November 4, 2014, New York, NY - In a public letter, over 4000 individuals and 50 groups from around the world have called for the New York-based World Music Institute (WMI) to cancel their presentation of a concert by Israeli musician Idan Raichel on November 18 at New York City’s Symphony Space due to Raichel’s role as a cultural ambassador for Israel who provides “uncritical support for the Israeli military and government.” Raichel will be performing with the Malian musician Vieux Farka Touré.
Current signatories to the letter calling on WMI to drop Raichel include filmmaker and WMI honorary board member Mira Nair; the Grammy-nominated Haitian band Boukman Eksperyans, scheduled to perform with WMI in May; Egyptian writer and activist Ahdaf Soueif; musician Shubha Mudgal; writer and art critic Lucy Lippard; poet Ammiel Alcalay; actor David Clennon; the Palestinian hip hop group DAM; playwright Naomi Wallace; and groups from the US, India, South Africa, Latin America, Europe and the Middle East.
The letter with three initial signatories was emailed to WMI on October 2. After four weeks with no response, Adalah-NY members hand-delivered the signed letter to staff at WMI’s Manhattan office on October 31. They briefly discussed Raichel’s human rights record with two WMI staff. The WMI staff expressed concern, and said that a complete change in WMI personnel was taking place. One staffmember, the new WMI Director, agreed to a follow-up meeting with Adalah-NY members the following Monday, but, after no news, Adalah-NY learned on Tuesday that the new Director was no longer working for WMI.
Commenting on Raichel, Samia Botmeh from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), an original signatory to the letter to WMI, said, “PACBI calls for boycotting Idan Raichel's performances because he is a cultural ambassador of Israel, as both he and the Israeli foreign ministry have boasted. Raichel is willingly lending his name to the Israeli government to re-brand itself and perform damage control after its latest massacre in Gaza. No matter how hard Raichel and other cultural, scientific and academic ambassadors of Israel try to whitewash Israel's horrific crimes against humanity, people of conscience can see right through their propaganda.” Raichel summarized his views in 2012, saying, “I believe that our role as artists is to enlist in the Israeli propaganda campaign [Hasbara]… I would like to encourage our soldiers, yes, who are so moral, and encourage the IDF, a more moral army you will not find in the entire world.”
In a separate letter to WMI, The Cultures of Resistance Network Foundation, a past WMI supporter, explained, “Given the manner in which Raichel has aligned himself with the Israeli government, we believe that he communicates values contrary to tolerance and respect for human rights. For these reasons, we ask that the WMI sever ties with this artist.”
Adalah-NY has announced a protest of the November 18 Raichel concert at Symphony Space. At a 2013 protest of a Raichel concert in Manhattan, Raichel supporters greeted protesters with profanities, and singled out a few of the female Muslim protesters, ridiculing their headscarves.
Adalah-NY supports the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement targeting Israel, a nonviolent initiative modeled on the international boycott campaign that helped bring an end to apartheid in South Africa.
To see the letter and signers and learn more about Idan Raichel see: adalah-web-action/1202/open-letter-world-music-institute-do-not-present-idan-raichel