigel Farage, were calling May’s Brexit deal a complete disaster.

Via iTV

Alastair Campbell: “This doesn’t do remotely what was offered…what is the point”

“Parliament is at an impasse”

“We have to go back to the people” …”remain has to be on the ballot paper”

Nigel Farage:

“This is the worst deal in history. We are giving away in excess of 40B pounds in return for precisely nothing. Trapped still inside the European Union’s rulebook.

“Nothing has been achieved.”

“In any negotiation in life…the other side need to know that you are serious about walking away.”

“What monsieur Barnier knew from day one, is that at no point did Theresa May intend to walk away.”

“Fundamental matter of trust to the electors of our country and those who govern us.”

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss Theresa May’s Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, and why the deal is a full on victory for the European Union and a document of subjugation for the United Kingdom.

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Coming in at 585 pages, the draft agreement will be closely scrutinized over the coming days but here are some of the highlights as outlined by Zerohedge

  • UK and EU to use the best endeavours to supersede Ireland protocol by 2020
  • UK can request extension of the transition period any time before July 1st, 2020
  • EU, UK See Level-Playing Field Measures in Future Relationship
  • Transition period may be extended once up to date yet to be specified in the text
  • EU and UK shall establish single customs territory and Northern Ireland is in same customs territory as Great Britain

The future relationship document is less than seven pages long. It says the U.K. and EU are seeking a free-trade area with cooperation on customs and rules: “Comprehensive arrangements creating a free trade area combining deep regulatory and customs cooperation, underpinned by provisions ensuring a level playing field for open and fair competition.”

The wording might raise concerns among Brexiters who don’t want regulatory cooperation and the measures on fair competition could amount to shackling the U.K. to EU rules.

As Bloomberg’s Emma Ross-Thomas writes, “There’s a clear sense in the documents that we’re heading for a customs union in all but name. Firstly via the Irish backstop, and then via the future relationship.”

Separately, a government summary of the draft agreement suggests role for parliament in deciding whether to extend the transition or to move in to the backstop.

But perhaps most importantly, regarding the controversial issue of the Irish border, the future relationship document says both sides aim to replace the so-called backstop – the thorniest issue in the negotiations – with a “subsequent agreement that establishes alternative arrangements for ensuring the absence of a hard border on the island of Ireland on a permanent footing.”

On this topic, recall that the U.K.’s fear was of being locked into the backstop arrangement indefinitely in the absence of a broader trade deal. The draft agreement includes a review process to try to give reassurance that the backstop would never be needed. Basically, the U.K. could choose to seek an extension to the transition period – where rules stay the same as they are currently – or opt to trigger the backstop conditions. In fact, as Bloomberg notes, the word “backstop,” which has been a sticking point over the Irish border for weeks, is mentioned only once in the text.

As Bloomberg further adds, the withdrawal agreement makes clear that the U.K. will remain in a single customs area with the EU until there’s a solution reached on the Irish border. It’s what Brexiteers hate, because it makes it more difficult for the U.K. to sign its own free-trade deals, which they regard as a key prize of Brexit.

Predictably, EU Commission President Juncker said decisive progress has been made in negotiations.

Meanwhile, as analysts comb over the documents, Jacob Rees-Mogg, chairman of the European Research Group, has already written to Conservative lawmakers urging them to vote against the deal. He says:

  • May is handing over money for “little or nothing in return”
  • The agreement treats Northern Ireland differently from the rest of the U.K.
  • It will “lock” the U.K. into a customs union with the EU
  • It breaks the Tory election manifesto of 2017

The full document…

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4 resignations and counting: May’s government ‘falling apart before our eyes’ over Brexit deal

The beginning of the end for Theresa May’s government.

The Duran

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Via RT


Four high profile resignations have followed on the heels of Theresa May’s announcement that her cabinet has settled on a Brexit deal, with Labour claiming that the Conservative government is at risk of completely dissolving.

Shailesh Vara, the Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office was the first top official to resign after the prime minister announced that her cabinet had reached a draft EU withdrawal agreement.

An hour after his announcement, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab – the man charged with negotiating and finalizing the deal – said he was stepping down, stating that the Brexit deal in its current form suffers from deep flaws. Esther McVey, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, submitted her letter of resignation shortly afterwards. More resignations have followed.

Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office minister, Jon Trickett, predicted that this is the beginning of the end for May’s government.

The government is falling apart before our eyes as for a second time the Brexit secretary has refused to back the prime minister’s Brexit plan. This so-called deal has unraveled before our eyes

Shailesh Vara: UK to be stuck in ‘a half-way house with no time limit’

Kicking off Thursday’s string of resignations, Vara didn’t mince words when describing his reservations about the cabinet-stamped Brexit deal.

Theresa May’s EU withdrawal agreement leaves the UK in a “halfway house with no time limit on when we will finally become a sovereign nation,” his letter of resignation states. Vara went on to warn that the draft agreement leaves a number of critical issues undecided, predicting that it “will take years to conclude” a trade deal with the bloc.

“We will be locked in a customs arrangement indefinitely, bound by rules determined by the EU over which we have no say,” he added.

Dominic Raab: Deal can’t be ‘reconciled’ with promises made to public

Announcing his resignation on Thursday morning, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab tweeted: “I cannot in good conscience support the terms proposed for our deal with the EU.”

Raab claimed that the deal in its current form gives the EU veto power over the UK’s ability to annul the deal.

No democratic nation has ever signed up to be bound by such an extensive regime.

Former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith said that Raab’s resignation as Brexit secretary is “devastating” for May.

“It sounds like he has been ignored,” he told the BBC.

Raab’s departure will undoubtedly encourage other Brexit supporters to question the deal, political commentators have observed.

Esther McVey: Deal ‘does not honor’ Brexit referendum

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey didn’t hold back when issuing her own letter of resignation. According to McVey, the deal “does not honour” the result of the Brexit referendum, in which a majority of Brits voted to leave the European Union.

Suella Braverman: ‘Unable to sincerely support’ deal

Suella Braverman, a junior minister in Britain’s Brexit ministry, issued her resignation on Thursday, saying that she couldn’t stomach the deal.

“I now find myself unable to sincerely support the deal agreed yesterday by cabinet,” she said in a letter posted on Twitter.

Suella Braverman, MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department for Exiting the EU © Global Look Press / Joel Goodman
Braverman said that the deal is not what the British people voted for, and threatened to tear the country apart.

“It prevents an unequivocal exit from a customs union with the EU,” she said.

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Five Saudis Face Death Penalty Over Khashoggi Killing; Crown Prince Cleared

According to the Saudi prosecutor, five people charged are believed to have been involved in “ordering and executing the crime.”

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Via Zerohedge


Saudi Arabia public prosecutor Sheikh Shaalan al-Shaalan said on Thursday that the kingdom will seek the death penalty for five suspects among the 11 charged in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, confirming suspicions that members of the murder squad purportedly sent to “interrogate” Khashoggi will now themselves face beheadings as the Saudi Royal Family closes ranks around the Crown Prince, per the FT.

As for Mohammed bin Salman who runs the day to day affairs of the world’s top oil exporter and is the de facto head of OPEC, the prosecutor said had “no knowledge” of the mission, effectively absolving him of any domestic suspicion, if not international.

The charges were handed down after the kingdom dismissed five senior intelligence officers and arrested 18 Saudi nationals in connection with Khashoggi’s disappearance. The Saudi insider-turned-dissident journalist disappeared on Oct. 2 after entering the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul to pick up documents that would have allowed him to marry his fiance. Khashoggi was a legal resident of Virginia.

According to the Saudi prosecutor, five people charged are believed to have been involved in “ordering and executing the crime,” according to CNN.

The prosecutor said that the former Saudi deputy intelligence chief, Ahmed al-Assiri, ordered a mission to force Khashoggi to go back to Saudi Arabia and formed a team of 15 people.

They were divided into three groups, the Saudi Public Prosecutor said: a negotiation team, an intelligence team and a logistical team.

It was the head of the negotiating team who ordered the killing of Khashoggi, the prosecutor said.

The Saudis stuck by latest (ever changing) narrative that the Washington Post columnist was killed after a mission to abduct him went awry. The deputy chief of intelligence ordered that Khashoggi be brought back to the kingdom, Shaalan said. The team killed him after the talks failed and his body was handed to a “collaborator” in Turkey, he said.

Asked whether Saud al-Qahtanti, an aide to Prince Mohammed, had any role in the case, Shaalan said that a royal adviser had a coordinating role and had provided information. The former adviser was now under investigation, the prosecutor said, declining to reveal the names of any of those facing charges.

Al-Shaalan did reveal that a total of 21 suspects are now being held in connection with the case. Notably, the decision to charge the 5 comes after National Security Advisor John Bolton repudiated reports that a recording of Khashoggi’s murder made by Turkish authorities suggested that Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was behind the murder plot.

But as long as OPEC+ is planning to do “whatever it takes” to boost oil prices, the US’s willingness to give the Saudis a pass could always be tested if crude prices again turn sharply higher.

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