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Gilad Atzmon argues that the breadth of support shown for the Jazza music festival, held in London on 12 and 13 October, demonstrates the extent to which the tide has turned in favour of the Palestinian struggle, which has now become ”part of Western collective conscience”.


Scenes from Jazza

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The London Jazza festival is behind us. It was stressful and we took a massive risk, but it turned out to be a great success. For some of us, it was the most musically meaningful event we have ever participated in.It occurred to me a while back that as far as Palestinian affairs are concerned, the tide has indeed changed – the struggle of the Palestinian people has now become part of the Western collective conscience. We are a mass movement that  is becoming increasingly aware of itself.

At our first Jazza festival last week, leading artists of all genres united together with an audience from all walks of life to side with the Palestinians. At the Scala in London, we stood together in protest against Israeli brutality. Funds were raised for the Free Palestine Movement, an organization that challenges many aspects of the occupation and will soon bring the all-important question of the Right of Return right to the heart of Tel Aviv.

Jazza is an event, though, which is above political agendas: as with the peace activists on board the Mavi Marmara, we have a humanitarian mission to accomplish. We are artists who very simply believe that beauty is hope. And we know that it is our duty to depict an alternative reality through our music.

Naturally enough, we were supported by every possible Palestinian and Arab media outlet: The Palestine Telegraph rallied with us, as did the Palestine Chronicle. Middle East Online covered the production process and covered the event. Press TV promoted us and sent a team to cover the event.

We were supported by the dissident network too: the Socialist Workers Party featured us on its front page, as did The Truth Seeker, Salem News, Redress Information & Analysis,,, the People Voice, Uprooted Palestinians and many others.

So far, so usual. But here is the interesting bit: even the mainstream media joined us. The Guardian made us their choice of the week, followed by a post-event review, which gave us four out of five stars . The London Metro highlighted the festival for its readers and BBC London asked me to the studio to talk about the event and other Palestinian issues. The BBC World Service also sent a journalist to cover the event.

“…who would have thought that so many mainstream promotion agencies harboured sympathy for the Palestinian cause and are now willing openly to express it too.”

A week before kick off, however, we spotted a central point regarding our marketing strategy: we realized that we had been focusing solely on the Palestinian solidarity network. But then we grasped that, with such a dynamic lineup of artists with universal appeal, we had better take the opportunity to attract some new audiences to the cause – and here again was more proof of that “turning tide” I am talking about. Thus, who would have thought that so many mainstream promotion agencies harboured sympathy for the Palestinian cause and are now willing openly to express it too.

Every person and every organization we approached was more than willing to help us: London clubs and promoters lent us their marketing tools, spreading the message of our festival through their email lists and websites. Music shops and social networks asked to participate and student unions did the same, with students and activists distributing leaflets across London campuses.

We created a buzz.

I have never in my life seen so much willingness and enthusiasm put into one event. We were backed by everybody I could think of – except the Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s national office! We were delighted that the Free Gaza Movement joined in, pleased to have a stall and distribute important information about the UN flotilla enquiry. Twinning with Palestine were also represented, carrying the necessary message across.

After all, this is the point of such events: for groups in solidarity to share information about causes related to the Palestinian struggle with the largest possible audience.

Following the success of the London Jazza festival, we, the artists, plan to take the festival to the road. In the autumn we’ll tour Europe and North America.

“We were backed by everybody I could think of – except the Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s national office!”

Jazza is tired of the rhetoric of old, decaying politicians. We are artists. We are thrilled by beauty and sound. We care about Palestine, and we are seeking to make a change. Paul Larudee of the Free Palestine Movement vowed from the London Scala stage: “We start here tonight our march to Wembley.”

I can see it happening. I will make it happen.

I would like to thank you all for your support:

  • Free Palestine Movement for believing in us
  • Sarah Gillespie for putting it all together. This woman can move walls.
  • Lauren Booth for being clever.
  • Dave Groom for joining in exactly when we really need him
  • Ghada Karmi for the words of support
  • Robert Wyatt for the spirit.
  • The artists: Nizar al-Issa, Enzo Zirili, Ben Bastin. The Unthanks, Ros Stephen and the Sigamos Quartet, Yaron Stavi, Eddie Hick, Frank Harrison, Shadia Mansour, Tali Atzmon, Stormtrap, Rory McLeod, Clevland Watkiss, Peter King, Oren Marshal, Seb Rochford and Alex Garnet.
  • Maramia Café for the best humus in town. Here is my new peace resolution: “Two people, one humus”.
  • Free Gaza for the support
  • Twinning with Palestine for the effort and support
  • 606 Jazz club, Pizza Express Jazz Club, Vortex Jazz Club,, London Students Union.
  • All our friends who took care of it all – the box office, the raffle tickets, the merchandize, stage management and many more.
  • All of you who donated to the event.
  • And all of you out there who supported us all along.


Gilad Atzmon was born a secular Israeli Jew in Tel Aviv and trained at the Rubin Academy of Music in jerusalem.  His service as a paramedic in the Israeli Defense Forces during the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon caused him to reach the conclusion that  “I was part of a colonial state, the result of plundering and ethnic cleansing.” In 1994 Atzmon emigrated from Israel to London, where he attended the University of Essex and earned a Masters degree in Philosophy.  He has lived there since, becoming a British citizen in 2002.  Atzmon’s novels have been published in 22 languages.  His first novel A Guide to the Perplexed, published in 2001, is set in a future where by 2052 Israel has been replaced by a Palestinian state for 40 years.  HIS WORK CAN BE FOUND AT: Gilad Atzmon – Writings


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