FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
New York, NY, October 17, 2015 – On Friday evening, 60 New York human rights advocates protested on the sidewalk outside a solo concert by Israeli singer Idan Raichel at the City Winery in Manhattan (Photos). Idan Raichel calls himself a cultural ambassador for Israel and is an outspoken and uncritical promoter of the Israeli army. Raichel’s actions support the Israeli government’s Brand Israel public relations campaign, which uses art and music to distract from Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights.
The protest came as the Israeli army is once again escalating its violent repression of Palestinians living under military occupation, killing more than 30 Palestinians, and injuring over 1500 since October 1. In response to this assault, the Palestinian-led movement mobilizing for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel has called for a wave of protests in solidarity with the Palestinian popular resistance, and to pressure governments, institutions and corporations to end their role in Israel’s crimes.
Protesters were able to see Raichel and the audience inside the small venue through large windows. They held up signs in front of the windows, including illuminated signs saying “#BDS.” An NYPD officer complained that the chanting and singing protesters and the radical marching band that accompanied them, the Rude Mechanical Orchestra, could also be heard inside where Raichel was playing.
Riham Barghouti from Adalah-NY told the crowd, “We as people of conscience stand up with Palestine! We are here as part of the global wave of action in solidarity with Palestine. We call on City Winery and other New York cultural institutions not to be complicit in Brand Israel’s cynical use of art to whitewash human rights violations.”
The protesters chanted, “Idan let us set you straight, Israel is a racist state.” They passed out flyers calling for a boycott of Israel, and a boycott of Raichel due to his role as a cultural ambassador for Israel. As the audience departed after the concert, some were angered to be greeted by remaining protesters holding the brightly lit #BDS signs, and a Palestinian flag.
An Israeli government official called Idan Raichel “maybe the best ambassador that Israel has.” In the last two months, he headlined a concert organized by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Italy, and performed to welcome American Jews who had just arrived in Israel to enlist in Israel's army, which terrorizes Palestinians and enforces Israel’s apartheid regime. Raichel performed for the army before, during and after its August 2014 attack on Gaza, which killed over 2100 Palestinians, including 500 children. In a statement endorsing the right-wing US non-profit Thank Israeli Soldiers, he said that supporting Israeli soldiers “is a fulfillment of the Jewish ideal.” He began his previous US tour by attending a gala fundraiser for Friends of the Israel Defense Forces.
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement aims to pressure Israel by sending the message that there will be no business as usual until Israel ends its occupation, colonization, and apartheid policies. The protest was organized by Adalah-NY and supported by Brooklyn For Peace; Jews Say No!; Queers Against Israeli Apartheid – NYC; Students for Justice in Palestine, The New School; and the WESPAC Foundation. Adalah-NY has protested Raichel’s concerts in the past, as have other groups.