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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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Bercow blocks Brexit vote, May turns to EU for lifeline (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 112.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss Theresa May’s latest Brexit dilemma, as House of Commons Speaker John Bercow, shocked the world by citing a 1604 precedent that now effectively blocks May’s third go around at trying to pass her treacherous Brexit deal through the parliament.

All power now rests with the Brussels, as to how, if and when the UK will be allowed to leave the European Union.

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Via Bloomberg


Theresa May claims Brexit is about taking back control. Ten days before the U.K. is due to leave the European Union, it looks like anything but.

House of Commons Speaker John Bercow’s intervention, citing precedent dating back to 1604, to rule out a repeat vote on May’s already defeated departure deal leaves the prime minister exposed ahead of Thursday’s EU summit in Brussels.

Bercow, whose cries of “Orrdurrr! Orrdurrr!’’ to calm rowdy lawmakers have gained him a devoted international following, is now the pivotal figure in the Brexit battle. May’s team privately accuse him of trying to frustrate the U.K.’s exit from the EU, while the speaker’s admirers say he’s standing up for the rights of parliament against the executive.

If just one of the 27 other states declines May’s summit appeal to extend the divorce timetable, then the no-deal cliff edge looms for Britain’s departure on March 29. If they consent, it’s unclear how May can meet Bercow’s test that only a substantially different Brexit agreement merits another vote in parliament, since the EU insists it won’t reopen negotiations.

Caught between Bercow and Brussels, May’s room for maneuver is shrinking. Amid rumblings that their patience with the U.K. is near exhaustion, EU leaders are girding for the worst.

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President Putin signs law blocking fake news, but the West makes more

Western media slams President Putin and his fake news law, accusing him of censorship, but an actual look at the law reveals some wisdom.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The TASS Russian News Agency reported on March 18th that Russian President Vladimir Putin signed off on a new law intended to block distorted or untrue information being reported as news. Promptly after he did so, Western news organizations began their attempt to “spin” this event as some sort of proof of “state censorship” in the oppressive sense of the old Soviet Union. In other words, a law designed to prevent fake news was used to create more fake news.

One of the lead publications is a news site that is itself ostensibly a “fake news” site. The Moscow Times tries to portray itself as a Russian publication that is conducted from within Russian borders. However, this site and paper is really a Western publication, run by a Dutch foundation located in the Netherlands. As such, the paper and the website associated have a distinctly pro-West slant in their reporting. Even Wikipedia noted this with this comment from their entry about the publication:

In the aftermath of the Ukrainian crisis, The Moscow Times was criticized by a number of journalists including Izvestia columnist Israel Shamir, who in December 2014 called it a “militant anti-Putin paper, a digest of the Western press with extreme bias in covering events in Russia”.[3] In October 2014 The Moscow Times made the decision to suspend online comments after an increase in offensive comments. The paper said it disabled comments for two reasons—it was an inconvenience for its readers as well as being a legal liability, because under Russian law websites are liable for all content, including user-generated content like comments.[14]

This bias is still notably present in what is left of the publication, which is now an online-only news source. This is some of what The Moscow Times had to say about the new fake news legislation:

The bills amending existing information laws overwhelmingly passed both chambers of Russian parliament in less than two months. Observers and some lawmakers have criticized the legislation for its vague language and potential to stifle free speech.

The legislation will establish punishments for spreading information that “exhibits blatant disrespect for the society, government, official government symbols, constitution or governmental bodies of Russia.”

Insulting state symbols and the authorities, including Putin, will carry a fine of up to 300,000 rubles and 15 days in jail for repeat offenses.

As is the case with other Russian laws, the fines are calculated based on whether the offender is a citizen, an official or a legal entity.

More than 100 journalists and public figures, including human rights activist Zoya Svetova and popular writer Lyudmila Ulitskaya, signed a petition opposing the laws, which they labeled “direct censorship.”

This piece does give a bit of explanation from Dmitry Peskov, showing that European countries also have strict laws governing fake news distribution. However, the Times made the point of pointing out the idea of “insulting governmental bodies of Russia… including Putin” to bolster their claim that this law amounts to real censorship of the press. It developed its point of view based on a very short article from Reuters which says even less about the legislation and how it works.

However, TASS goes into rather exhaustive detail about this law, and it also gives rather precise wording on the reason for the law’s passage, as well as how it is to be enforced. We include most of this text here, with emphases added:

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a law on blocking untrue and distorting information (fake news). The document was posted on the government’s legal information web portal.

The document supplements the list of information, the access to which may be restricted on the demand by Russia’s Prosecutor General or his deputies. In particular, it imposes a ban on “untrue publicly significant information disseminated in the media and in the Internet under the guise of true reports, which creates a threat to the life and (or) the health of citizens, property, a threat of the mass violation of public order and (or) public security, or the threat of impeding or halting the functioning of vital infrastructural facilities, transport or social infrastructure, credit institutions, energy, industrial or communications facilities.”

Pursuant to the document, in case of finding such materials in Internet resources registered in accordance with the Russian law on the mass media as an online media resource, Russia’s Prosecutor General or his deputies will request the media watchdog Roskomnadzor to restrict access to the corresponding websites.

Based on this request, Roskomnadzor will immediately notify the editorial board of the online media resource, which is in violation of the legislation, about the need to remove untrue information and the media resource will be required to delete such materials immediately. If the editorial board fails to take the necessary measures, Roskomnadzor will send communications operators “a demand to take measures to restrict access to the online resource.”

In case of deleting such untrue information, the website owner will notify Roskomnadzor thereof, following which the media watchdog will “hold a check into the authenticity of this notice” and immediately inform the communications operator about the resumption of the access to the information resource.
The conditions for the law are very specific, as are the penalties for breaking it. TASS continued:

Liability for breaching the law

Simultaneously, the Federation Council approved the associated law with amendments to Russia’s Code of Administrative Offences, which stipulates liability in the form of penalties of up to 1.5 million rubles (around $23,000) for the spread of untrue and distorting information.

The Code’s new article, “The Abuse of the Freedom of Mass Information,” stipulates liability for disseminating “deliberately untrue publicly significant information” in the media or in the Internet. The penalty will range from 30,000 rubles ($450) to 100,000 rubles ($1,520) for citizens, from 60,000 rubles ($915) to 200,000 rubles ($3,040) for officials and from 200,000 rubles to 500,000 rubles ($7,620) for corporate entities with the possible confiscation of the subject of the administrative offence.

Another element of offence imposes tighter liability for the cases when the publication of false publicly significant information has resulted in the deaths of people, has caused damage to the health or property, prompted the mass violation of public order and security or has caused disruption to the functioning of transport or social infrastructure facilities, communications, energy and industrial facilities and banks. In such instances, the fines will range from 300,000 rubles to 400,000 rubles ($6,090) for citizens, from 600,000 rubles to 900,000 rubles ($13,720) for officials, and from 1 million rubles to 1.5 million rubles for corporate entities.

While this legislation can be spun (and is) in the West as anti-free speech, one may also consider the damage that has taken place in the American government through a relentless attack of fake news from most US news outlets against President Trump. One of the most notable effects of this barrage has been to further degrade and destroy the US’ relationship with the Russian Federation, because even the Helsinki Summit was attacked so badly that the two leaders have not been able to get a second summit together.

While it is certainly a valued right of the American press to be unfettered by Congress, and while it is also certainly vital to criticize improper practices by government officials, the American news agencies have gone far past that, to deliberately dishonest attacks, based in innuendo and everything possible that was formerly only the province of gossip tabloid publications. The effort has been to defame the President, not to give proper or due criticism to his policies, nor credit. It can be properly stated that the American press has abused its freedom of late.

This level of abuse drew a very unusual comment from the US president, who wondered on Twitter about the possibility of creating a state-run media center in the US to counter fake news:

Politically correct for US audiences? No. But an astute point?

Definitely.

Freedom in anything also presumes that those with that freedom respect it, and further, that they respect and apply the principle that slandering people and institutions for one’s own personal, business or political gain is wrong. Implied in the US Constitution’s protection of the press is the notion that the press itself, as the rest of the country, is accountable to a much Higher Authority than the State. But when that Authority is rejected, as so much present evidence suggests, then freedom becomes the freedom to misbehave and to agitate. It appears largely within this context that the Russian law exists, based on the text given.

Further, by hitting dishonest media outlets in their pocketbook, rather than prison sentences, the law appears to be very smart in its message: “Do not lie. If you do, you will suffer where it counts most.”

Considering that news media’s purpose is to make money, this may actually be a very smart piece of legislation.

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ABC’s Ted Koppel admits mainstream media bias against Trump [Video]

The mainstream news media has traded informing the public for indoctrinating them, but the change got called out by an “old-school” journo.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Fox News reported on March 19th that one of America’s most well-known TV news anchors, Ted Koppel, noted that the once-great media outlets like The New York Times and The Washington Post, have indeed traded journalistic excellence for hit pieces for political purposes. While political opinions in the mainstream press are certainly within the purview of any publication, this sort of writing can hardly be classified as “news” but as “Opinion” or more widely known, “Op-Ed.”

We have two videos on this. The first is the original clip showing the full statement that Mr. Koppel gave. It is illuminating, to say the least:

Tucker Carlson and Brit Hume, a former colleague of Mr. Koppel, added their comments on this admission in this second short video piece, shown here.

There are probably a number of people who have watched this two-year onslaught of slander and wondered why there cannot be a law preventing this sort of misleading reporting. Well, Russia passed a law to stop it, hitting dishonest media outlets in their pocketbook. It is a smart law because it does not advocate imprisonment for bad actors in the media, but it does fine them.

Going to prison for reporting “the truth” looks very noble. Having to pay out of pocket for it is not so exciting.

Newsmax and Louder with Crowder both reported on this as well.

This situation of dishonest media has led to an astonishing 77% distrust rating among Americans of their news media, this statistic being reported by Politico in 2018. This represents a nearly diametric reversal in trust from the 72% trust rating the country’s news viewers gave their news outlets in 1972. These statistics come from Gallup polls taken through the years.

 

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