I. On December 27th, Gaza’s University Teachers’ Association and the Gaza Palestinian Students for the Academic Boycott of Israel wrote to young Norwegian songwriter, Moddi, asking him to cancel his upcoming 2014 concert, in Tel Aviv on February 1st. Friday the young and rapidly upcoming artist responded, in a Facebook post that links to an article Jello Biafra wrote after he had cancelled an Israeli show, with his band, the Guantanamo School of Medicine, back in 2011.
The Gaza letter is an openly emotional plea. It recounts some musicians who have recently decided to cancel appearances in the militant expansionist Zionist state:
We call upon your free soul that has been adding uplifting music into this disenchanted world of ours, to join those courageous people of conscience, artists like Elvis Costello, Annie Lennox, Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, Massive Attack, Gil Scott-Heron, Faithless, Carlos Santana, Vanessa Paradis, Natacha Atlas and Devendra Banhart.
And directly confronts the notion of an Israeli performance being appropriate, from a Gazan perspective:
We ask you now, like so many people of your nation have stood with the oppressed in the past, to stand on the right side of history, to respond to our call from the Gaza ghetto to not turn your back on us. If you play in Israel, then we will be a short distance away from where you are playing. But your beautiful tunes will break our wrenching hearts and not sway our souls.
I’ve watched a few of Moddi’s Youtube videos over the past year, after a student turned me on to his art. Here is what the Gazan suppliants meant when they wrote “your beautiful tunes.” Moddi, rendering Smoke, with Katrine Schiøtt, in Istanbul:
Moddi’s Facebook response to the Gazans is as poignant and defiant as his song, Smoke:
I have chosen to cancel my performance in Tel Aviv on February 1st. This is without comparison the most difficult decision I have ever made as an artist, and one that hurts almost as much as it feels right.
The reason for my decision is the situation in Israel and the areas it controls. Although music can be a unique arena for public debate, the debate over these territories has been misused for a long time. Discussion and dialogue creates an impression of constant progress. The realities of politics are very different. An example: as we speak, John Kerry is negotiating peace talks between Israel and Palestine, while at the same time Israel announces the construction of 1400 new settlements on occupied land. While everyone speaks about a two-state solution, the constant scattering of the West Bank through the building of new control posts, security fences and walls are making such a solution practically impossible.
The discourse of peace creates a thick veil, concealing the increasingly tighter besiegement of Gaza, the ongoing fragmentation of the West Bank and the continuing discrimination of Arab-Israeli citizens. By encouraging ‘dialogue’ and ‘tolerance’ as ideals, I am afraid that my voice will do nothing but to increase the already dysfunctional divide between words and action in a conflict where no one seems to trust each other’s intentions.
I know that I disappoint many of my Israeli listeners and I am truthfully sorry that it has to stay like this for now. I believe that you will understand, although you might not agree. Again, I encourage you to read Jello Biafra’s article, which provides many perspectives and no clear answers to the questions he has been faced with. Like him, I am overwhelmed by the complexity of the situation. Therefore, I will be going to Israel and to the West Bank to see things with my own eyes, meet some of the people who have joined the discussion and try to understand the situation better.
As long as ‘dialogue’ continues to be a goal in itself and not a means to solve one of the deepest, most intense conflicts of this time, I will not lend my voice to it. For now I’ll keep away, hoping that things can change for the better and that one day I can carry through with my very first concert on an Israeli stage.