These are the very words that were staring at me from among the web stats’ list of search queries that had resulted in visits to the site, a few months ago. Curious, I thought.
And then it happened again, and not just once either, and not necessarily using the exact same words again. Very curious, I thought.
Why would anybody think that Artie Fishel, that superb jazz and klezmer musician and exquisite schwartzephonist and zaxamaphonist, and also extreme Zionist, is hiding? And why on earth would they think that asking the question on an internet search engine would give them the answer? Curiouser and curiouser.
It set me thinking. (Dangerous business!)
It is rather odd indeed that we shouldn’t have heard anything from or even about this famous – or even infamous, depending on your point of view – musician for a number of years now. Apart from a short, one-odd minute rant on Soundcloud last year. But other than that, nothing since the eponymous album Artie Fishel And The Promised Band and the associated tour of 2006/7.
Time to do a little investigating, I decided. The most intensive searches on various internet search engines came up with nothing apart from a few odd old references on Fishel’s nemesis Gilad Atzmon’s web site, a few on this site, a few old press reviews, and an old, seemingly abandoned Myspace page.
What about a known, or at any rate suspected, associate of Fishel’s in the UK? An internet radio presenter with a hugely popular Jewish jazz show with a sensational near-score of Facebook supporters, Mick Gerbil, who apparently shares Fishel’s bizarre views on jazz. All efforts to contact Mr. Gerbil proved fruitless, and his internet radio station would not help either. Thus, the rodent sadly proved a total loss. Rats!
Contacts in the music business were my next stop. But again, I drew a blank. Nobody knew anything or had heard anything in recent years. I tracked down a few of the members of The Promised Band, but neither Jaco Pastrami nor Peter Foreskin would be drawn at all. McGoy Tyner likewise refused to comment, other than saying it would be nice to work with Fishel again some time.
A chance encounter with Gesher Rozen again proved completely fruitless. He knew something, I could tell, but there was just no way of getting it out of him. Evasive as ever, that Argentine vocalist. Pity I didn’t have any thumb screws on me. Would have been awkward to use with some several dozen people around us, anyway.
One more option to try. But contacts on the Israeli scene again drew a complete blank. Nobody had heard as much as a whisper.
Getting rather frustrated and vexed, I decided there was nothing for it but to let out the hounds. I got in touch with a few very private investigators of my acquaintance to see what they could come up with. Strictly on a ‘no result, no
fee’ basis of course. I’m no multi-millionaire. (I’m no millionaire, either!)
At the end of the week, only one of the dicks had had a result or two. Of sorts. She had tracked down an estranged relative of Artie Fishel’s living in France, and had managed to speak with her on the old blower. The only thing she knew – or at any rate was prepared to admit to knowing – was that one of Fishel’s likewise estranged sisters, a lady well into middle age if not beyond and apparently a convert to Islam, and also living in France, had sold or was about to sell her story about her brother to an author working on an unofficial biography, apparently. But neither she, nor the sister, had heard anything from or about Fishel for a few years and had no idea of his whereabouts.
Better than nothing, so I’d better cough up the fee. Sometime. When I can.
If anything though, the mystery only deepens.
So where is Artie Fishel, why isn’t he performing and recording, why doesn’t anybody seem to know anything? What really is the mystery? Is Fishel perhaps in hiding, then? And if he is, why is he hiding and where? (And is he still continuing blowing his schwartzephon, wherever he is in hiding?)
With so little to go on, or more precisely, nothing to go on, it would seem impossible to find answers to these questions, and at best we can only speculate and guess.
But perhaps when we take into consideration what is known about Artie Fishel’s background and the man’s, to put it mildly, bizarre convictions and politics, we might arrive at least at some kind of informed guess.
So what do we know about Artie Fishel that might help us here? There’s his utterly absurd assertion that jazz is not an artform that originated with Afro-Americans but rather is a completely Jewish artform that originated in the ghettos of Eastern Europe. More importantly perhaps, we know Fishel to be an extreme Zionist, to the point of being downright fascist. (His absurd claims in respect of the origins of jazz could indeed be seen as part of his Zionism.) We also know that Fishel served actively as a bomber pilot in the Israeli air force and that he has been said to have bombed the crap out of innocent Palestinian civilians.
Herein, perhaps, lies the answer to our questions. Let us bear in mind that the tide does seem to have changed and that Israel can no longer simply get away with murder. Prosecutions for war crimes and crimes against humanity of Israelis are becoming a very real prospect, and much of the world is watching Israel with an ever more critical eye.
Could it be then, perhaps, that during his past service in the Israeli air force Artie Fishel committed war crimes and crimes against humanity? I rather suspect that this is a certainty. Thus, we must consider it a very likely possibility that Fishel is in hiding for fear of being arrested and prosecuted.
Let us not forget that being a great artist and being a great human being are not necessarily the same thing, it does not immunise somebody from being a real shit. Take Wagner and his advocacy of the elimination of Jews. Take Beethoven – quite a miserable so and so, although we must make allowance for the utter frustration of his increasing deafness. Take Brahms – now there was as unpleasant a git as you’re ever likely to find, bitchy to a ‘T!’ Or take Strauss (Richard, the German one) and Orff and their support of the Nazi party. Some of the greatest composers the world has ever produced, all the same.
So let us not be too surprised that Artie Fishel, an undoubtedly great musician, could also be a war criminal. His opinions certainly are extreme enough, and in the interviews with him that I have heard Fishel certainly sounded like a complete shit and Nazi, not to put too fine a point on it.
Thus, I must reiterate, it clearly would be plausible that Fishel may be in hiding.
The question of where Artie Fishel might be hiding is less easy to answer satisfactorily. The obvious answer might be, in Israel. Yet, one cannot but wonder if this really would be such a perfect choice. For the present, Israel might shield him from arrest and prosecution. But what would happen in the likely not too distant future when, like South Africa in the 1990s, Israel/Palestine becomes a ‘decent country,’ a democratic nation based on equal rights for all? Would Fishel, if indeed he did commit war crimes and crimes against humanity, really want to depend on the clemency and forgiveness of the so long wronged Palestinians? Indeed, would he have any conceivable right to even hope for this?
Hence, Israel might not be the answer to the question of what country Artie Fishel might be hiding in.
Tin pot banana republics are getting fewer in numbers all the time. However, there may be the odd little (or even not so little) country left, likely as not in Latin America or Africa, where someone like Fishel might still find refuge and be able to keep a low profile. At least, for now. And as long as his money doesn’t run short.
Ultimately, we cannot find an answer to the question of what country Artie Fishel is hiding in, if indeed he is in hiding. Likewise, our other questions must, at least for now, remain unanswered. The mystery remains.
The enigma that is Artie Fishel.
All that remains to be said is that should Mr. Fishel wish to clarify matters or correct or refute any of the statements or speculations made here, he will of course be welcome to do so and will indeed be afforded space to do so on this web site.
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