New Yorkers Protest India.Arie Concert with Israeli Superstar Idan Raichel


October 18, New York, NY - New York human rights activists protested the Idan Raichel and India.Arie “Open Door” concert at the Beacon Theater Tuesday night, handing out fliers and singing songs that highlighted how the performers help whitewash Israel’s apartheid policies against the Palestinian people. The US tour of Grammy Award–winning singer/songwriter India.Arie with “Israel’s most popular dread-locked musician” was met with similar protests in Olympia, WA, and Seattle, WA, and will again face protest this Wednesday in Boston.

Hannah Mermelstein of Adalah-NY stated, “This is not just a normal concert. By using culture to cover up Israel’s systematic repression of Palestinians, the Open Door concert closes the doors on Palestinian human rights. Idan Raichel is a self-proclaimed proud ambassador of Israel, but there is no pride in Israel’s ongoing siege—which includes killing, imprisonment, land confiscation, and blockades—of the indigenous people of Palestine.” 

The protests respond to the 2004 call by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) to boycott cultural products and events that work to normalize Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories and whitewash the oppression of Palestinians in Israel, the occupied territories, and in exile. The international movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel has gained momentum in recent years with more supporters worldwide, and performers like Elvis Costello, Gil Scott-Heron, Roger Waters, Devendra Banhart, and the Pixies all refusing to play in Israel.

Protesters chanted, “If you have a ticket, step inside, for a beautiful evening of musical apartheid” as they handed out hundreds of fliers to concert-goers. The fliers stated, “Idan Raichel’s tour is part of the Israeli government’s ‘Brand Israel’ campaign. By portraying Israel as a vibrant, multicultural democracy, this campaign tries to conceal the harsh reality of Israel’s apartheid society and occupation of Palestine.” Promoting Idan Raichel’s previous 2005 US tour on its website, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs explained the importance of using culture to get “young see Israel beyond the conflict” and lauded the dread-locked Raichel’s particular ability to “give the African-American population...a new perspective on what this country [Israel] is all about.”

Raichel has served in and performed for the Israeli army and actively expressed support for the Israel military during its brutal attacks on Gaza in 2008–09 and criticized Israelis who refused to serve in the army. Raichel’s performance in 2007 in the Israeli settlementNokdim, led to a call for boycott by the Israeli organization Gush Shalom, for collaborating with settlements that prevent any possibility of peace.

Alexis Stern of Adalah-NY stated, “His fans think that Raichel is a man of peace, but how could a man of peace support the bombing of Gaza, which killed 1,400 people? We were surprised to learn that India.Arie was performing with Idan Raichel. By doing so, she gives tacit approval to actions widely condemned by the international community as war crimes.”

In a special message to India.Arie, protesters held up a sign saying “India: Don’t Entertain Apartheid” and sang a parody of Arie's song "Ghetto":

To be hungry in Khan Younis
Evicted from your village
Homeless in your homeland
Like a shelter in Chicago

A number of concert goers stopped to talk to protesters. One took a stack of fliers to leave inside the concert hall and another, after considering boycotting the concert, said she would attend and scream out Free Palestine during the concert instead. 

Modeled on the worldwide campaign against apartheid-era South Africa, the movement for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, which was called for in response to Israel’s many violations of Palestinian rights, has grown and achieved significant successes, particularly following Israel’s 2008-09 assault on the Gaza Strip, which killed over 1400 Palestinians.

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October 18, 2011

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