New Yorkers Protest the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra at Carnegie Hall
March 21, 2014 - A group of New York human rights advocates held an impromptu protest Thursday night outside the performance of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO) at Manhattan’s Carnegie Hall. The protest was organized by Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel to oppose the IPO’s deliberate use of art to whitewash Israel’s systematic and brutal repression of the rights of the Palestinian people.
Standing in silence about 50 feet from the main entrance to Carnegie Hall as concertgoers arrived, the protesters held signs highlighting Israel’s suppression of Palestinian music and culture. They passed out hundreds of flyers to attendees and passers-by calling for a boycott of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, and of Israeli cultural institutions that support Israel’s systematic denial of Palestinian human rights. The protest was met with reactions ranging from support, to interest, to anger.
The IPO calls itself “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.” An Israeli Foreign Ministry official explained the government efforts to rebrand Israel that the IPO supports to the New York Times in 2009 saying, “We will send well-known novelists and writers overseas, theater companies, exhibits…This way you show Israel’s prettier face, so we are not thought of purely in the context of war.”
The IPO has been a long-time and steadfast supporter of Israeli militarism. 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”.
Adalah-NY has organized past, larger protests of the IPO at the IPO’s October 2013 fundraiser at Lincoln Center, as well as at their performances at Carnegie Hall in 2011 and 2012. The protest was in support of the growing international movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. The Palestinian-led BDS movement is a nonviolent campaign for Palestinian rights inspired by the international boycott campaign that helped to bring an end to apartheid in South Africa.