Sunday 31 March 2024


I have now been on all eleven London marches for Palestine/Gaza. Each of them can be numbered in the hundreds of thousands. Nobody now denies the genocide taking place in Palestine, but some shrug their shoulders and say nothing can be done about it. But doing nothing is doing something – it is complicity in the face of a massive and active crime which, if you are a UK or US citizen, is being carried with support from our political leaders and with our tax-paid-for weapons. Of course it is tolerated by our corporate media. If the streets were empty of protestors the situation would be so much worse. 

The Zionists claim that these are ‘hate marches’ and that the demonstrators make the streets unsafe for Jews. That is part of their Big Lie, that Zionism and Israel represent Jewish people as a whole. The demonstrations have shown that there are many Jews who stand with Palestine. The slogan of “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” is not a shout out for a mono-religious or mono-cultural Palestine, but a demand for a country of and for all of its peoples, of whatever faith or none.

This is not a new idea, but an acknowledgement of what existed before the state of Israel was imposed on the region. Historical Palestine was a part of the Ottoman Empire, one of the world’s most religiously tolerant. Its millet system gave autonomy and equality to all religions and cultures. This was by contrast to the dogmatic and oppressive Christian rule to the north and west. 

When, in 1492, Ferdinand of Spain expelled Jews from Spain who refused to convert to Christianity, the Ottoman Empire’s Sultan Beyazit II welcomed them. They were identified as Sephardic, deriving from the word Sepharad which in Hebrew means Spain. 

The Spanish Caliphate in Al-Andalus had been a beacon of learning, and the city of Córdoba became one of the leading cultural and economic centres in Europe. Major advances were made in trigonometry (Geber), astronomy (Arzachel), surgery (Abulcasis), pharmacology (Avenzoar) and agronomy (Ibn Bassal and Abū l-Khayr al-Ishbīlī) and the region became a centre combining the Islamic, Jewish and Christian worlds. 

As someone interested in musical histories Andalusian music emerged in the 9th century as a mix of Muslim, Jewish, Gypsy and Christian troubadour genres. The lute has its origin in the Arabic oud, the guitar in the Arabic qithara.

The state of Israel was not created from any sort of progressive impulse, but set up for the salvation of Western imperial interests. As James Baldwin put it HERE, “The Palestinians have been paying for the British colonial policy of “divide and rule” and for Europe’s guilty Christian conscience for more than thirty years."

I have written HERE about the origins of Zionism and recommend you check out HERE Professor Haim Bresheeth eloquent appeal to bring Zionism to an end and return to convivencia.

Wednesday 27 March 2024

James Baldwin on Israel & Palestine


As a result of my birthday I discovered that, despite Facebook logarithms, a lot of people are reading my posts. I think that is not so much because they are my posts, but because there is a dearth of truth-telling in what we call the ‘mainstream media’. I will continue with these posts and, once a week, will place some of them on my website at

Many articles I publish are not mine at all, but emanate from writers and political commentators who deserve to be heard and read. With that in mind I start with James Baldwin’s 1979 article from The Nation. Sadly it is as prescient today as it was when written 45 years ago

Open Letter to the Born Again

James Baldwin

Jews and Palestinians know of broken promises. From the time of the Balfour Declaration (during World War I) Palestine was under five British mandates, and England promised the land back and forth to the Arabs or the Jews, depending on which horse seemed to be in the lead. The Zionists—as distinguished from the people known as Jews—using, as someone put it, the “available political machinery,’’ i.e., colonialism, e.g., the British Empire—promised the British that, if the territory were given to them, the British Empire would be safe forever.

But absolutely no one cared about the Jews, and it is worth observing that non-Jewish Zionists are very frequently anti-Semitic. The white Americans responsible for sending black slaves to Liberia (where they are still slaving for the Firestone Rubber Plantation) did not do this to set them free. They despised them, and they wanted to get rid of them. Lincoln’s intention was not to “free” the slaves but to “destabilize” the Confederate Government by giving their slaves reason to “defect.” The Emancipation Proclamation freed, precisely, those slaves who were not under the authority of the President of what could not yet be insured as a Union.

It has always astounded me that no one appears to be able to make the connection between Franco’s Spain, for example, and the Spanish Inquisition; the role of the Christian church or—to be brutally precise, the Catholic Church—in the history of Europe, and the fate of the Jews; and the role of the Jews in Christendom and the discovery of America. For the discovery of America coincided with the Inquisition, and the expulsion of the Jews from Spain. Does no one see the connection between The Merchant of Venice andThe Pawnbroker? In both of these works, as though no time had passed, the Jew is portrayed as doing the Christian’s usurious dirty work. The first white man I ever saw was the Jewish manager who arrived to collect the rent, and he collected the rent because he did not own the building. I never, in fact, saw any of the people who owned any of the buildings in which we scrubbed and suffered for so long, until I was a grown man and famous. None of them were Jews.

And I was not stupid: the grocer and the druggist were Jews, for example, and they were very very nice to me, and to us. The cops were white. The city was white. The threat was white, and God was white, Not for even a single split second in my life did the despicable, utterly cowardly accusation that “the Jews killed Christ’’ reverberate. I knew a murderer when I saw one, and the people who were trying to kilI me were not Jews.

But the state of Israel was not created for the salvation of the Jews; it was created for the salvation of the Western interests. This is what is becoming clear (I must say that it was always clear to me). The Palestinians have been paying for the British colonial policy of “divide and rule” and for Europe’s guilty Christian conscience for more than thirty years.

Finally: there is absolutely—repeat: absolutely—no hope of establishing peace in what Europe so arrogantly calls the Middle East (how in the world would Europe know? having so dismally failed to find a passage to India) without dealing with the Palestinians. The collapse of the Shah of Iran not only revealed the depth of the pious Carter’s concern for “human rights,” it also revealed who supplied oil to Israel, and to whom Israel supplied arms. It happened to be, to spell it out, white South Africa.

Well. The Jew, in America, is a white man. He has to be, since I am a black man, and, as he supposes, his only protection against the fate which drove him to America. But he is still doing the Christian’s dirty work, and black men know it.

The full article originally appeared in the September 29, 1979, issue of The Nation.

Friday 1 March 2024

Needed Time

I am in the final stages of writing my latest book on music and memory. It follows the food and memory book, My World Café'. I am now finalising the chapter on The Spitz, a music venue that was based in the old Spitalfields market in East London and run by Jane Glitre. We first met when we were both involved in the Bosnian war in the 90s. After returning to London I became a Spitz regular and enjoyed hearing their eclectic mix of artists. One of the most memorable for me was the blues/folk guitarist Eric Bibb who performed there in 2000 and the chapter title will be Needed Time, one of his songs which was first brought to prominence by Lightning Hopkins.

The Spitz closed in 2007, a victim to corporate greed. This London said of its enforced closure, “investors take advantage of London’s unique creative environment by destroying it.” They couldn’t destroy the woman who had climbed over Bosnia’s Mount Igman to reach besieged Sarajevo and she set up the Spitz Charitable Trust.They take live music into care homes and hospitals. Their first work was at Bridgeside Lodge care home in Islington, but now also work at Northwick Park, Great Ormond Street and Ealing hospitals. They help in geriatric, stroke, mental health and childrens’ wards and have recently been asked to work in children’s hospices.

I visited Bridgeside in February 2024 to witness a musical morning with guitarist, Marcus Bonfanti and saxophone player, Pete Wareham. At a time when the world seems to be fast-tracking its way into barbarism, it was mightily refreshing to witness a strong dose of love, tenderness and excitement. They first visited the common room on the ground floor and played Music is Friendship, a song which had been composed by Big Joe (his preferred stage name) who smiled with happiness from his wheelchair. He is a younger man for whom creativity and song writing works wonders for his mental health.

Music is friendship
Music is life
Music is friendship
And it takes away my strife

They went on to play Bill Withers Lean on Me, and Stevie Wonder’s Don’t You Worry about a Thing. No more Vera Lynn.
They then moved on to residents who are unable to leave their beds. I stood outside Jean’s room as they played her one of her favourites, Love Me Tender. As they left I heard her say ‘Bless your hearts, that was really great”.

On the next floor there was John, whose face lit up when he saw that Marcus had brought him a guitar to play. His likes included Chuck Berry’s No Particular Place to Go' and Memphis Tennessee. Care worker Vivian added to the percolating joy with a routine that involved joyful dance with the tender holding of the hands of the immobile. The two musicians completed their set with John Martyn’s May You Never.

And may you never lay your head down
Without a hand to hold

Back in the corridor and we passed a resident who told the musicians he loved Balkan music. Both Jane and I could have helped here if only we played guitar or sax, but the two of them managed to oblige with little past experience of this genre.
What a morning. Care home residents who could forget their problems with music and their care workers who have the skills to transform troubles into a blaze of light, helped with song and music and a hand to hold.

"I have been working for the Spitz for over 5 years and it has made me fall back in love with music. I’ve been able to approach the day to day life of being a musician with a new attitude. Because of this I have sought out similar work elswhere and currently run workshops in a prison. I would not have had the confidence to undertake something like that had it not been for the work I do with The Spitz at Bridgeside Lodge."
Marcus Bonfanti, guitarist

"Before working with the Spitz at Bridgeside Lodge I had been recording, writing, touring and playing with a range of artists. I felt completely burnt out and realised that my life / work balance was in serious need of repair. This experience has repaired my love of music and given me a strong sense of its healing power. The effects of live music on people with physical and/ or neurological issues have been breathtaking and the deeply nourishing relationships I have built with residents have been transformative."
Pete Wareham, saxophonist

If you would like to know more about the Spitz go here

and if you’d like to support their work go here