On Start the Week Andrew Marr asks how the arts tackle politics and current affairs. The performer Rory Bremner turns his comedic eye to opera, in an updated version of Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld. Originally written to satirise Napoleon III’s Paris, Bremner draws present day parallels with a spin-filled, celebrity-obsessed world. For the last 30 years the film maker Peter Kosminsky has turned conflicts from Bosnia, to the Falklands, and Israel/ Palestine, as well as the story of New Labour, into drama and documentaries for television. In 1939 the Whitechapel gallery in London was the space chosen to show Picasso’s overtly political work, Guernica. The gallery’s present director Iwona Blazwick talks about how artists have reflected the political and present day concerns. And the singer/ songwriter Sarah Gillespie argues that the key to a good protest song is to harness the experience of the individual.
She has previously argued that the BBC’s Director General Mark Thomson is biased towards Israel, arguing that:
Perhaps the most menacing aspect of this tragic debacle is Mark Thomson himself. A quick bit of research online ploughs up a surfeit of information proving the man is far from ‘impartial’. His Jewish wife, the scholar Jane Blumfeild, hails from an American family that attends Yeshivas.
She writes about a concert she organised in 2009, with Medical Aid for Palestinians:
I was labeled a Holocaust denier. Not only was this accusation ludicrous and totally unfounded it was potentially damaging to me. It is clear that in this culture, you could query the extent of the Holodomor, the Nakba or the annihilation of American Indians without raising much of an eyebrow in the public domain, but to do the same with the deaths of Jews in the Second World War is tantamount to career suicide. My lawyer advised me to get the accusation removed from the Internet but I think it best serves as a small, cyber monument to the preposterous and baseless sewage in which some people are content to swim.
She wrote this piece, to protest the Hope Not Hate and Bradford TUC campaign against Gilad Atzmon.
Hope Not Hate wrote this week:
Atzmon is also implicated in the distribution of the Holocaust denier Paul [Eisen]’s book [NB: actually an essay] ‘The Holocaust Wars which he has described as a ‘great text’. This great text is notorious for its defence and espousal of amongst others Ernst Zundel, the convicted Holocaust denier. He has also been linked with Israel Shamir, another Holocaust denier, who has links to many white supremacist and Nazi groups. Indeed when Eisner’s document was originally posted it was on Shamir’s website, Atzmon described Shamir as a ‘unique and advanced thinker’.
We believe that Atzmon should be shunned by all decent people – just as we would shun David Irving and Nick Griffin. Just because Atzmon is Jewish does not mean that he cannot be either antisemitic or deny the Holocaust.
Bradford TUC voted unanimously to denounce Atzmon and his invitation to perform at the Raise Your Banners event. The TUC has written to the organisers in the hope that they will withdraw the invitation. Paul Meszaros, of Bradford TUC and HOPE not hate Yorkshire, said: “There is no way that Atzmon should play. The evidence against him is overwhelming.
“We are appalled at this decision and believe that this is a serious point of principle. Bradford TUC has long been at the fore of the anti-fascist movement in the area and it is in this tradition that we demand the withdrawl of Atzmon’s invitation.”
In this piece, he thanks various people for their solidarity with him, including Gilad Atzmon and Sarah Gillespie:
Of course the vast majority of people simply remained silent but there were some who openly and repeatedly demonstrated their solidarity e.g. Dan McGowan, Henry Herskovitz, Gilad Atzmon, Sarah Gillespie, Israel Shamir, Francis Clark-Lowes, Gill Kaffash, Amjad Taha, Randa Hamwi Duwaji, Cambridge PSC, Rosemary Ernshaw, Fr. Michael Prior RIP, Ernst Zündel; Ingrid Rimland.
The Arts council defence of Gilad Atzmon is that:
Atzmon was participating in the event “as a musician and not in his capacity as a political writer”.
Meanwhile, Gillespie will discuss “the arts and politics” on BBC Radio 4.
What is the BBC’s reasoning?