In response to a request to withdraw performance of Gilad Atzmon, November 2011
With less than a week to go, Raise Your Banners 2011 organisers are gearing up to a very busy festival. In the past seven days we have had further expressions of concern about our inclusion of Gilad Atzmon to headline one of our seven concerts. Two blogs condemned the festival and its funders for hosting him because they accused Gilad Atzmon of anti-Semitism and holocaust-denial.
These recent claims followed publicity in two blogs on November 12th, and were followed on November 17th by a critical news item in the Jewish Chronicle. We have had eight expressions of concern, some asking us to rescind the invitation to Gilad Atzmon. To do so at this stage would have very bad financial implications for the festival now and in the future.
The committee already considered similar concerns in April, decided to continue its invitation to Gilad Atzmon, and issued a statement then. That statement is reproduced below.
Gilad Atzmon’s philosophical and political writings stir up keen arguments about identity politics within the socialist movement, as well as a strong reaction from their main target the Israeli government. As we explained in our earlier statement in April, we do not believe the claims of anti-Semitism are justified. All artists have signed contracts to adhere to our equal opportunities policy in which abusive or discriminatory behaviour or language are unacceptable and will not be tolerated. We are sure that our audience would not tolerate any such behaviour.
Raise your Banners 2011 enjoys a broad range of contributions. At its Jazz night Israeli Gilad Atzmon is joined by Palestinian Nizar al Issa, UK singer Sarah Gillespie as well as the Orient House Ensemble. We had hoped that Cuban Omar Puente would also be present. In our film room we are showing Holocaust: a music memorial from Auschwitz. John Hamilton will be leading a workshop Songs to Counter the Zionist Bullies with Strawberry Thieves choir. We did not accept Gilad’s offer to present a workshop of his philosophical writing.
Raise Your Banners is an internationalist celebration of the power of music and song. We hope to see you there.
Sam Jackson – Secretary of Raise Your Banners
Ludi Simpson, – Treasurer of Raise your Banners and organiser of the Jazz concert
18 November 2011
In response to a request to withdraw performance of Gilad Atzmon, April 2011
Raise your Banners 2011 is proud to present its festival of political song in Bradford once more. It is sixteen years since Sheffield Socialist Choir organised the first Raise your Banners in celebration of the great Wobblie union organiser and songster Joe Hill. Raise your Banners unites political choirs with soloists and bands, to celebrate committed and campaigning music that constantly renews the vision of equality for all the world’s peoples. Raise your Banners is music to celebrate ordinary people joining together to struggle for something they want, whether it is local childcare or opposition to the ravages of global capitalism. We seek the best artists who will celebrate popular struggles in their music and song, and aim for all to have a rollicking good time.
RyB 2011 is developing apace. For the Friday night we have planned two big events in parallel: a folk concert with John Tams, Barry Coope and Roy Bailey, and a jazz concert with Gilad Atzmon, Omar Puente, Nizar al Issar, and Sarah Gillespie. We have had opposition to our invitation to Gilad Atzmon to play, and requests that Raise your Banners revoke this invitation on the basis that Gilad Atzmon’s political and philosophical statements have been anti-semitic and have denied the murder of millions in Nazi concentration camps. Gilad Atzmon rejects this interpretation of his writings. The request has come principally from the Jewish Socialists’ Group and some individual supporters of Raise your Banners festival. We have discussed the matter with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and are satisfied that PSC have no boycott of Gilad Atzmon or events that he is involved in.
The organising committee have discussed this matter in detail, following distribution of the material sent by those objecting to Gilad Atzmon’s invitation to the festival, and a summary of the statements by Gilad Atzmon, with links provided so that people could make their own minds up. A full discussion as held at which all members of the organising committee were able to give their opinions and then respond to those made by others. A vote by members of the organising committee was inconclusive so the directors, as those with ultimate responsibility for the festival, then voted to continue with the invitation to Gilad Atzmon, with the provision that all performers’ contracts include adherence to RyB’s equal opportunities policies.
Raise your Banners festival directors are not arbiters of political disputes between those who consider themselves part of the progressive movements with which the festival identifies. We trust that all our supporters and all our performers will work to make the festival a musical celebration of struggles for equality and against discrimination of the poor and oppressed.
Sam Jackson – Secretary of Raise Your Banners April 2011