Antithesis Interview with Isrelate.com
Samuel Green AKA ‘Antithesis’ is a Jewish Zionist rapper currently living in Switzerland. At the age of just 25 he has released two EPs, completed a degree in Oriental Studies at Cambridge University and raised thousands of pounds for charity.
Isrelate’s Sam Hailes caught up with him to find out more about this interesting rapper.
Sam: In ‘Ivrit,daber Ivrit’ you rap
“I’ll tell you my dream – To finish my studies and travel to my country Cos if I really want to be a Zionist I can’t stay here and live as a Jew”
So do you plan to start living in Israel permanently? Antithesis: I do indeed intend to move to Israel permanently and hope to be there in around 2010, if all goes to plan. The state of Israel is an incredible achievement and the opportunity to be a part of it is hugely exciting. I am looking forward to a direct personal involvement in the next chapter of the history of the Jewish people.
Sam: Your latest EP, ‘United Kingdom of Racism’ has a controversial title. Tell us about the story behind the title track.
Antithesis: As I say in the song, I grew up very much feeling a British patriot, being proud of being British and the country. To a large extent, this is still true. However, I used to dismiss or ignore those from an older generation who talked about the significant levels of racism in British society. Unfortunately, as I have grown older, I have seen this more and more evident, and have increasingly been on the receiving end of anti-Semitic incidents. The first, most notable occasions occurred while I was studying at Cambridge, which really shocked me as I considered that a university would be full of free thinking and liberal tendencies. It was only later that I discovered Nick Griffin [leader of the British National Party (BNP)] was a Cambridge graduate. Last year in London, I even had to call the police to deal with an awkward situation. This is just me; several of my friends have even worse stories.
While I think that the British government is doing what it can to increase tolerance and respect among British citizens, I still feel that there is a lot of racism simmering beneath the surface. I think that this often surfaces in the immigration debate for example. It’s difficult as I appreciate the need for a sensible debate on the issue, but it is then used as a bandwagon by certain people to legitimise otherwise abhorrent views. I do hope for the future; although with anti-Semitic attacks in particular on the rise, I think it will be some time yet before this issue is resolved.
Sam: What would you say is the main cause of anti-Semitism, and what would you say to those who hold such views?
Antithesis: It seems to me that human beings like to be with other people who are similar to them. This could manifest itself in terms of shared likes/dislikes; shared hobbies, or shared cultural background. But with this coming together of like-minds there is a danger of the formulation of a them against us mindset; positioning the group against their perceived other. This could manifest itself in something as trivial (and normally harmless) as a football rivalry, or more seriously in the form of racism.
I don’t know why Jews seem to have suffered so much over history. I’m sure there are people who have written books on this. Perhaps it is a combination of the fact that we have been around for a long time, and that we are always a minority. Polemics against us from other religions haven’t helped either – I was recently threatened by a man who wanted to hold me personally responsible for the death of Jesus.
As for what I would say to anti-Semites, I don’t think there is really much to say. If people have irrational beliefs it tends to be hard to change their minds. The important thing is to educate future generations through school; popular culture; the home; that racism of any kind is abhorrent and unacceptable.
Sam: What made you decide to donate all the proceeds of your CD sales to good causes? Which charities are you currently supporting and why?
Antithesis: On my first CD, there is a song about Israel’s missing soldiers and another about victims of terrorism. I felt it would be unethical to profit from these themes and would rather put the money towards a good cause.
Profits from the first CD were split between a campaign to return Israel’s missing soldiers and a fund to support victims of terrorism and their families. Now all the money is being donated to the missing soldiers campaign.
People are more likely to buy it if it is for a good cause rather than to line my pockets; this enables a wider spread of the message.Â One of the central tenets of the Jewish youth organisation of which I was a member was ‘tzedaka’, one of whose meanings is charity. Tzedaka is an important part of Judaism and I have been brought up to consider my responsibility to others instead of just thinking of myself.
Sam: You describe Israel as ‘A land which people have cried and died on, but despite all its troubles it continues to strive on’. How has Israel managed to survive so much trouble? And what will keep the nation into the future?
Antithesis: I don’t really feel that I’m the best person to answer this question, but I can give it a go! For me, Israel’s success has been built on a sense of a common greater purpose, uniting the nation towards one goal. This has given the country the determination and desire to survive, despite having to fight against hugely more numerous and powerful foes. There has also been quite a lot of luck; perhaps some would see this as divine intervention; I’m
personally nervous about ascribing certain acts to coming from God’s hand although I would like it to be true!
Unfortunately today we can see divisions in Israeli society: religious & secular; Ashkenazi- European origin & Mizrachi- Eastern origin; rich & poor; left & right; Jew & Arab. In my humble opinion, it is essential that Israel seeks unity within itself to survive for the future.
Sam: Tell us about your gap year in Israel.
Antithesis: My gap year consisted of four months of study about Judaism, Zionism, Jewish history, Hebrew and also leadership training, so that I could return to the UK and adopt a leadership position in my youth organisation. The following five months consisted of different types of volunteering activities, including teaching English in a secondary school in a development town and working with new immigrant Ethiopian children
Sam: You have already achieved so much through your music by raising money for charity and giving both the Jewish people and zionists a voice in hip hop culture. What is Antithesis’ hopes and ambitions for the future?
Antithesis: Thanks, but I think that in the big scheme of things my impact has been pretty small! I like to think that I have made a small difference to a few people’s lives and/or opinions, and that is enough for me. As for the future, I very much hope to move to Israel within a couple of years, where I hope to build a family and make some small positive contribution to the future of the Jewish people. How that will manifest itself remains to be seen.
Sam: Thanks very much for your time Antithesis, all the best for your future projects.
For more information on Antithesis or to buy his CDs please visit www.antithesismc.com