Yesterday we ran musician Rich Siegel's report that a gig he was doing at a church in Rochester, NY, with Gilad Atzmon, like Siegel an anti-Zionist, got cancelled because of political pressure, including from a local temple, B'rith Kodesh. Some folks who read the report queried John Keevert, a Rochester social justice activist who had helped schedule the event at his Unitarian church. Keevert said that Siegel's report was inaccurate. "We did not cancel because of Temple pressure." Why then? "Scheduling conflict," he wrote in a note to the questioners. "it has been scheduled in a new location, same time." We asked Siegel for the latest:
The concert has been reinstated, but at a different venue. I am convinced that the concert was initially canceled because of the objection from the rabbi. And I believe that what is being said now is pure bull.
Here's the story: This concert/presentation at First Unitarian of Rochester has been booked for probably around two months- I can check old e mails to verify. All of a sudden we get a communication that the concert is canceled. Two reasons are given: 1) that there are other events scheduled at the same time in the building, and the noise level would interfere, and 2) that a local rabbi contacted the church objecting to Gilad Atzmon
. So please note that it was stated outright from the start that ONE of two reasons was the communication from the rabbi. To deny this now is disingenuous.
The concert/presentation came about when Dan McGowan, founder and chairman of Deir Yassin Remembered
, booked us to play in Geneva, NY, which we are also doing, and then got in touch with the church and offered us for a second night. Dan continued to be involved, and when the church canceled giving those two reasons, Dan offered two options: to move the concert to a different venue, or to keep it at the church, removing the musical aspect of the evening and turning it into spoken presentations by the three of us- Dan, Gilad, and myself. No noise. The church turned him down, proving that the rabbi's objection was the one and only reason for the cancellation. The church was clearly determined to just shut down the event, and was not interested in options, and I have e mails indicating exactly that.
Dan and I had a conversation and agreed that we should organize an e mail and telephone campaign. I'm good at that, so I spread the word and people started making communications. A friend of mine, Emman Chehade Randazzo, a Palestinian woman married to an American and living in Chicago, telephoned John Keevert, chair of the Social Justice Council. He was one of the two people involved in both the booking and the cancellation, the other being Ron Johnson of the church. (I'm not sure if the council is part of the church or a separate entity.) John Keevert took Emman's call, and explained to her that he had heard some very disturbing things about Atzmon (evidently from the rabbi). Emman communicated to me that he said, basically, that Atzmon is a Jewish Anti-Semite. This was significant because it made it clear that the people we were dealing with had been influenced by propaganda, and it was not just the rabbi's objection that caused the cancellation but it had evolved into a situation where it had become, through the rabbi, our own host's objection.
I got in touch with Atzmon and communicated the situation to him. He in turn called Keever and explained that he is often quoted with "cherry-picked" quotes taken out of context, and was able to convince Keever that he is not an Anti-Semite and that it would be very bad indeed to cave into pressure from Zionists. I wasn't privy to the conversation but all of a sudden we were back on, at another venue, but still hosted by the church and the Social Justice Council. And it seems from the character of subsequent conversations that our hosts have returned to being as enthusiastic as they previously had been. It seems that they came to a realization of some sort, probably that the rabbi was part of an agenda that they don't want to support.