Lou Reed: “Jesse you say Common Ground, Does that include the PLO?” (& “The IDF Factor”)

October 28, 2013

Lou Reed


This dispatch is about pop music and Israel.

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1. The X Factor: Simon Cowell donates $150,000 to help injured Israeli soldiers
2. Lou Reed’s stand for Israel and against anti-Semitism
3. Under pressure, Ha’aretz admits it made up “pro-Palestine lyrics” by Rihanna

[Notes below by Tom Gross]


While some other celebrities believe it is fashionable to denigrate Israel, the American-based, British-born TV star Simon Cowell, famous for his sharp remarks on “The X Factor” and “American Idol,” last week gave a $150,000 donation to the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces.

The donation, part of $20 million raised at a dinner last week in Los Angeles, will go to help Israeli soldiers who have been injured or are in need of assistance.

The dinner was hosted by American-based Israeli-born media mogul Haim Saban, the creator of “Power Rangers”.

Simon Cowell, whose father is Jewish and whose grandparents were born in Poland and escaped the Holocaust, has long been supportive of Israel.

Also helping to raises millions for the well-being of Israeli women and men in uniform was Grammy-Award winning singer Lionel Richie, who volunteered to sing for the diners.

The biggest donation on the night was $4.5-million from the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.

According to reports in the Hollywood media, Cowell will reportedly have “a Jewish wedding, including a rabbi’s blessing” when he marries his pregnant girlfriend Lauren Silverman next year.



Perhaps even more than other American-Jewish rock stars such as Billy Joel and Bob Dylan, Lou Reed was fiercely proud of being Jewish – and included lyrics on behalf of Israel and against anti-Semitism in some of his songs.

I mention Reed’s Jewishness because not a single obituary I have read of him in the mainstream press mentions it, when for Reed it was an important factor.

Reed, the lead singer of the Velvet Underground, and whose songs included “Walk on the Wild Side” and “Perfect Day,” died yesterday of liver failure at the age of 71.

Reed was born Lewis Allan Reed to a Jewish family in Brooklyn. He said that while “he had no god apart from rock ‘n’ roll” his Jewish roots and standing up for Israel meant a lot to him. He was a frequent visitor to the country, last performing in Tel Aviv in 2008, and his aunt and many cousins live in Haifa and other Israeli towns. (Reed’s other performances in Israel were in 1992, 1994 and 2000 and he also made a number of private visits to the country.)

Reed even had an Israeli spider named after him, according to some researchers to thank him for his solidarity with Israel.

An example of his connection to Israel and his distaste for anti-Semitism are the lyrics from the song "Good Evening Mr. Waldheim", which appear on his solo album "New York" released in 1989:

(Thank you to www.israellycool.com for reminding me of these lyrics.)

Good evening Mr. Waldheim [1]
and Pontiff how are you?

You have so much in common
in the things you do

And here comes Jesse Jackson
He talks of Common Ground

Does that Common Ground include me
or is it just a sound

A sound that shakes
Oh Jesse, you must watch the sounds you make
A sound that quakes
There are fears that still reverberate

Jesse you say Common Ground [2]
Does that include the PLO?

What about people right here right now
who fought for you not so long ago? [3]

The words that flow so freely
falling dancing from your lips

I hope that you don’t cheapen them
with a racist slip

Oh Common Ground
Is Common Ground a word or just a sound
Common Ground—remember those civil rights workers buried in the ground

If I ran for President and once was a member of the Klan
Wouldn’t you call me on it
The way I call you on Farrakhan [4]

And Pontiff, pretty Pontiff
Can anyone shake your hand?

Or is it just that you like uniforms
and someone kissing your hand

Or is it true
The Common Ground for me includes you too
Oh is it true the Common Ground for me includes you too

Good evening Mr. Waldheim
Pontiff how are you

As you both stroll through the woods at night
I’m thinking thoughts of you

And Jesse you’re inside my thoughts
As the rhythmic words subside

My Common Ground invites you in
or do you prefer to wait outside

Or is it true
The Common Ground for me is without you

Or is it true
The Common Ground for me is without you
Oh is it true

There’s no Ground Common enough for me and you


Tom Gross adds: by way of explanation for those who need it (since most subscribers to these dispatches are not American):

[1] This is a reference to Kurt Waldheim, the Nazi SS officer, who went on to become UN Secretary-General, and was then elected president of Austria, even after he was proven to have helped kill tens of thousands of Jews from Greece and elsewhere.

[2] A reference to Jesse Jackson who at the time had made many anti-Semitic remarks including referring to New York as “Hymietown” as well as what appeared to be sympathy for PLO terrorism.

[3] A reference to American Jews who had helped (and in some cases been killed for) standing up for the civil rights of African-Americans.

[4] Louis Farrakhan is the famously anti-Semitic leader of the so-called Nation of Islam.


You can listen here to Lou Reed - Good Evening Mr. Waldheim - New York Album:

You can listen here to “Walk on the Wild Side”:

In his book “The Heebie-Jeebies at CBGB’s: A Secret History of Jewish Punk,” writer Steven Lee Beeber argued that there was a key Jewish element to the New York punk rock movement that Reed was central to; other Jewish-born artists included Joey and Tommy Ramone (whose birth surname was originally Hyman), Patti Smith’s guitarist Lenny Kaye, Richard Hell, Jonathan Richman, and Blondie’s guitarist Chris Stein – not to mention Malcolm McLaren (who was fully Jewish but whose family changed their name to escape anti-Semitism) and who created the Sex Pistols.

In his review of the book, Saul Austerlitz wrote that “Though few people would associate punk rock with Judaism, the punk movement was created by Jews from Brooklyn and Queens... At first glance, what music could be less (stereotypically) Jewish? Punk rock, in its classic, Sex Pistols-and-Ramones form, was all about simplicity, rebelliousness, anti-intellectualism, and shock value... And yet, punk was primarily a movement led by Jewish boys (and a few girls) from solidly middle-class families. The sons and daughters of shopowners and accountants rebelling against their parents' comfortable but too-confined existences...

“The new punk Jew was inspired in equal parts by the warriors of the Israel Defense Forces, the comic-book superheroes scripted by an earlier generation of Jewish artists, and an instinctive revulsion at the musical excesses of contemporaries.”

(Austerlitz’s full piece is here: http://www.beliefnet.com/Entertainment/Music/2007/04/Jewish-Punk.aspx )

When asked by a journalist some years ago if he was proud to be Jewish, Reed responded, “Of course, aren’t all the best people?”



In recent years, Reed made public appearances at Jewish events. Here for example, is a video from a Passover Seder in 2004 at New York’s Museum of Jewish Heritage, where he read a poem he has written titled “Four More Questions,” based on Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven”:



A reader writes:

“There are many other Jewish punk stars, such as Also Jello Biafra, the Dead Kennedy's frontman. And Mick Jones of the Clash. And the best of all, Marc Bolan of T-Rex.

“Incidentally, Joey Ramone was born Jeffrey Hyman to Charlotte Mandell and Noel Hyman.”


National Review Online asked to cross post the Lou Reed part of my dispatch.





Alongside some very good reporting the influential left-wing Israeli daily Ha’aretz is also noted for employing several writers who make it their job to slur Israel in every which way they can.

Under intense pressure from journalists at other Israeli papers such as The Jerusalem Post and from bloggers, Ha’aretz has admitted that their front page story last week that American pop star Rihanna had inserted “pro-Palestine” lyrics into her songs during her concert last week in Tel Aviv, was completely untrue.

This is not the first time that Ha’aretz – and particularly the English edition of Ha’aretz which is widely read by diplomats and policy-makers around the world – has made things up.

Even though Ha’aretz has retracted its Rihanna story, the damage to Israel has already been done since many publications around the world repeated it, unquestionably relying on the veracity of Ha’aretz’s reporting.

Some publications, to their credit, have made corrections to their original stories.

For example, Buzzfeed and The Huffington Post.

Tom Gross adds: The Ha’aretz reporter who made up the story, has also been a writer for The New York Times.

The editor-in-chief of the English edition (as well as several writers and editors for both the Hebrew and English editions) of Ha’aretz subscribe to this email-dispatch list. I have discussed the nature of some of the paper’s reporting with them, and some have acknowledged the paper has a problem that it needs to correct.

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.