Juilliard faculty chief has views on Israel-Palestine

Juilliard faculty chief has views on Israel-Palestine


norman lebrecht

May 26, 2021

This is Dr Aaron Flagg, Faculty Chair & Associate Director, Juilliard Jazz at The Juilliard School, with some questions on the Middle East.

The language is at best naive, at worst inflammatory. See what you think:

I pray peace now and a two state solution in the near future.
I am just learning of the Nakba, the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians by Israel. The fact that human rights groups like B’Tselem and Human Rights Watch have declared Israel an apartheid state.
All countries have the right defend themselves. When does defending become slaughtering? Do Palestinians have a right to survive? How much power is enough power? Will Palestine be returned to the Palestinians in a way that also enables Israelis to live in equal peace? Are Israeli lives worth more than Palestinian lives?


  • PeterB says:

    The fact that he has learned only now of the Nakba says everything about the omerta around Israel’s war crimes. The fact that NL calls this language “inflammatory” says even more.

    The planned ethnical cleansing of Palestine in the months before (!) and the weeks after the Independence of Israel is well-documented, ao by Israeli scholars. The fact that Israel and its supporters still refuse to even acknowledge it, let alone acknowledge half a century of war crimes since the Six Day War, is one of the obstacles against justice, and therefore peace, in Palestine.

    I’m not sure what the link is with a music blog, but it’s NL who broached the subject.

    • James Weiss says:

      Your comments are typical of people who claim they’re not anti-Semitic and then go on to traffic in anti-Semitic tropes. Nakba is disputed by reputable historians. Your calling it “ethnic cleansing” is about as accurate as the “scholarship” behind the discredited 1619 Project.

      • Sukali Forn says:

        Anti-Israel is not Anti-Semitic.

        • Jewelyard says:

          Yes it is. Israel is the Nation State of the Jewish People, so being anti-Israeli is indeed Anti-Semitic.

        • Sue Sonata Form says:

          Wanna bet? Not a word about Indonesia colonizing West Papua; (sound of crickets).

      • PeterB says:

        First of all: stop lying.
        Second: stop abusing the word “anti-Semitism”. You are insulting millions of its victims.

      • V.Lind says:

        Deir Yassin is not “disputed.” DO Palestinians have a right to survive? ARE Israeli lives worth more than Palestinian lives? Not unreasonable questions.

        The rest of his remarks seem more like positions than inquiries. I suggest he read a bit more — but I wish everyone who took a position read a bit more too.

      • Michael Turner says:

        I think even James Weiss ought to study this book, written by a distinguished Israeli (Jewish) historian. Uncomfortable but necessary reading.


      • V.Lind says:

        Nabka is not disputed by anyone. Between 700,00 and 800,000 Palestinians fled their homes after Deir Yassin. Palestinian villages were razed.

        The term “ethnic cleansing” is disputed by some. But given Israel’s attempts to clean its own archives of any mention of massacres carried out by some of its more extremist supporters, it is easy to see how it arose.

        I don’t like it either, but if you ever heard interviews with settlers — the most illegally housed residents of Israel — you would hear some pretty unpalatable views. At least they were when they were proffered against Jewish citizens of other countries.

      • V.Lind says:

        Nabka is not disputed — between 700,00 and 800,000 Palestinians did flee after Deir Yassin.

        “Ethnic cleansing” is disputed. But Palestinian villages were wiped out, and Israel scours its archives to clear them of any reference to massacres carried out by some of its more extreme elements.

        I don’t like it either, but if you have ever seen or heard interviews with the settlers, the most illegally housed residents of Israel, you would understand how it arose. They would apparently have no objection to the wholesale erasure of the Palestinians in their entirety.

        • Sue Sonata Form says:

          Not like the people surrounding Israel, aye, who want that nation completely annihilated. Suggest you return your fingers to your ears lest you hear something factual and confronting.

          • Mike Hedders says:

            So the peace treaties signed years ago with 2 of Israel’s 4 neighbours (and those that share the longest borders too) mean zilch to you?

      • Paul Dawson says:

        The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance specifies “However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.”

      • facts says:

        Jews have never seen the black as their equivalent throughout history.

        Blacks were only fit to use for undesirable jobs like digging, lifting of heavy objects and building temples as is etched in stone tablets.

        One rarely sees a moor-Jew particularly among the Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox as they continue to be absolutely beneath the authentic, white Jew.

        Indeed the author of this blog is a common example both visually and intellectually of the embodiment of what a Jew is.

        Neither the African nor Palestinian for that matter has ever been welcomed into actual discourse or sovereignty. In recent times in the states, Obama was ridiculed after his attempts while Trump facilitated actual peace agreements. For those who are gaslit by this statement; what did Obama actually do in his 8 year term with his vulgar sidekick Biden???

      • MacroV says:

        1619 basically just says White Supremacy was a major tenet of the founding of America, and that slaves played a big role in the creation of the early American economy; neither is a particular revelation.

        Or do you still cling to the fantasy that Squanto happily greeting the monogamous Pilgrims, slaves sang and danced (and slaveowners only had consensual albeit forbidden relationships with the help); and “Southern Heritage” is just Faulker, mint juleps, Bear Bryant, and cotillions?

    • HugoPreuss says:

      If he is “just learning” about the war of 1948 he is illiterate in modern history. And perhaps, in these circumstances, it might be a good idea to shut up instead of having strong opinions on something he is “just learning” about.

      Here are some suggestions for further inquiries: Who started the war and what were the intentions? What happened to the Jews in Arab countries? Who gave Arab Palestinians the advice to leave their homes and come over to the Arab side (temporarily! ONLY temporarily!)? How welcome were the Arab refugees in Arab countries? The list goes on…

      • Tamara says:

        Very good questions. There are many more of those to be asked.

        • * Before Israel, there was a British mandate, not a Palestinian state .
          * Before the British Mandate, there was the Ottoman Empire, not a Palestinian state.
          * Before the Ottoman Empire, there was the Islamic state of the Mamluks of Egypt, not a Palestinian state.
          * Before the Islamic state of the Mamluks of Egypt, there was the Ayubid-Kurdish Empire, not a Palestinian state.
          * Before the Ayubid Empire, there was the Crusader Frankish and Christian Kingdom of Jerusalem, not a Palestinian state.
          * Before the Kingdom of Jerusalem, there was the Umayyad and Fatimid empires, not a Palestinian state.
          * Before the Umayyad and Fatimid empires, there was the Byzantine empire, not a Palestinian state.
          * Before the Byzantine Empire, there were the Sassanid-Persian Empire, not a Palestinian state.
          * Before the Sassanid-Persian Empire, there was the Byzantine Empire again, not a Palestinian state.
          * Before the Byzantine Empire, there was the Roman Empire, not a Palestinian state.
          * Before the Roman Empire, there was the Jewish Hasmonean state, not a Palestinian state.
          * Before the Jewish Hasmonean state, there was the Hellenistic Seleucid empire, not a Palestinian state.
          * Before the Hellenistic Seleucid empire, there was the empire of Alexander the Great, not a Palestinian state.
          * Before the empire of Alexander the Great, there was the Persian empire, not a Palestinian state.
          * Before the Persian Empire, there was the Babylonian Empire, not a Palestinian state.
          * Before the Babylonian Empire, there were the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah, not a Palestinian state.
          * Before the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah, there was the Kingdom of Israel, not a Palestinian state.
          * Before the kingdom of Israel, there was the theocracy of the twelve tribes of Israel, not a Palestinian state.
          * Before the theocracy of the twelve tribes of Israel, there was an agglomeration of independent Canaanite city-kingdoms, not a Palestinian state.

      • Mike Hedders says:

        He’s entitled to his opinion,same as you are to yours. For all you know he may well know everything you just said and still holds those views.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      When I hurl rockets gratuitously at people I can accuse THEM of ‘ethnic cleansing’. Only in the wacky world of the Left, of course. And, naturally, the Jews know nothing about ethnic cleansing.

  • Chilynne says:

    A bigoted fool showing his willful ignorance.

  • A.L. says:

    I have seldom read anything as good as this regarding the problem, by the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman:


    If I were Biden, I’d take away his ideas and run with them. Tonight.

    • Your comment has been approved!
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts with The New York Times community.
      Helene Kamioner | Riverdale, New York
      They could have had their ill-deserved State numerous times, going back to 1948 but have always rejected good-faith offers preferring to nurse the delusion that they can destroy Israel and kill its Jewish population. They are sustained in this delusion by anti-Semites in Europe and the US. But after witnessing Hamas and the PLO over the years, who would allow a terrorist enclave to build a state that would be a haven for murderous attacks? Sorry. The two-state idea is dead.

      • Jack says:

        This is the key. It’s actually the Palestinians who don’t want a two-state solution. Instead, the Palestinians pray that Allah will dissolve the Jewish state one day, even if it takes years or centuries.

        • John Porter says:

          Israel offered the PLO 73% of the West Bank and 100% of Gaza, with Israel abandoning a significant number of settlements. This was the two state solution, a formal offer rejected by the PLO, which preferred to recommit to the destruction of Israel. And there have been other two state offers such as this made by Israel. The Covenant Of Hamas rejects any negotiated peace and only views the “obliteration” of Israel as the only accepted solution. This is all fact.

          • V.Lind says:

            I wonder what Israel considers a “significant” number of settlements. given that they are ILLEGAL in international law.

            Israel is not slow to make use of international law when it suits it — it was, after all, created by it — so it has little defence for these settlements. which have been a major stumbling block to peace.

            Israel has every right to exist, and thrive — but not in borders of its own choosing.

          • Faz Haddid says:

            Jews were merely “placed” on that land with no consideration for the indigenous peoples already occupying the territories. Instead of respecting the original occupants, Jews refused to assimilate and ended up fostering enmity and building a wall. That’s the essence of the endless wars in that region. They also birthed what has been today recognized as “white privilege” and “systemic racism”. Taking from the dark-skinned their will and bodies for the amusement of the Jew is historically documented.

          • Alexander says:

            Jews are also indigenous to that land. That is why it was called Judea until it was re-christened Palestine by the Romans. Also, where are the 850,000 Jews cleansed from Arab countries during the same period? You simply can’t make this a white/people of color issue. Jews did not invent “systemic racism” or “white privilege”. That is one of the most ridiculous claims I have ever read. There were some excellent questions posted by another commenter, perhaps use those as a study guide. You don’t understand the first thing about the Middle East or Jews.

          • to be clear says:

            You are speaking of the Jewish SETTLEMENTS not indigenous peoples.

        • Sue Sonata Form says:

          Of course, the people of Israel themselves are divided over this issue but the existential threat to their country eventually galvanizes all parties. Nothing like rockets raining down on you and your loved ones to sweep away antagonisms in your own country. At least temporarily.

          I feel Israel could be more conciliatory and go along with the UN, but we all know that given an inch…. I suspect the people of Israel know that, from vast experience.

          You shelter a demographic of people who have historically been hunted and hounded; herd them together in one very tiny, arid landscape and STILL they provide a threat – growing and thriving despite everything thrown at them. The very hide of them for such hubris!!!!!!!!!!

        • Mike Hedders says:

          Really? Cos it’s pretty evident that much of the rest of the Arab World doesn’t feel that way anymore. I wonder what makes you think the Palestinians still do though.

    • UWS Tom says:

      What ideas? Friedman proposed nothing that hasn’t been mentioned 1000’s times in the past.

      There will be no peace until the Palestinian Authority divorces itself from Hamas and Israel ceases violating international law with their illegal settlements. If Friedman thinks he knows how to make either of those events happen – let alone both – he hasn’t said word one about it.

  • Brian says:

    The stupid runs deep in this one. I think Juilliard is doomed.

  • Outrageous, Beyond Disgusting….Fire the Bastard…..I am contacting all Jewish donors to Juilliard advising them to withdraw any funding and that includes Bruce Kovner.

    • La plus belle voix says:

      Dear Helen Kamioner, Thank you for your reasoned approach. I’m sure this will help the situation, bring people together, encourage discussion, and heal wounds. Much appreciated. If only there were more skilled and diplomatic people like you on our crowded planet.

    • Let it be says:

      Oh Helene, cool your jets. Ripping away scholarships & other support from deserving, needy students because of the comments of one person (who doesen’t speak for the institution) is ridiculous. Get a life, honey.

    • fred says:

      hear hear Helen, this is outrageous and shows the man’s ignorance in historical facts. Fire him? Maybe but certainly withdraw all money from Jewish donors. This is Julliard unworthy

    • fred says:

      Dear Helen, 100 % agree, fire him may be, but certainly withdraw the money from Jewish donors or they should stop donating. Let him go to Gaza and teach there

    • Jhemu Greene says:

      Keep the black man in his place like the slave he is meant to be?!?!?!

  • Araragi says:

    Perhaps someone who has just learned about the Nakba, the most significant event in Palestinian history, should refrain from commenting on the matter until he’s had time to learn more.

  • James Weiss says:

    Anti-Semitic talk. Period. There’s no debate.

  • Alviano says:

    I agree with Mr. Flagg, but question whether a head of school should make public political comments. His duty to his employer is not to say or do anything which might have a negative impact on the school.

  • Sixtus Beckmesser says:

    When I studied at Juilliard in the 70s it seemed that a majority of the music students were Jewish, many of them Israeli. Things have certainly changed. Who’d have thought that Juilliard would become so “woke” so quickly?

  • Nijinsky says:

    Whether remarks towards Israel are inflammatory or not, it still remains that, regardless of which side is worse, that behaving in a way that’s not promoting peace (even if the other side is worse, or you can argue that they are) this doesn’t excuse either side from behaving in such a fashion. That Israel, or any side in any conflict has more of the right to behave in a way that doesn’t work, doesn’t change that it does not work, and both sides along with the rest of the world suffer. And there are a whole populace of people on both sides, or any side in any conflict, that are bereaved of being allowed to have a voice that would promote peace, and are bereaved of being allowed to implement what would become peace.

  • FrankInUsa says:

    I am somewhat new to SD(less than a year). I am finding out this blog has a lot of politics and less about music than when any “newbie” finds this blog.

    • Curvy Honk Glove says:

      The new orthodoxy mandates that everything is political. Education, entertainment, culture, arts, etc… The heretics must be identified, sanctioned, and ultimately reformed or purged from society. May the odds be ever in your favor.

  • Musicman says:

    If Mr. Flagg were white, he would already have been fired from Juilliard!

  • Rachelle Goldberg says:

    I am about to send a letter to the President of Juilliard but awaiting a response as regards his Email address.

  • Tom Phillips says:

    Nothing objectionable about anything he said. It’s a logical point of view from anyone who opposes racism and apartheid.

    • Simon Abels says:

      Is the goal of wiping Israel off the planet racist or a form of apartheid?

      Or how about a quote like this? Is this racist, do you think?

      Fathi Hammad, Hamas Politburo member:

      “There are Jews everywhere. We must attack every Jew on planet Earth! We must slaughter and kill them, with Allah’s help. We will lacerate and tear them to pieces.”

      – Gatestone Institute, July 14, 2019

  • A Pianist says:

    You don’t say where this is from or link to anything? How do we even know it is him? And what rational person cares if someone they don’t know posts some offensive political views on a personal forum? Does it impact his work as a public figure at an arts institution? Why is cancel culture okay when it suits your agenda? And I am plenty pro Israel by the way.

  • Cynical Bystander says:

    This now follows the trend amongst the ‘woke’. The Guardian which has just spent 2 weeks hawking it’s liberal conscience around has this piece on today’s site to add to the weeks of pro Palestine/anti Israel propaganda it has output over the same period…..


    Seems that for far too many, BLM and PLM matter more than JLM!

    • Mike Hedders says:

      In the 2014 Israel-Gaza war, 97% of all those killed were Palestinians. This year, 95%.
      Just on a basic human level, those numbers are insane. It appears that, to some at least, PLDM.

  • Bratsche brat says:

    NL: you’re not objective regarding this topic. Best to leave commentary on international political matters to others; stick to music please.

  • Leopold says:

    “I pray…” – well at least I do not have to read further.

  • DaveT says:

    This fellow is about as qualified to comment on matters concerning the Middle East as I am qualified to teach jazz.

  • Gershon Giron says:

    One more idiot

  • Ben G. says:

    As recently seen in a Jerusalem Post article about a rant from John Oliver. Worth reading, especially concerning Dr. Flagg’s comments:


    “…this is not a battle between Palestinians and Israelis, it is between Hamas, a US designated terrorist organization, and Israel, a US ally.”…..

    “….Hamas operatives continuously surround themselves with their own civilians (human shields), just to let them die. People like him are why terrorists now store weapons in schools and hospitals, and why they shoot their missiles from civilian structures in populated areas”….




    Israel-Palestine Conflict: A Faculty Member Responds


    October, 2010


  • Couperin says:

    God is not Great

  • Paul Brown says:

    Anyone that knows Aaron Flagg, knows that he can sometimes shoot from the hip, so to speak, and says dumb things. It’s not new, this is the person who told a young Black woman trombonist at Juilliard who came to him to complain about being mistreated, that she should look at her self and how she might have encouraged the treatment. (The NY Times covered this extensively). One would think Juilliard would try to find another role for him.

  • Cellobassi says:

    It gets better. Dr Flagg also apparently does DEAI consulting on the side.

  • Udi H says:

    Dr. Flagg’s words display either deep ignorance or an agenda to propagate the lies invented as propaganda by totalitarian regimes in the Middle East and interest groups that seek (publicly) the destruction of the state of Israel. Ignorance or malice, either way it is best to study a topic before sharing your thoughts on it. Here are the FACTS:

    1. There was no Nakba. It is a concept and not an event invented to describe the unfortunate displacement of some Palestinian Arabs from their homes in a course of a war that was instigated by Israel’s neighbors. Those Palestinians mostly fled from war zones and very few were expelled for collaborating with the enemy. Fun fact – the 2 million Palestinian Arabs that remained in their homes are equal rights citizens of state of Israel today. On the other hand, thousands of Jewish families were intentionally and forcefully expelled from their homes in 1948-49 in Morocco, Egypt, Iraq, Tunisia, Libya, and Syria but nobody called that Nakba.

    2. There is no slaughtering happening whatsoever. It is just deep fake news. There were surgical strikes against terror organization’s militants (US, Britain and many other countries classification, not mine) that are intentionally shooting rockets at civilian populations in Israel (hence terrorists). The unfortunate and very sad casualties in Gaza are a result of modern weapons not being 100% accurate AND the intentional use of civilians by Hamas as human shields – firing rockets from and setting up military facilities inside dense civilian population areas.

    3. Hamas and this round of escalation has NOTHING to do with the Palestinian plight. Hamas sole purpose of existence is to bring to the annihilation of the state of Israel and expel all Jews from their homes (Nakba). While the West Bank is controlled by the Palestinian Authority that is experiencing economic prosperity due to a CHOICE of investing in economic development, health services, education, infrastructure, and bureaucratic infrastructure, Hamas is controlling a territory of land (just like ISIS) in order to make a base for attacks against Israel from inside civilian population. Palestinians in Gaza have been hijacked by Hamas. Hamas’s CHOICE of investing all the resources it has in fighting Israel instead of investing it in its own population are a stark contrast to how Palestinians live in the West Bank and more so in Israel. It is this CHOICE that has led Israel to blockade the area to avoid weapons smuggling, a blockade that does not exist on the West Bank nor with Palestinian Israelis. As a result, unemployment is well over 30% on a regular basis and higher at the moment, and most people living in Gaza have no access to basic services. It is because of Hamas choices, not Israel’s defensive strategies.

    These are the facts. They have nothing to do with racism, colonialism or any other type of anti-Israeli propaganda that has very little to do with reality.

    It is perfectly fine to disagree with Israeli policies and actions but ignorant claims not based on any actual facts or data should not be part of the discussion if anyone really wants to help both Israelis and Palestinians live in peace.

    I often tell my children that if you have nothing smart to say, better say nothing at all. I share this advice today with Dr. Flagg and everyone who is gung ho about promoting a cause they understand nothing about.

    • Monsoon says:

      “It is a concept and not an event invented to describe the unfortunate displacement of some Palestinian Arabs from their homes in a course of a war that was instigated by Israel’s neighbors.”

      “Some” Palestinian Arabs? It was 700,000 to 800,000.

      Even if you put aside who is at fault for for their “displacement,” Israel did not let them return.

    • Curvy Honk Glove says:

      I stopped reading at “fake news”. Hey everyone! We have a wrong-think, tRumpster among us. I think that means it’s cancellin’ time, am I right?

    • Mike Hedders says:

      You should listen to your own advice.

  • Judy says:

    Lots of people misunderstand or don’t have enough information about the Middle East situation, leading them to make anti-Israel/anti-Semitic comments. The story is much more complex. While I don’t agree with all of Israel’s strategy, I ask myself, ” how would I feel if Canada launched an average of 3 to 4 rockets against my tiny state each and every day?” “How would I handle the stress of being under attack, year in and year out?” “How would I handle it if Canada wrote into its constitution that it would continue until I was driven into the sea?” Before you criticize, put yourself in their place.

    • Saxon says:

      Rep. Ireland has a claim for the Northern part of Ireland in its constitution. No-one in Britain gives a damn.

  • Ricardo says:

    Ce formidable bordel…

  • BigSir says:

    Last time I checked, even Jazz Admins are allowed to voice their opinions. Its not any more inflammatory than the constant barrage from the NY Times; and those half-hysterical, political hacks are getting paid to impersonate a journalist.

    • John Porter says:

      Any person in an administrative leadership position knows there is no such thing as an “opinion” to be voiced, on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Those days are long over and any such comment becomes representative of the institution you have chosen to work in. Let’s not be silly about this. One administrative leader after another across higher education who has made this mistake has been shown the door.

  • John Borstlap says:

    I just received this email message form Richard Wagner:

    ‘I’m so terribly sorry of that pamflet. But I had a gruesome stomach pain and those Swiss toilets were impossible to deal with.’

  • https://tinyurl.com/4v3283d8

    The Jewish History of Israel Is Over 3,000 Years Old. That’s Why It’s Complicated.