By Gilad Atzmon
Before the publication of my recent book, Being in Time, I visited the USA for a brief coast-to-coast tour. The literary/music expedition was met with significant opposition in New York City at Theatre 80. Theatre 80 is a great historical institution with a history of providing an intelligent platform for musicians including John Coltrane and Thelonius Monk, theatre, movies and speakers, including me.
We planned a night of open discussion on different issues to do with my new book, critiquing ID politics and the post political condition. We wanted a truly open dialogue and we personally invited each of my NYC and American detractors to share the podium. Apparently, not one had the courage to engage in a public dialogue with me. This is understandable I guess, I’ve bought myself a reputation of being outspoken on issues to do with Jewish power and controlled opposition.
The program evolved into a diverse panel featuring: Stanley Cohen, Prof. Norton Mezvinsky, Michael Lesher and yours truly. It didn’t take long before the Jewish Forward together with family incest enthusiast Donna Minkowitz ran a hit piece on myself, the event and Theatre 80. This attack was followed by one Jewish ethnic activist Bill Weinberg. Soon after the rabid ultra Zionist Times of Israel joined in.
However, defying what Zionist have come to expect, Theatre 80’s owner Lorcan Otway made his position very clear. Otway is a Quaker and a staunch supporter of freedom of speech and an authentic defender of the 1st amendment, Otway wrote ”I Will Not Bend To Calls For Censorship at Theatre 80…..several people are upset that Gilad Atzmon is renting my theatre. Others, may be offended by other shows. I invite speech to be answered by speech.”
Despite the relentless and at times threatening pressure to cancel the event, the panel was a great success. The room was full, the Q&A was fascinating and brought to light the ideological divisions that split American society. The discussion was the antithesis of the kosher echo-chamber my detractors are desperate to impose on the West and the USA in particular.
But here is where you are called into action. Theatre 80 struggles. HOFOPRO, a nonprofit organisation that supports great theatre at Theatre 80 has gotten no contributions this year. Otway writes, “we get large numbers of people every day supporting the theater, the museum, the tavern, but the city is just too expensive to support small business. Without HOFOPRO making it possible for underfunded theater companies to afford to play here, we will have to call it an end to Theater 80.”
Lorcan has given his life to this theatre, probably the last bastion of freedom in NYC. “I would be happy to live out the end of my days without weekends, no vacations… but you all seem to be saying to me that we are not worth preserving. Is that what I am hearing these days?”
Let’s prove to Lorcan that he is wrong. We do care about his theatre, we do care about freedom, we do care about Lorcan Otway, this precious human being who adheres to the principles that made the USA into the promised land for so many people around the world. We must prove to Lorcan and the world that Athens is possible.
Please open your heart, put your hand in your pocket and show Lorcan how much you appreciate his principled attitude toward tolerance and freedom.
To donate towards the survival of Theatre 80 – https://hofopro.org/donate/
Gilad Atzmon is an Israeli-born British jazz saxophonist, novelist, political activist and writer.
Atzmon’s album Exile was BBC jazz album of the year in 2003. Playing over 100 dates a year, he has been called “surely the hardest-gigging man in British jazz.” His albums, of which he has recorded nine to date, often explore the music of the Middle East and political themes. He has described himself as a “devoted political artist.” He supports the Palestinian right of return and the one-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
His criticisms of Zionism, Jewish identity, and Judaism, as well as his controversial views on The Holocaust and Jewish history, have led to allegations of antisemitism from both Zionists and anti-Zionists. A profile in The Guardian in 2009 which described Atzmon as “one of London’s finest saxophonists” stated: “It is Atzmon’s blunt anti-Zionism rather than the music that has given him an international profile, particularly in the Arab world, where his essays are widely read.”