My message to the Israeli ambassador: Put down your weapons, and negotiate in good faith

Last night, the Klezmer Rebs performed for the Hanukah party in Wellington’s Civic Square.  I felt particularly elated to be playing Klezmer music in the main square of my home town, a thriving multicultural city that has gone from strength to strength in the thirty years that I’ve called it home.  Props to our Mayor Celia Wade-Brown for inviting the Jewish Community to celebrate in the square.

The main organiser of the event was the Israeli Embassy.  I have never been happy with an embassy organising what is essentially a religious event, for complex reasons which will be articulated in a future blog post.

The Klezmer Rebs collectively, and I personally have been very uncomfortable with the recent actions of the Israeli government, and we feel that there has been no measurable progress toward a sustainable peace, due in significant part to a lack of leadership by the Israeli government.  So we took the opportunity to make a political statement directly to the Ambassador, Shemi Tzur, in our introduction to our medley of peace songs.  I wrote the statement, and the band helped me revise it.  Here’s what I said:

Mr Ambassador, I’m glad you implored people earlier today to pray for peace, but we need more than prayer – we need action.  Praying, singing and dancing for peace aren’t enough; bringing about peace, and overcoming decades of counterproductive attitudes and actions is very hard work and requires individual and collective leadership and commitment from everyone including the Israeli government.  The time has come to tell your Government to show that leadership, put down your weapons, and seriously negotiate in good faith to bring about peace.  Bombing civilians and building settlements on land whose ownership is in question is not good faith.  Fulfil the words of Isaiah, and show that Israel is called into righteousness as a light unto the nations.  The time is now.

Prior to making that statement, I called to Shemi by name from the stage to make sure he was paying attention.  He was standing directly in front of the PA, and I looked him in the eye as I made the statement.  Today’s DomPost ran an article on page 2 (print version only) entitled “Peace plea made to Israeli envoy at Hanukkah Concert”, which said that “… Mr Tzur said via a spokesman he had not heard the message and had no further comment”.  All I can say is that this is an indication that the Israeli government is either disingenuous, pathologically deaf, or both.

We feel it is important that the Ambassador and his government hear this message from Jews.  Many of us abhor the actions of the Israeli government, and feel that successive governments since 1967 have let down their citizens, the Jewish People, and the world through their inaction and lack of leadership to address the fundamental issues that need to be resolved to create a lasting peace in the Middle East.

Several people came up to me after the concert and congratulated me for the courage to make such a statement publicly.  Only one person approached me, my cousin, and admonished me for making political statements on behalf of the Jewish community at a public event. Nowhere had I purported to be making statements on behalf of anyone, other than myself and the band, but I do know that there a large segment of the local Jewish community agrees with the statement that I made.

We are at a turning point.  Some would say that we are beyond the point of no return, but I am a perennial optimist and know that with enough good will and political pressure, we can make real progress toward peace.  And if they can’t hear us, perhaps we need to turn the volume up.


  1. Hi Dave,
    I have always valued our friendship, and I am proud of your courage and determination. Wee said. Mazel tov.

  2. The fact that the Embassy organises these events is really because the community is not doing so. I was in Wellington for Channukah last year, and there were no community events OTHER than the Embassy event.

    To use a religious event to push a political message is totally inappropriate, and frankly quite rude.

    Sadly, your message is flawed as well “Bombing Civilians” makes out like Israel is just a bloodthirsty evil entity. Exactly like Hamas and other extremists, which is clearly an inaccurate comparison.

    Also it is completely one-sided, as nobody is taking a similar stand on the Palestinian side. Is there any Palestinian Peace organisation brave enough to stand up to its government. Any criticism that Mahmoud Abbas continually refuses talks? No.

    If you want to state that you are talking on behalf of “many” Jews, then start up an organisation and get some membership to state it. Organise your own Channukah function. Otherwise you are just making yourself this “defacto” mouth piece.

  3. I’m saddened that you thought this was an appropriate time and place to air your personal comments. And how rude of you also to accuse the ambassador of lying. You were employed to play music at an event he was hosting….time and place Dave, learn the difference.

  4. Fred, I agree with you 100%. I hope he does not get invited next year. He actually ruined the celebration. The gathering was not a politcal one but a religious celebration. Shame on him. I’m not a Jew but I’m probably more a Jew than him. I have more love for the country of Israel and its people than him.

  5. I didn’t accuse the ambassador of lying, I said “…that the Israeli government is either disingenuous, pathologically deaf, or both.” There is the possibility that the problem lay not with the ambassador, but rather with his spokesman. As for time and place, well … thankfully this is a free country where we have the right to speak our mind.

  6. Maria, it is precisely my love for the country of Israel and its people that drives me and the band to make these comments. Without peace, Israel is not viable in the medium to long term. Only by striving for and attaining peace will the region be sustainable for both Israelis and Palestinians alike.

    As for my Jewish credentials, I suggest you do some research.

  7. Come on Dave the implication was there, the whole, ” I looked him in the eye and made sure he was looking at me etc….”
    Was it a set up Dave, a publicity stint, it certainly smacks of it….???

  8. Sam, what conclusion would you reach if you were talking directly to someone and they then denied hearing you?

    As for a set-up, I’m not sure what you mean by that, but I had thought carefully about what I wanted to say beforehand.

  9. I was fortunate to have left before these appalling comments were made. They are unacceptable, ill-considered, arrogant and un-Jewish. Jews don’t embarrass their hosts who organised the event (or anyone else for that matter), they don’t give false impressions (that this crazed outburst represented Jewry’s opinion), they don’t try to set up enmity between fellow Jews, they don’t deny the attacked victim natural justice, ie a chance to be heard in response. Please keep the expression of your silly ideas to the appropriate forum, perhaps one that you have organised for the purpose.

  10. Gary, you’re obviously entitled to your opinion. Un-Jewish? I don’t know how you’re measuring that – in our daily prayers we pray to “make peace where there is strife”. Far from trying to set up enmity between fellow Jews, I am trying to promote understanding and empathy which seems sorely lacking.

    To all of my co-religionists criticising me for promoting peace, I can only say that we will each reap the rewards of our individual and collective efforts – we are continually building the world that we live in, and hopefully repairing it in the process. We all make our own choices, and I urge people to “Choose Life”, and add their voices to the call for peace through negotiation.

  11. “Far from trying to set up enmity between fellow Jews, I am trying to promote understanding and empathy which seems sorely lacking.”

    Really? Was “empathy” realized by arranging a reporter to be on hand to record your onstage ejaculations? Did “understanding” consist of accepting an invitation to perform, pocketing the fee and proceeding to smugly defame one’s hosts?

    As for “promoting peace” and “building a world in which we live in” (huh?), how in heaven’s name do you think any of this unalloyed self-promotion adds an iota of positive value to what’s happening 10,000-plus miles away? You ought to be ashamed of yourself.

  12. Lionel, we didn’t arrange for a reporter to be on hand, in fact there was no reporter on hand. I understand the reporter rang David W after the event. My comments were misreported, which led me to write this blog post to set the record straight as to what I actually said.

    This is not about self-promotion; we felt that we were all taking significant risk in making this statement, which apparently fell on deaf ears. It is about bringing about change. If I’m ashamed of anything, it’s the way that Israel allows the current situation to continue, and the way that reflects on many people in the Jewish Community who stand by unquestioningly.

    You may know the song, “Es Brent” … thee chorus goes “Un ir shteyt un kukt azoy zikh mit farlegte hent” – You just stand there watching with your hands crossed. I felt I could no longer just stand by, it was time to do something.

  13. I will repeat what I told Dave in private: The Kleyzmers used the Trojan horse deception tactic. Unlike what many anti-semite say, deception is against Jewish values and is only reserved for exceptional circumstances, for instance for pikuah nefesh, to defend yourself, or during war. Using deception among friends by the Kleizmers was a mistake. Maybe, consulting someone ‘spiritual’, like a Rabbi, before acting, could have prevented this? But let get over it and give them credit for the wonderful music they played for us.

  14. Alex, we’re plenty spiritual. Sue, David W, and I all lead services at Temple Sinai; Sue and I have both been presidents as well as on the ritual committee when the Temple has had no rabbi. We don’t feel that we have deceived any one – you pretty much get what’s on the label. Many of our songs speak out against injustice and oppression, and that’s exactly what we did. We believed we were being respectful and even handed. All our statement did was to ask the Ambassador to show leadership and pursue peace. We stand by that. How can that be deception in the context of the songs we were about to sing (Lo yisa goy el goy kherev, V’khitetu kharvotam l’itim, Oseh shalom, Hevenu shalom alekhem) ???

  15. I would suggest that everyone read the article on this link:

    Think about these things: we are commanded to pursue peace (Isaiah)
    We are taught to pray for peace, daily
    We are reminded that to take no action when observing wrong behaviour is as bad as the behaviour itself. (and yes, I know the critics can use this against the band…..)

    And yes, I am a zionist. But I don’t think that continued acts of aggression and retaliation will provide a peaceful solution.

  16. For the record, I too am a Zionist, going by the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary definition: “A movement for [originally] the reestablishment of a Jewish nationhood in Palestine, and [since 1948] the development of the State of Israel.” But further development is unsustainable without peace.

  17. Dave, sorry I have not even heard of you so I’m not interested or to waste my time in researching your credentials.

    So I gather you are actually a wolf in sheep’s clothes? Next time I hope the organizer should do a rigid research on who they should invite to the Hanukkah festival. Especially those who are pretentious.

    But congratution for making it to stuff news. I hope you get more dig invites after that.

  18. Maria, LOL. Gather what you like, the truth is directly before you, and Google is its main sales channel. If I’m a wolf, I’m howling for peace and threatening devour war. As I say above, with me and the band, you pretty much get what’s on the label. Oh, but you have to read the label.

    Say, does the Ministry of Social Development know you’re using their equipment and bandwidth for these purposes during work hours?

    Author : maria (IP: ,
    Whois :

  19. Don’t misunderstand. The issue here is not the Kleyzmers opinion on the Middle East conflict but their conduct. Imagine this situation: The Kleyzmers negotiating the Embassy of Israel their appearance in the event, sitting in front of the organisers, speaking to them face to face, perhaps having a laugh or two together. But in reality they are hiding their intentions and use the Trojan horse tactic to stab their counterpart in the back. The mother of all deceptions!
    And what are the Kleyzmers preaching for? Negotiations.

  20. Hearing Jews say that politics and religion are not inextricably related to one another is one if the strangest things I have ever heard. As far as I have observed, striving for peace seems to be a fundamental desire of Judaism and is mentioned and prayed for in every service and many traditional songs. Peace for a nation is achieved by political actions. We can fervently pray for peace till the cows come home, but it is governments that choose a nations responses. Governments choose actions that the people demand and the people usually demand it, sooner or later, however they can.

  21. Alex, that’s not the way it happened. The gig was organised many months ago, and our plan was to come along and play as we would at any other gig. Then the fighting escalated… Once “Operation Pillar of Defense” had run its course, with many civilians dead on both sides, we felt that we could no longer remain silent, and that after the fighting had stopped was the right time to speak out.

    So while you have a fertile imagination, what really happened was rather more mundane.

  22. Deception is deception, and stabbing in the back is against Jewish values, period. The war has nothing to do with what you have done.

  23. good on you Dave. It’s hard to get the message across that there are other viewpoints in our communities. I’m in Melbourne. Keep at it!

  24. Sue Esterman (10:18:06) :
    I would suggest that everyone read the article on this link:

    It is ironic that you invite us to read an article and post a link to a closed, subscription only, site. Do you want us all to subscribe to Haaretz? Of course not, but you did forget about context. You may have a subscription but others in the community don’t.

    Once again, I’ll repeat my only real point: The argument is not about the substance of the statement or even the tactics necessary to further the arguments for peace, but the need to consider the larger context which takes into account what is possible, and the consequences of a miscalculation.

  25. This statement made by Golda Meir in 1957 is as true today is it was over 50 years ago

    ” The truth is that if Israel were to put down its arms there would be no more Israel. If the Arabs were to put down their arms there would be no more war.” Golda Meir.

    Mr Moskowitz you implications that questions the righteousness of the Israeli Government and by default its citizens is offensive and borderline slanderous.

    You should not be lecture Israel on its commitment to peace Mr Moskovitz.

    Not when Israel has recently sent (in the previous Gaza conflict) 120 truck loads of food into Gaza to feed the Palestinian people there, because their own leadership is more interested in using its population as human shields, launching rockets against Israel from within major civilian centres.

    Don’t lecture Israel on Peace Mr Moskovitz .Not when Israel targets with as much military precision as it can, only terrorists and their bases, trying its utmost to prevent civilian casualties.

    Don’t lecture Israel on Peace Mr Moskovitz. Not when the Palestinian media deliberately uses images of victims of the Syrian civil war and presents them as casualties in Gaza to gain international sympathy.

    Go read your history books Mr Moskovitz, go see that since the beginning of the twentieth century all the Arabs wanted to do was destroy Israel. Go look at the country of Israel now since the Jews have established a state there. Go read what advances in science, medicine, biotechnology, agriculture, high tech Israel has developed, and dedicated that knowledge to making the world a better place for humanity. Can you imagine any other country that after 60 years of continuously being under attack could have achieved so much.

    So Mr Moskovitz don’t lecture Israel on its commitment to Peace.

    Israel will do whatever it takes to defend itself from outright attack on its citizens, whether it be from Hamas, Hizbollah, Iran or any other country or terrorist group that attacks it.

    Its easy to criticize from your warm home in Wellington, NZ Mr Moskovitz.

  26. Heres, the deal. I’m going to be blunt here because I think you’ve deluded yourself. Virtually no one in the Wellington or New Zealand Jewish community supports what you did. You ruined an event the community was looking forward to. Shame on you for ruining one of the one nights of the year where we can celebrate being Jewish.

  27. Ok, enought already, genug! We all seem to be expressing similar sentiments about the occasion of Dave Moscovitz’s remarks at the Chanukah concert in the Town Square. Nothing new seems to have been added in general, so let us all take a step back, take a deep breath, and think about what YOU would do in order to find a solution to the Palestinian problem, and Israel, the goal being a cease fire, negotiations for peace, and a settlement. The next step is to find a venue, pick a date, and a party to mediate. I don’t care who it is, as long as that person does not express an opinion. I will attempt to find an accomodation.

  28. Dave, long may you howl for peace. The strong voices who call for people to lay down their nationalism and fundamentalism and instead to celebrate our shared humanity are the voices who will be remembered…No one accuses John Lennon or Bob Dylan of being disrespectful? They are and were. They simply understood a greater truth. Peace. And a world we are proud to live in.

  29. You just gave two examples of of the most conformist, luke warm and respectful artist the pop culture ever created.

  30. Sam Treister, we (the Klezmer Rebs) acknowledge that people took offence from our comments, but we stand by them; they were made as an earnest request, we did not believe them to be hostile, and no offence was meant.

    Ben, I would have more respect for you if you used your real full name. Don’t lecture me from behind a curtain of anonymity. Have you done anything to promote peace? I’d be interested to know.

    Sam-without-a-surname, we have received plenty of expressions of support from the Jewish Community in Wellington, in New Zealand, and from around the world including Israel. We are not deluded. If the event was “ruined”, it was difficult to see that at the time. Moments after our statement, there were lots of people dancing to the peace song medley, including Ambassador Shemi Tzur and Mayor Celia Wade-Brown and scores of other people. They hardly look like their party has been ruined.

    Norman, bless you. You hit the nail on the head. Over on Facebook, Rabbi Adi Cohen said yesterday:

    Even though I do not agree with the statement and the time and the place it was delivered, I do think that the way people reacted to it means that we should allow this discourse to be heard. After the summer break I would like to arrange an open evening for the Jewish communities with representatives from the Israeli embassy. An open dialogue, left wing – right wing, Zionist or not – let’s talk about it in the right context and in the right discourse. Do I have any volunteers who would like to make it happen? (At Web street or Ghuznee)

    Further to that, I met with David Zwartz today who offered to facilitate that meeting. Hats off to you guys, this is the right approach. I look forward to engaging with you face to face at the meeting so that we can work on constructive ways forward.

    Finally, Alex, you seem very bitter. I wish I could give you a hug.

  31. Dave, I have copied below the text of the email I sent you, in private, to which you didn’t reply.

    “Dear Dave,
    Thank you for posting the text and circumstances of the ‘speech’.
    I didn’t hear it because I was a cashier at the event and so was far too busy to even listen to the music.
    I don’t want to be involved publicly in this, but I wish to (privately) tell you that I don’t think this was the appropriate forum to talk about politics at all. In saying that I might have objected to the ambassador saying anything but platitudes (again – I don’t know what he said for the same reasons).
    The subject of peace in the middle east is a complex one and declarations from the stage at such event do nothing to help anything and are more a reflection of your (pl) frustration. If this is correct organise a rally/ public meeting/ ….. to raise the point. But a Chanukah celebration was not the appropriate forum.
    I’m disappointed that the Klezmer Rebs chose that action.

    PS – are you (pl) coming to my Chanukah party tomorrow?”

    I’m still sorry you didn’t come to light candles with me, because when all is said and done, we are still members of the same community and must work together for the Wellington (and NZ Jewry).
    I’m also still disappointed that you are going down the soap boxing avenue. I repeat what I said before that there IS a grass-root movement for peace in Israel, but there isn’t one in any of the Arab countries. In Israel the democratic process will determine the path that peace will take, as it happened when Israel made peace with Egypt. None of the Arab countries bordering Israel have a democratic government as such.

  32. Ayelet, thanks for your comment. I’m sorry I couldn’t make it over to your place for your Hanukah candle-lighting. Things just got too hectic on the day trying to balance the conflicting needs of kids against my own. I totally agree that we must work together in the Jewish community. People familiar with my track record will know that this is a lot more than idle talk.

    As far as the lack of peace movements in Arab countries goes, I’ve never supported the actions of countries and other actors fighting against Israel. Many of them are despotic maniacs. That said, Israel has managed to maintain peace with Egypt, Jordan, and Syria for decades despite this. And the fact that we’re dealing with less-than-nice people does not diminish our obligation to work hard towards a solution to the problem. And as described above, and as I’ve said many times before, it all starts with a conversation – and right now, no one’s talking.

  33. You are right David – no one is talking, but what precisly do you think the band has achieved? Do you think that now somebody is talking? Has your staement done anything to achieve that? I don’t think so.

  34. Ayelet, “You are not required to complete the task, yet you are not free to withdraw from it”.

  35. (1) The ambassador knows that there are mainstream Jews who cannot be discounted as the lunatic fringe who want the Israeli government to work harder for peace, and are willing to take some personal risk to get this message across.

    (2) People are discussing the issue.

  36. 1) The ambassador knew it already, and even if not – so what?
    2) People are angry at you, for no benefit whatsoever

  37. Ayelet – I disagree strongly and think there is significant benefit. I think that within Jewish community the issues are often the elephant in the room and this hopefully will start a discussion not just about whether the Rebs should have made the statement then and there, but the substance of the statement. From there hopefully we can move on to the whole set of issues where I am much less knowledgeable than many including you but want to discuss it both within the community and outside. Outside, in my green and left circles, I am far away from most totally anti Israel comment, and inside far away from many within Jewish community. But I want to listen and maybe contribute to discussion which seldom seems to happen or feel safe.

  38. Dave.

    I appreciate very much what you said, and I thank you for saying it.

    It is a brave man to speak in the face of such anger.

  39. I love G-d, I love Torah and I love Israel. I love the Klezmer Rebs. I love their music. I love Dave, Dave and Sue and I love the NZ Jewish Community with all its sides. opinions, shades, hues and diversity. I love Israelis and I love Palestinians. I love Zionists, I love Leftists, I love life. I love my family, my friends and my Synagogue. I love Peace, I love Shabbos, I love Chagim. I love the Israeli Embassy and I love People. I don’t know how to kill, fight a war or use a gun and I pray I never have to. For all those innocent Israelis and Palestinians who must be sick of the violence, I want for them the same enduring peace that we take for granted in Aotearoa. Salaam v Shalom Me Kia Tau te Rangimarie.
    Kia Kaha Dave.

Comments are closed.