Rich Siegel is a Pianist, Vocalist, Musical Director, Orchestra Leader Composer, Lyricist. As a teenager he was the president of Zionist Youth group and a member of two others. In this interview we discuss about Israeli-Palestinian issue. He dedicate his song ” In Palestine” to the memory of daughter of his friend and to all children who were killed by the Israeli forces.
1. Rich Siegel, can you acquaint us about your background?
I am descended from the wave of Ashkenazi Jewish immigration to New York from Eastern Europe at the turn of the 20th century. My great-grandparents arrived from four different Eastern European countries and settled on the Lower East Side of New York. My parents were both raised in Brooklyn. I was raised in a suburb of New York, in a Reform synagogue. My parents were founding members of the synagogue. My parents were, and are, atheists. The atmosphere in this synagogue made religion a lot less important than Jewish tribal identity and Zionism. Those were the real reasons for this institution.
2. You were raised in a culture having a firm belief in Zionism, with the idea of superiority of Israel and inferiority of Arabs. As a teenager you were a president of Zionist Youth group and a member of two other groups, believing in the Zionist ideology. In those years have you ever personally interacted with any Arabs or try to find about their beliefs?
Yes I have, and more than threats, some actual harassment and vandalism. Most recently, a jazz critic named Brent Black has threatened to “Get me”. Not sure how to interpret that. He wrote a very positive review of my CD, called it “stellar”, and then after pressure from some Jewish readers, pulled the review, and has been writing a series of essays about me stating very uncomplimentary things, called me CD the “worst recorded music ever”, and has been harassing me. I have pro-Palestine bumper stickers on my car, and that has brought quite a reaction. I had a rabbi shouting obscenities at my house. And I’ve had actual vandalism on the car. Somebody smashed a fender with a crow-bar causing severe damage. Then when I had it repaired they did it a second time. I currently have a court case against a young man because of a “road rage” incident, and I have a libel suit pending against another man who wrote a letter to the editor stating that he saw me shouting obscenities at children at a demonstration. (I wasn’t even at the demonstration!) The libel suit is also filed against the newspaper which published the letter without fact-checking. Openly supporting Palestine in a Jewish neighborhood does leave one open to a lot of abuse!
9. Can you explain the definition of Zionism; many people often do not distinguish religious Jews from Zionists?
Zionism is Jewish nationalism. Specifically Zionism supports the idea of a Jewish state in “Zion”, the biblical land that corresponds to contemporary Palestine. Most Jew support Zionism, both religious and secular. A minority of Jews, both religious and secular, oppose Zionism.
10. Why the rest of the world isn’t doing enough to help Palestinians? We often see on media various protests in support for Palestine, but is that enough?
I think we are at a point where the majority of the PEOPLE of the world support Palestine, but the governments of the world are all tied into the New World Agenda, composed of international banking, American imperialism, and Zionism. Most heads of state are tied into that agenda. Some exceptional heads of state have opposed it, like Iran’s Ahmedinejad and recently deceased Chavez in Venezuela. Look at the complicated situation with Turkey. They cut off relations with Israel after the attack on the boat in 2010. But Obama visits Israel, gets Netanyahu to state “regret” (which is NOT an apology- let’s be clear), and now Turkey, it seems, is renewing relations. This is how American/Zionist/New World Order influence in the political landscape works. But I think the people of the world are becoming less and less tolerant. The future will be interesting.
11. You recorded a song “In Palestine”. Can you tell us the story behind that song? You dedicate that song to the memory of daughter of your friend and other Palestinian children who were killed by Israeli forces.
I met Bassam Aramin in New York at an event for Combatants for Peace. I knew he had lost his daughter, and for me meeting him was significant as I was going through a re-evaluation of the Zionism I was raised with. At this point I knew I was raised in a lie, and that this lie had caused much suffering. But meeting Bassam was the first time I had met someone who had suffered the kind of loss no parent should ever have to suffer: the death of a child. So I was very affected by meeting someone who had been victimized by Israel in this way- this Israel I had been lied to about all my life, and had supported because I had been lied to. I felt a personal responsibility to him. Of course, that responsibility could be extended to all parents who have suffered in this way, and there are many. Awhile later I had this idea for the song, wrote the music and part of the lyric, and contacted Dave Lippman to finish the lyric. Dave is another anti-Zionist Jew. Then I decided to produce a video around the song, dedicate it to Bassam’s late daughter Abir, and put it up on line. A lot of people have seen it. I hope it has started conversations. I re-recorded it recently, with a nice cello part, played by Eugene Moye, on my new CD “The Way to Peace” The CD also features my friend, Israeli ex-pat saxophonist and author, Gilad Atzmon. The CD is available at various online music sources. Amazon, CD Baby, I Tunes, etc.
12. How ideology of Zionism negatively effects on relations between two people? We often see images of Jews in demonstrations wearing slogans like “Zionism is responsible for anti-Semitism “; but on other had we see rabbis who are spreading hatred towards Arabs and Muslims in general.
We’re seeing an ideological struggle within the Jewish world. And this rift is getting wider. Many Jews are realizing that the hatred against Jews today is mostly a response to Zionist atrocities. But the belief system among Jews traditionally states that Jews are hated for “no reason”. So to place a reason on hatred against Jews is seen as blasphemy. We are not allowed to say this. Jews get hysterical. If you blame contemporary hatred against Jews on Zionism, then you might as well also say that Hitler had a good reason for killing so many Jews. This is the mentality among many Jews, sorry to say. So the vilification of Zionism’s victims continues on one side, while the more progressive side is insisting that we look at the hatred that Zionist crimes have inspired.
13. Why West and specially US administration support Israel even in UN more than 125 resolution veto by USA because it was against Israel ?
There is this “special relationship” between the US and Israel. And the question is often asked, which side is responsible for it? Is the dog wagging the tail or is the tail wagging the dog? I have limited insight into this, but I can’t help think that when more Americans come to understand that support for Israel has damaged American reputation around the world, that perhaps things will change. Do you know that America delayed the 1947 partition plan vote at the UN, in order to have time to bully certain “client states” into approving it? That vote violated the UN’s charter, as the wishes of a majority population were not considered. And that’s America’s fault. America is largely responsible for the birth of Israel. And Israel has been America’s baby ever since, tragically.
14. You observed any affect of Arab spring in on going struggle of Plaestine people against Israel ?
This really goes beyond my area of expertise. I find it hard to tell how much of this “Arab Spring” is legitimate, and how much of it is funded and propped up by overseas interests. I think it’s different in each locality. I can only hope that popular interests will ultimately be served in each location, and this outcome will certainly be helpful to Palestine.
15. You see any solution of Palestine Issue in coming future ?
Hard to say. I think the tolerance of the global community is growing thinner and thinner. I don’t think things can continue as they are indefinitely. But will it take 20 years, or will it suddenly change next month? I wish I knew. Better sooner than later!
16. What should be the role of Arab countries ?
Clearly leadership in all Arab countries should be to oppose the New World Order, oppose American imperialism, and insist on freedom for Palestine. As someone from outside the Arab community I can only observe the lack of unity in the Arab world and wonder why it is so. I have no insight and can offer no solution.
I’m finishing up a book. My essay “The Cult of Atheist Zionism Posing as Judaism” was published in Avigail Abarbanel’s new book “Beyond Tribal Loyalties” (available at the usual online booksellers) and writing this essay inspired me to expand it into a book. I’m also planning a new CD. And once I have finished these projects I would like to take a trip to Palestine. The last time I was there I lived and worked in Tiberias for awhile as a young Jewish-American Zionist. I would like to go this time with new eyes and a new awareness.