Notes from a cancelled music event

Summary: as the death toll mounts on both sides, calls for restraint are largely absent, a worrying sign that the current Gaza-Israel war is heading toward a dangerous new outcome.

On Wednesday, 11 October Southwark Cathedral with its Chapel of Reconciliation was to be the site of an extraordinary music event, the tenth anniversary celebration of the work of PalMusic UK.  PalMusic as it says on its website “are UK ambassadors for the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music (ESNCM) in Palestine which provides musical education of the highest quality to young Palestinians.” More than 2000 young musicians are enrolled in their programmes.

In the wake of the Hamas attack the concert has been cancelled with Cathedral officials citing security concerns.

With more than 1200 Israelis massacred by Hamas gunmen and with over 1000 Palestinians killed already in the near carpet-bombing retaliation of the IDF on Gaza and its 2.3 million  people a cancelled music event in London passes with barely a ripple.

In the fog of war and with raw and angry emotions running high this might seem, and is in fact, a scarcely noteworthy event. Except that it is noteworthy.

ESNCM is a bridge of hope and possibility in a place where, unlike anything ever seen before, the actions of the most extreme government in Israel’s history is determined to deny Palestinians all hope and crush  all possibilities .

There can be no doubt that the massacres of unarmed Israeli civilians on 7 October have shown the true face of Hamas as a ruthless and brutal organisation. But as we argued in our 9 October newsletter the actions of extremist ministers like Itamar Ben-Gvir made a Hamas operation inevitable.

The scale of the Hamas attack and the catastrophic intelligence failures that allowed it have surprised many observers. What is not surprising is the ruthless response of Israel. In addition to the hundreds of air-strikes that have already wiped out entire neighbourhoods, Israel has cut off water, food, gas and electricity  to Gaza as it conducts a campaign that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says will inflict “mighty vengeance” on Hamas.

Israel has cut off water, food, gas and electricity to Gaza, a war crime and lilkely crime against humanity under international law [photo credit: X/Twitter]
Israel has cut off water, food, gas and electricity to Gaza, a war crime and likely crime against humanity under international law [photo credit: X/Twitter]
That this vengeance involves air strikes with massive collateral damage to Palestinian families trapped in the enclave, that cutting off electricity, water and food to civilians constitutes a war crime is not of concern either to the Netanyahu government or an opposition that before the war was calling for his head and is now ready to join him in a national unity government.

Nor is it a concern to Western governments including our own who have promised full and unqualified backing for Israel. While it is understandable and even acceptable that Israel’s allies show their support, what is lacking is a concomitant call for restraint as the IDF seeks to carry out Netanyahu’s order to destroy Hamas: “All the places that Hamas hides in, operates from, we will turn them into ruins.” He told civilians to “get out of there” knowing that there is no escape from Gaza. (Shelling by the IDF near Rafah, the only open border crossing – already heavily restricted before the war by Egypt – was reported on 10 October after the PM’s warning.)

On Wednesday Gaza’s only power plant that was still functioning shut down as it ran out of fuel. Clean drinking water already extremely limited has become virtually unobtainable after Israel cut its supply of water.  The Israeli bombardment has forced UNRWA to halt food distribution. There is now, it seems, no limit to what Israel will do as it attempts to eradicate Hamas.

That campaign of eradication inevitably will fail. The unemployment rate in Gaza runs at above 50 %. Angry young men, most of whom will have lost family members in this latest war if not before will become the next generation of fighters. The cycle of violence and brutality on both sides will continue.

Itamar Ben-Gvir and his fellow fascists seek to drive Palestinians from Palestine by whatever means they are enabled to use. Unconditional blanket support for Israel from Western governments serves to further empower them. Benjamin Netanyahu turned to the extremists to avoid a conviction for fraud when it was clear he had run through every other political grouping in his long career of deceptions and betrayals. Now he is in their power more than ever before and they will strive to bend him to their plan to ethnically cleanse the Palestinian people from what is left of Palestine. However the levelling of Gaza – the threatened land invasion –  should it come about will not stop the conflict.

Nor will the Palestinians be driven from their homeland.  They have shown great resilience in  a resistance that is reflected not just in armed struggle but much more so in peaceful actions. In music, for example.

In announcing the postponement PalMusic UK  said

(the)concert was highlighting the achievements of young Palestinian musicians. We support them to learn music as we believe in its power to bring harmony and create hope.

We are deeply saddened by the events in Gaza and Israel since Saturday and for the loss of innocent lives. We stand for peace.

PalMusic UK noted that Southwark Cathedral continues to support its work.  The organisation remains hopeful that the concert can be rescheduled.

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