Cultural boycott is one element of the international boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaign (BDS) called for by Palestinians and supported by individuals and organizations around the world. BDS aims to place pressure on Israel and sends the message that there will be no business as usual until it ends its occupation, colonization, and apartheid policies. Recognizing that Israeli cultural institutions have failed to respond to their government’s violations of international law and Palestinian human rights, and that many institutions are active in whitewashing Israel’s crimes, Palestinians launched the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI). In July 2004, PACBI issued a call to international artists to refrain from participating in cultural events in Israel and to international civil society to boycott Israeli-sponsored cultural events around the world.
The 2011 American tour by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, a seven-city, eight-concert trek that reached Carnegie Hall, was meant to be a festive occasion. Unquestionably Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic make up a significant and valuable artistic alliance. Still, not everyone was of a mind to celebrate. Opponents of the Israeli government’s policies and actions toward the Palestinians have deemed the orchestra, in its role as one of Israel’s most visible and successful cultural exports, complicit, however quietly.
February 22, 2011 – Seventy New Yorkers protested the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra’s (IPO) performance at Carnegie Hall Tuesday evening, using chants, songs and street theater to highlight the IPO’s role in whitewashing Israel’s apartheid policies against the Palestinian people. The orchestra’s performances are being met with protests in six of the seven cities on its US tour, including a protest last Sunday evening in West Palm Beach, an upcoming Wednesday protest in Newark, and further protests in Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles, as reported by the Israeli news website YNet.
Noelle Ghoussaini from Adalah-NY explained, “Tonight we sent a clear message to the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and the Israeli government’s “Brand Israel” campaign that their music cannot drown out Palestinians’ calls for justice.” The US protests respond to the call from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) to boycott cultural institutions like the IPO that work to normalize Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories and whitewash the oppression of Palestinians in Israel, the occupied territories, and in exile.
February 20, West Palm Beach, FL, The Kravis Center, 7 PM – 8:30 PM, Miami-Dade Green Party February 22, New York, NY, Carnegie Hall, 5:30 PM – 7:15 PM, Adalah-NY February 23, Newark, NJ, New Jersey Performing Arts Center, 6:30 PM – 7:30 PM, Adalah-NY & People's Organization for Progress (POP) February 26, Seattle, WA, Benaroya Hall, 7:15 PM – 8:15 PM, Palestine Solidarity Committee – Seattle February 27, San Francisco, CA, Davies Symphony Hall, 6 PM, Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism (QUIT!) March 1, Los Angeles, CA, Walt Disney Concert Hall, 6:30 PM – 8 PM, BDS-LA
Performances of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO) will be met with protests in six of seven cities where the IPO will play during its US tour this February and March. Human rights advocates plan to protest the IPO’s role in whitewashing Israel’s apartheid policies against the Palestinian people. The protests will be held at IPO performances in West Palm Beach, New York City, Newark, Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Adalah-NY salutes the people's revolution in Egypt!
Join Adalah-NY and other groups to protest the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra’s NYC performance
The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra's (IPO) performance is part of its annual national tour, which will be protested in other cities as well. The protests respond to the call from Palestinian civil society to boycott institutions that work to normalize the occupation of Palestinian territories and the oppression of Palestinians in Israel, the territories, and in exile.
The orchestra actively participates in whitewashing Israel's apartheid policies. By serving as cultural ambassadors for Israel, the Israel Philharmonic is supporting the Israeli government's “Brand Israel” initiative, an effort to divert public attention from Israel's oppression of the Palestinian people. The orchestra refrains from criticism of Israel's policies, and is described by the American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra as "Israel’s finest cultural emissary,” which “travels throughout the world…The goodwill created by these tours...is of enormous value to the State of Israel. As a result, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra maintains its position at the forefront of cultural diplomacy and the international music scene."
One corporate sponsor of the IPO's US tour is Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev, who hosted a gala fundraiser last November for the IPO tour at his New York jewelry store. The IPO thus partners with Leviev's companies though they have been shunned by UNICEF, CARE, Oxfam, the British and Norwegian governments, Hollywood stars and international investment firms due to Leviev’s construction of Israeli settlements and involvement in human rights abuses in the diamond industry in Southern Africa.
People throughout the Middle East are mobilizing to challenge repressive governments. The people will not tolerate dictatorships or occupations. Join us in the street for a peaceful, meaningful, timely protest against the art-washing of apartheid.
Protest co-sponsors to date (list in formation): Adalah-NY, Artists Against Apartheid - NYC, Al Awda-NY, Hunter Collage SJP, Jews Say No!, Middle East Crisis Response, Palestinian Club of Brooklyn College, NYU - SJP, War Resisters League New York Local, WESPAC, Women in Black-Union Square, Women of a Certain Age.
The Arava Institute’s online event “With Earth and Each Other,” held Sunday, November 14, exemplified why the Palestinian call for a boycott of Israeli academic and cultural institutions is vital. The event was billed as a celebration of Palestinians, Israelis and Jordanians working together for the environment. But it failed to educate viewers about the most basic facts of Israeli policies, and thus simply reinforced the status quo. The event, billed as not “political,” suggested that the Middle East conflict can be resolved if people of different religions and ethnicities are nicer to each other. It presented no information on the fundamental and systematic inequalities that are at the root of the conflict.
Adalah-NY and numerous other groups had urged participants, including religious and environmental organizations and performing artists like Pete Seeger, Dan Bern, and Mandy Patinkin, to respect the Palestinian boycott call and bow out. Arava Institute was targeted for boycott due to its failure to condemn Israel’s on-going ethnic cleansing of Bedouin residents of the Negev desert, where Arava is based, and Arava’s very close partnerships with the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and the Israeli government. The Israeli government and the JNF have been instrumental in cleansing the land of the indigenous Palestinian residents and planting over their villages with trees. While Arava extolls international cooperation in service of the environment, they remain silent about Israeli and JNF policies, including, as one recent example, the Israeli government’s destruction (five times in succession) of Al Araqib, a Bedouin village in the Negev, to make way for a JNF forest.
We are writing because we’ve uncovered very troubling new information to add to the information that we have already publicized[i] about Israel’s Arava Institute for Environmental Studies[ii] and the online event “With Earth and Each Other: A Rally for a Better Middle East.”[iii] We fully understand that many of you are participating in the event from a sincere desire to build “a better Middle East.” Unfortunately, it has become increasingly clear to us that supporting the Arava Institute and this event will actually damage the causes of justice and peace in the Middle East because Arava is a close and seemingly uncritical partner with right-wing institutions that continue to dispossess Palestinians from their homes and communities. Any efforts by Arava and the November 14th event to foster dialogue and improve the environment are just minor sideshows to the larger projects of Palestinian dispossession implemented by Jewish National Fund[iv] and the Israeli government that Arava is serving to legitimize. Therefore, the best action that you can take to help create a better Middle East is to withdraw from this event.
New York, NY – In a November 2nd letter, seventeen organizations in the US and abroad were urged by several groups, including Adalah-NY, to respect the Palestinian boycott call and cancel their participation in a November 14th internet event, “With Earth and Each Other.” The event is organized by Friends of the Arava Institute, and other partners, including the Jewish National Fund (JNF), to benefit Israel’s Arava Institute for Environmental Studies.
The November 2nd call to cancel the organizations’ participation has led to email exchanges between Adalah-NY and the Director of Friends of Arava and some of the participating groups, but it is not clear if any groups will withdraw. The event on November 14th has attracted attention due to calls by many groups for legendary folksinger Pete Seeger to withdraw from it. In a recent interview, Seeger said he supports the economic boycott of Israel, but not a cultural boycott.
In July, 2010, over 1000 Israeli police entered the Palestinian Bedouin village of Al-Araqib in the Negev, and demolished the village to make room for a forest planted by the Jewish National Fund, a close partner of the Arava Institute. Al-Araqib has since been rebuilt and demolished four more times. The Arava Institute. located in the Negev, has not commented on the demolition of Al-Araqib. (Photo by ActiveStills )