vrijdag 18 januari 2013

Boycotten Red Sea Jazz Festival draagt niet bij aan vrede


De jazz muzikant Yuri Honing is het laatste doelwit van de walgelijke BDS (boycot, divestement and sanctions) campagne. Uitzonderlijk genoeg hebben de NRC en Nu.nl aandacht aan zijn zaak besteed, en schrijven dat "hij en zijn bandleden sinds weken worden bestookt met intimiderende mails, tweets en nachtelijke telefoontjes – dwingende oproepen om af te zien van het door de Israëlische regering georganiseerde festival."

BDSers hebben het vaak juist voorzien op mensen die zelf ook kritisch staan tegenover Israel, en niet zozeer een pro-Israel boodschap verkondigen maar een van verzoening en vrede. Boycots van Israel hebben dan ook helemaal niks met vrede te maken, integendeel, ze dwarsbomen de vrede, zetten mensen tegen elkaar op en vergroten tegenstellingen.


International artists scheduled to perform in the January 2013 Red Sea Festival were targeted by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS) in an attempt to get them to cancel their tours. The following is a response to these BDS efforts from Christophe Deghelt, the manager of jazz musician, Jacky Terrasson. We have hightlighted salient points but urge you to read it in its entirety.

The original text is in French. We have provided an English translation.



Christophe Deghelt

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The following is a blog entry that risks making waves. However, I wanted to share a debate that was important to us.

For some time now, artists invited to play a concert in Israel are routinely accosted by organizations urging them not to travel there, nor to support the Israeli government and its politics. They claim that Israel is an Apartheid state and a colonial power committing war crimes against Palestinians. It's obvious why the debate concerning this region of the world, so long embroiled in a violent and unending war, would be extremely lively and complex. Culture seems to be an issue today, perhaps even a new battlefield, in this very sad conflict.

For the last several days, two jazz artists, Erik Truffaz and Jack Terrasson have been swept into a fierce controversy, a furious and passionate debate on Facebook and other social networks and websites regarding their participation at the Red Sea Jazz Festival in Eilat, Israel this month. These artists are renowned and recognized for their talent, their humanity, their very open-minded approach, their pacifism and their generosity.

Here then, in this blog entry, is our position regarding this debate. We state it in view of pulling ourselves out of this difficult controversy and averting the pitfalls of oversimplification, blindness, manipulation and intolerance.

First, for context, some background information.

On December 12, 2012, we finalized a contract with the organizers of the Red Sea Jazz Festival to have Jacky Terrasson perform two concerts there.

On January 2, we received a letter from BDS France (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) asking us to boycott this concert. Here is the letter:

[BDS Letter] - not included in this translation

On January 4, I contacted the representative of that organization, Mr. Dror Warschawski. We spoke a good hour over the telephone, explaining to him why we agreed to play in Israel. We explained to him our refusal to be made instruments in this conflict and our refusal to boycott this festival or our Israeli fans. All the while, we expressed our sympathy towards the Palestinian cause, our sadness over this ferocious war and our primary mission, namely, to deliver a message of peace.

At the same time, RTS (Swiss Radio) was going to broadcast a live debate that Sunday evening on the issue of Erik Truffaz's appearance at the Red Sea Jazz Festival (the producer having contacted us over the weekend, but we were unavailable to take part in the debate). We noticed that Erik and Jacky's Facebook pages were overrun with intimidating comments, not from our fans, but from activists. Some of these comments are really obnoxious, rising to the level of sheer harassment and blatant denigration. Facebook has become a battleground for BDS campaigners, our fans, Israelis and those supporting Israel. How sad!

On January 7, we received a new message from BDS, this time via email. This message was more insistent. It branded the festival as having a "stamp of shame." Here is the email:

Mail BDS [translation not included]

Our office and our artists are now receiving a veritable tidal wave of emails from complete strangers. Faced with this pressure and harassment, we've decided to publish a response defending our position on our blog and our social networks. I think our response presents a third way, a more just and more tolerant way, to emerge from this conflict in which artists are used as political instruments. Here it is:

[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 effort...is 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


Translated into English for CCFP by Talia Shulman Gold

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