Patti Smith rails against Israel and US

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The Independent Culture

The singer-songwriter Patti Smith has produced an emotional indictment of American and Israeli foreign policy in two new protest songs she will premiere in London next week.

The American singer takes the Israeli bombing of Lebanese civilians and the US detention centre at Guantanamo Bay and as her subjects in the songs "Qana" and "Without Chains".

She condemned an Israeli air strike on the Lebanese village of Qana in July as "an atrocity" for which America was partly to blame. At least 56 people were killed, including 32 children.

Smith said she was further ashamed of America for its detention of young men in Guantanamo Bay. "I wrote both these songs directly in response to events that I felt outraged about," she said. "These are injustices against children and the young men and women who are being incarcerated. I'm an American, I pay taxes in my name and they are giving millions and millions of dollars to a country such as Israel and cluster bombs and defence technology and those bombs were dropped on common citizens in Qana. It's terrible. It's a human rights violation."

Smith said she was not sufficiently well versed in Middle East politics to discuss the differences between Israel and Lebanon. "But there was no righteousness attached to destroying the infrastructure of this country that had been rebuilding. It's an atrocity not only against the people but against the land. I find it really unforgivable."

In the second song, "Without Chains", she details the story of Murat Kurnaz, who was finally released from Guantanamo on 24 August after four years. Kurnaz, a Turkish citizen who was born and raised in Germany, was in the process of becoming a German citizen when he was arrested in Pakistan in late 2001.

Smith said: "He is the same age as my son, Jackson. When I read the story, I realised how I would feel as a mother if my son had been taken away at the age of 20, put into chains, without any hope of leaving, without any direct charge."

She will perform the songs on Monday and Tuesday at the South Bank Centre where she was the guest director of last year's Meltdown Festival.

As part of that, she was partnered by Kevin Shields, the ex-guitarist of My Bloody Valentines, on "The Coral Sea", a prose lament to the artist Robert Mapplethorpe, a former boyfriend, who died of Aids.

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