Open Letter from Artists to Carnegie Hall: Cancel the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra's Performance

Pulitzer Prize–winning author Alice Walker, Palestinian spoken word artist Remi Kenazi and Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters have joined dozens of other cultural workers to call for Carnegie Hall to cancel the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra's performance.

These artists have signed the letter below and enthusiastically encourage other cultural workers to do so as well. A boycott of Israeli institutions complicit in crimes against humanity heeds the call of Palestinian civil society and follows the successful cultural boycott of apartheid South Africa.

Letter:

We are conscientious artists who support justice, human rights, equality, and democracy in the Middle East and around the world. Consequently, we are dismayed by Carnegie Hall’s upcoming October 2012 hosting of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. The IPO is an organization that whitewashes Israel’s ethnic cleansing of indigenous Palestinians. We call on Carnegie Hall to cancel the IPO’s upcoming October performance for reasons set forth in greater detail below.

How the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra Whitewashes Israel’s Oppression of Palestinians

The IPO is not an apolitical cultural institution; it is actively complicit in whitewashing Israeli human rights abuses, apartheid, and occupation of Palestinian land.

In 2006, the Israeli government launched a public relations initiative called “Brand Israel,” which seeks to use art and music to distract from Israel’s human rights violations. According to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, by sending Israeli artists and musicians abroad, “you show Israel’s prettier face, so we are not thought of purely in the context of war.” The IPO website aptly notes that the Orchestra serves as “Israel’s musical ambassador throughout the country and the world.” American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra calls the IPO “Israel’s finest cultural emissary” and notes that “[t]he goodwill created by these tours … is of enormous value to the State of Israel.” This cynical use of art and music serves to obscure Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, home demolitions in Jerusalem, kidnappings, bombings, multiple forms of collective punishment, and countless other grave abuses.

The IPO has done nothing to distance itself from the Brand Israel campaign, nor has it ever made a public statement against the oppression of the Palestinian people. On the contrary, the orchestra proudly touts its special concerts for Israeli soldiers.

Furthermore, the IPO’s involvement in Israeli militarism is nothing new. In 1948, when 750,000 Palestinian people were forced out of their homes, the orchestra “traveled in armored cars … raising the morale of civilians and soldiers alike.” In 1967, as Israel was occupying the parts of Palestine they did not occupy in 1948, “Zubin Mehta arrived in a plane full of ammunition from Europe.” In further support for the Israeli occupation beyond even the borders of historic Palestine, the IPO’s website notes that during war, “the orchestra continued to perform before IDF soldiers from the Golan Heights to Sinai”.

Brand Israel initiatives such as the IPO’s tour are designed to distract from the facts, including:

Supporting this attempt to hide the Israeli government’s crimes against humanity runs counter to our values of justice and equality. Carnegie Hall’s collaboration with the IPO also violates Palestinian civil society’s call for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against complicit Israeli institutions until Israel ceases its violations of Palestinian rights and respects international law. This boycott, modeled on the boycott of apartheid South Africa, will continue until Israel ends its military occupation of Palestinian land, grants equal rights to Palestinian citizens of Israel, and respects the right of refugees to return to their land.

Palestinian Culture Suppressed

Institutionalized Israeli oppression of Palestinian people extends to all sectors of society, including artists and cultural workers. Hana Awwad, former dancer with El Funoun Popular Dance Troupe, explained to Adalah-NY.

“Exhibits and performances by Palestinian artists are systematically banned, sabotaged, and closed down by the Israeli occupation. Artists themselves are targets of violence, arbitrary arrests, and deportations. Israel's three-tiered system of occupation, colonization, and apartheid ruthlessly suffocates the livelihoods of Palestinian communities, including our right to artistic and cultural expression.”

New York City’s Values Demand the Boycott of the IPO

As South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu noted, “[j]ust as we said during apartheid that it was inappropriate for international artists to perform in South Africa in a society founded on discriminatory laws and racial exclusivity, so it would be wrong for Cape Town Opera to perform in Israel.”

It is likewise inappropriate for Carnegie Hall, as one of New York’s major cultural institutions, to host the IPO, a cultural ambassador of Israeli apartheid.

We hope that Carnegie Hall will respect the call for a boycott of Israeli institutions by cancelling the IPO’s upcoming performance, and by committing not to partner with them again in the future. 

Sincerely,

  1. Ainsley Burrows,   Poet
  2. Alice Walker,   Pulitzer Prize-winning author
  3. Aly Abul-Kheir,   Artist,   Yorktown Hts, NY, USA
  4. Amy Helfant,   Designer & Artist Assistant,   Brooklyn, NY, USA
  5. Ana Nogueira,   Filmmaker,   New York, NY, USA
  6. André Posman,   Director De Rode Pomp,   Ghent, Belgium
  7. Ari Issler,   Filmmaker,   New York, NY, USA
  8. Ben Snyder,   Playwright,   Brooklyn, NY, USA
  9. Bill Meyer,   Composer/Pianist,   Hamtramck, MI, USA
  10. Brian Pickett,   Theatre Artist, Writer and Educator,   Fort Collins, CO, USA
  11. Burcu Gozler,   Artıst,   Brooklyn, NY, USA
  12. Carol Yost,   Writer & Visual Artist,   New York, NY, USA
  13. Dave Lippman,   Songwriter,   New York, NY, USA
  14. Dave Randall,   Musician, Faithless (UK band),   London, UK
  15. Ellen Davidson,   Singer,   New York, NY, USA
  16. Ethan Heitner,   Cartoonist,   New York, NY, USA
  17. Evan Bissell,   Artist and Educator,   Berkeley, CA, USA
  18. G. Kaleo Larsen,   Trumpet Player
  19. Gil Leib,   Musician,   Santa Monica, CA, USA
  20. Hanan Tabbara,   Artist,   New York, NY, USA
  21. Harriet Malinowitz,   Writer,   Brooklyn, NY, USA
  22. Hiroyuki Hamada,   Artist,   East Hampton, NY, USA
  23. Invincible,   Emergence Media,   Detroit, MI, USA
  24. Irena Klepfisz,   Poet & Teacher, Barnard College,   New York, NY, USA
  25. Janna Zinzi,   Performance Artist, Brown Girls Burlesque,   New York, NY, USA
  26. Jeannie Ramberg,   Violinist and Music Instructor,   Lusby, MD, USA
  27. Jeffrey Blankfort,   Photographer,   Ukiah, CA, USA
  28. John Halaka,   Visual Artist, Documentary Filmmaker & Professor of Visual Arts,   San Diego, CA, USA
  29. Judith Kazantzis,   Poet & Artist,   UK
  30. Kathleen Chalfant,   Actress,   New York, NY, USA
  31. Laura Waldman,   Artist & Writer,   Brooklyn, NY, USA
  32. Lauren Harkrader,   DJ Chela,   Beacon, NY, USA
  33. Lillian Rosengarten,   Poet,   Cold Spring, NY, USA
  34. Liz Magnes,   Jazz Pianist
  35. Mahmood Jrere,   Hip Hop Artist, DAM,   Lyd, Palestine
  36. Martina Lauer,   Organist,   Chesterville, Ontario, Canada
  37. Matt Nelson,   Artist & Musician,   Palm Springs, CA, USA
  38. Nick Cooper,   Drummer & Producer, Free Radicals & Klezmer Musicians Against the Wall,   Houston, TX, USA
  39. Nigel Parry,   Musician,  Saint Paul, MN, USA
  40. Noelle Ghoussaini,   Playwright & Director,   New York, NY, USA
  41. Ohal Grietzer,   Artist,   New York, NY, USA
  42. Paul Keskey,   Author & Illustrator,   New Paltz, NY, USA
  43. Raymond Deane,   Composer,   Dublin, Ireland
  44. Reem Kelani,   Singer & Composer,   London, UK
  45. Remi Kanazi,   Spoken Word Artist,   New York, NY, USA
  46. Renata Cobbs Fletcher,   Actor,   Philadelphia, PA, USA
  47. Rhone Fraser,   Writer,   Philadelphia, PA, USA
  48. Rich Siegel,   Pianist/Vocalist/Songwriter,   Teaneck, NJ, USA
  49. Roger Waters,   Lead Singer, Lyricist & Bass Guitarist, Pink Floyd
  50. Rollema,   Artist,   The Hague, Netherlands
  51. Russ Jennings,   Common Soul Productions,   New York, NY, USA
  52. Sainatee Suarez,   Musician,   New York, NY, USA
  53. Samantha Barrow,   Poet, Writer & Educator,   New York, NY, USA
  54. Shailja Patel,   Author and Theater Artist,   Oakland, CA, USA
  55. Shelby Tucker,   Author,   Oxford, UK
  56. Steve Kowit,   Poet,   San Diego, CA, USA
  57. Suhell Nafar,   Hip Hop Artist, DAM,   Lyd, Palestine
  58. Susan Abulhawa,   Author
  59. Tamer Nafar,   Hip Hop Artist, DAM,   Lyd, Palestine
  60. The Raskol Khan,   Hip Hop Artist
  61. Tom Suarez,   Violinist,   New York & London
  62. Una Osato,   Actor, Playwright & Dancer,   New York, NY, USA

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