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Testament’s Alex Skolnick Defends Right to Pose With Israeli Flag Without Making Political Statement

Raymond Ahner for Loudwire
Raymond Ahner for Loudwire

Veteran metallers Testament recently played Tel Aviv, posing for a photo with the Israeli flag onstage. But getting ahead of any potential backlash, guitarist Alex Skolnick attempted to diffuse any negative response by posting an explanation.

Skolnick explained that the band holding an Israeli flag should not be viewed as support for the occupation or seen as them being Zionist sympathizers. The move was not one made with political intent or motivation.

His posting on the matter reads as follows:

“Great night in Tel Aviv! First time, amazing crowd. Looking forward to next time!” I wish that were all that needs to be said. However…
Unlike a couple bandmates of mine – thrown for a loop by the subsequent rage-comments underneath pics of themselves posing with a team of young Israeli women in uniforms fulfilling their required service in the IDF – I’m anticipating blowback.
Now before you launch into accusations of my being a “supporter of the occupation,” “Zionist sympathizer,” etc…let’s look at a few things that are simultaneously true:
* The symbol within this flag – the Star of David – is both a symbol of the Nation of Israel and a symbol of Jewish heritage. One can be proud of the star within and simultaneously feel appalled by some actions by the State of Israel and the behavior of certain segments of the population – I am and I do.
* One can be a massive fan of Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters as a musician – I am – yet still consider his call for a “cultural boycott” of Israel – and thus depriving its general population of music (which can be the best voice for change) – among the worst ideas you’ve ever heard – I do. (A pop artist who recently bowed to pressure from Waters – Lorde – canceled an Israel date yet went ahead with a concert in the Philippines on the same tour just after their leader, Duterte, committed a massacre of civilians there, highlighting the selectiveness of Waters & the BDS movement).
* A flag can be both a symbol of a nation’s government and a symbol of that nation’s people. “The People” includes those who oppose their own government (including the Likud party and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – whom I too oppose with a vengeance). However, all the people should not be judged by the worst transgressions of their own government – I’m not too keen on all the things done in the name of my country’s flag (preemptive war, Japanese internment, Indian displacement, slavery…I could go on) but it’s still my flag.
* One can be Jewish culturally and genetically (I am) without being religious (I’m not). On the flip side, one can also be of a non-Jewish ethnic background and convert to Judaism religiously (I know folks who fit this description). Regardless, the Star of David represents all Jewish heritage, cultural, genetic, and/or religious. So when the Star of David is disparaged (such as Waters’ placing it on the flying pig in his concerts,) even if the intended reference is the State of Israel, it is an insult to all of Jewish heritage and its most charitable description: ignorance.
*One can wade into these issues knowing it will piss off folks on all sides, friends, fans and otherwise. And one can decide to go ahead and do so anyway.
Shalom/Salam/Peace

The March 27 show marked the first time the band has played in Tel Aviv. The band also posed for photos with some Israeli girls who were fans of the group. That shot can be seen below via Eric Peterson’s Instagram account.

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