The exact announcement, with the rationale of his decision, is the following:
Cancellation of the Oud Festival concert
Friday, 16 November 2012 16:09
After much thought and deliberation, my colleagues (Giorgos Xylouris, Giorgos Manolakis, Kelly Thoma) and I have decided to cancel our concert at the Jerusalem Oud Festival scheduled for the 17th of November 2012. For us music simply has no place in what is effectively a war zone and we as peace-loving musicians most certainly do nοt belong there. Apart from anything else, we also have families on whom we have no right to impose the stress and worry that necessarily ensues from such situations.
Beyond this very simple fact there are also other considerations. I myself, despite my vehement opposition to the policies of the Israeli government with regards to its continuing occupation of the Palestinian territories and its ensuing subjugation and oppression of the Palestinian people, have visited Israel many times during the past 19 years, primarily within the context of projects connected with musical education. During this time I have made many very good friends there and I have had the opportunity to understand that Israel is anything but a monolithic society in which all parties agree on all issues. Most of my time in Israel has been spent in the company of young aspiring musicians who eagerly study the musical traditions of the Arab world, Turkey, Iran, Greece, Azerbaijan, as well as other Eastern modal traditions. It has always been my belief that the study of these musical traditions would necessarily be accompanied by an equally avid interest in acquiring a greater understanding of the people who created them and thus that the young Israeli students of this music would be working in this direction as well. For this reason, I have always been willing to travel to Israel for the sake of sharing what knowledge I have with these students in the firm belief that I would in this way be making at least a small contribution to the promotion of understanding and the establishment of more peaceful relations between different peoples. However there is a limit to what can be done by one well-meaning albeit very ordinary individual such as myself and it simply does nοt make sense in a war situation where people are suffering and dying to be obliviously playing concerts of what is effectively the music of Cretan village celebrations. After all, we are musicians with feelings and sensibilities, not music machines which can operate under all and any circumstances.
Having said this, I would also like to make clear my own position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as I am sure that there are plenty of people on both sides who will be more than willing to put their own "spin" on our decision not to travel to Israel at this time and I would very much like to avoid such distortions of the truth. For a start, I am a staunch supporter of the two state solution which would allow the people on both sides of what is today the conflict to live in peace, each with full powers of self-determination, in security, and with an equal chance at prosperity and happiness. I am also vehemently opposed to any interference in political processes (not only in the Middle East) by any form of organized religion. As a person of Irish extraction I am particularly sensitive to the absolute incompatibility of religion and politics and I find the religious dimension on both sides of the Middle Eastern conflict to be not only irrational but indeed abhorrent.
From a purely logistical point of view however, I do find it somewhat incongruous that a country with one of the largest and most modern military machines in the world (including allegedly a full-fledged nuclear arsenal!) should be attacking not a country but a mere territory, 57 times smaller than itself, whose weaponry is hopelessly primitive by comparison. For the sake of fairness though, it should be noted that this equation, when reversed, is equally absurd, albeit for other reasons.
The Palestinians, as a truly indigenous people, will, in one way or another, eventually find their place in the demographic fabric of the Middle East, albeit through a very long and painful process which will eventually have to include the acceptance by all factions of the state of Israel (probably an approximation of the 1967 borders). There is actually no other choice for them. The Israelis, on the other hand, the majority of whom are relatively recent arrivals from other parts of the world, would be well advised to seek their place in the region of the Middle East through the cultivation of peaceful and mutually beneficial relations with their neighbors and not through an excessive reliance on the military, financial and political might of a seemingly all-powerful America. No political entity in history has ever managed to maintain its power indefinitely and America does not seem poised to be an exception to this rule. This, in my opinion (for what it is worth), is the only long term strategy which makes sense and is certainly the one that has the most to offer to all concerned.
We continue to hope for an improvement in the situation and that we will be able in the near future to return to both Israel and Palestine to share our music with our friends there.
Posted on 19-11-2012