May 6, 2013

Listen to the Palestinian students Jian: An open letter to a CBC Radio host

A young Jian Ghomeshi sings the 'Gulf War Song'
in 1994 at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with his band Moxy Fruvous
Dear Jian Ghomeshi
By David Heap

It's been a long time, but I remember marching with you (and many others) in Toronto, against the Gulf War -- the first one, in the early 1990s. Back then we all went to Moxy Früvous gigs around campus, and listened your recordings. When I recently found a way to go back and play old songs we only have on cassette (remember cassettes?) I had an opportunity to explain to my kids that there was a Gulf War before the Gulf War that they knew about marching against.

Last time we heard you perform, it was again your haunting "Gulf War Song" which you sang at the Pete Seeger tribute concert at Massy Hall in Toronto (later in the 1990s). You seemed pretty excited to be on stage with Pete, and we were vicariously proud to see you there too. In 2011 Pete joined the growing number of artists who publicly support the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, which includes the cultural boycott of events that support the Israeli occupation. Like many of your former fans (we listen to your radio show too when we can, but in part because of the music from past decades), I am calling on you to do the same now. 

We'd be very proud and happy again if you would join Pete and the others in standing up for justice for Palestinians.

This would of course mean turning down the invitation from Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University to appear at their event this week, an event which legitimates many aspects of that occupation. Awkward to turn down an invitation on such short notice, perhaps -- but nowhere near as "awkward" as the situation of Palestinian students at the Hebrew University. Those students and their federations (remember student federations Jian? unlike cassettes, they are still around) have already written to you in great detail about their conditions, so I will just point out that they (like so many other Palestinians, young and old) do not enjoy the freedoms you and I did as students. Freedoms to march, to perform their music and engage other cultural activities, freedom to their own cultural and political identities, even the freedom to study as they wish.

Those Palestinian students will not win their rights this week or even this year, but as Pete sings in the "Maple Syrup Song" you covered for his 2001 tribute album, anything worthwhile takes a little time. The question is, will you stand with them now?

You have a chance today to side publicly with justice and against oppression, cultural and political. A lot of your fans are hoping you will turn down this invitation, and I am among them.

You can write to Jian at or

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