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.
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:
- Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestinian lands;
- Israel’s more than 200 Jewish-only settlements and “outposts” built on Palestinian land in violation of international law;
- Israel’s “Apartheid” wall in the West Bank that further appropriates Palestinian land, also in violation of international law according to the International Court of Justice;
- Israel’s demolition of about 27,000 Palestinian homes since 1967;
- Israel’s 2009 invasion of Gaza, which killed over 1,400 Palestinians, prompting allegations of war crimes by a United Nations Fact Finding Mission.
- Israel’s 30 new and pending laws, in addition to the ones already in place, that discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel and enshrine their status as second-class citizens.
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.
- Ainsley Burrows, Poet
- Alice Walker, Pulitzer Prize-winning author
- Aly Abul-Kheir, Artist, Yorktown Hts, NY, USA
- Amy Helfant, Designer & Artist Assistant, Brooklyn, NY, USA
- Ana Nogueira, Filmmaker, New York, NY, USA
- André Posman, Director De Rode Pomp, Ghent, Belgium
- Ari Issler, Filmmaker, New York, NY, USA
- Ben Snyder, Playwright, Brooklyn, NY, USA
- Bill Meyer, Composer/Pianist, Hamtramck, MI, USA
- Brian Pickett, Theatre Artist, Writer and Educator, Fort Collins, CO, USA
- Burcu Gozler, Artıst, Brooklyn, NY, USA
- Carol Yost, Writer & Visual Artist, New York, NY, USA
- Dave Lippman, Songwriter, New York, NY, USA
- Dave Randall, Musician, Faithless (UK band), London, UK
- Ellen Davidson, Singer, New York, NY, USA
- Ethan Heitner, Cartoonist, New York, NY, USA
- Evan Bissell, Artist and Educator, Berkeley, CA, USA
- G. Kaleo Larsen, Trumpet Player
- Gil Leib, Musician, Santa Monica, CA, USA
- Hanan Tabbara, Artist, New York, NY, USA
- Harriet Malinowitz, Writer, Brooklyn, NY, USA
- Hiroyuki Hamada, Artist, East Hampton, NY, USA
- Invincible, Emergence Media, Detroit, MI, USA
- Irena Klepfisz, Poet & Teacher, Barnard College, New York, NY, USA
- Janna Zinzi, Performance Artist, Brown Girls Burlesque, New York, NY, USA
- Jeannie Ramberg, Violinist and Music Instructor, Lusby, MD, USA
- Jeffrey Blankfort, Photographer, Ukiah, CA, USA
- John Halaka, Visual Artist, Documentary Filmmaker & Professor of Visual Arts, San Diego, CA, USA
- Judith Kazantzis, Poet & Artist, UK
- Kathleen Chalfant, Actress, New York, NY, USA
- Laura Waldman, Artist & Writer, Brooklyn, NY, USA
- Lauren Harkrader, DJ Chela, Beacon, NY, USA
- Lillian Rosengarten, Poet, Cold Spring, NY, USA
- Liz Magnes, Jazz Pianist
- Mahmood Jrere, Hip Hop Artist, DAM, Lyd, Palestine
- Martina Lauer, Organist, Chesterville, Ontario, Canada
- Matt Nelson, Artist & Musician, Palm Springs, CA, USA
- Nick Cooper, Drummer & Producer, Free Radicals & Klezmer Musicians Against the Wall, Houston, TX, USA
- Nigel Parry, Musician, Saint Paul, MN, USA
- Noelle Ghoussaini, Playwright & Director, New York, NY, USA
- Ohal Grietzer, Artist, New York, NY, USA
- Paul Keskey, Author & Illustrator, New Paltz, NY, USA
- Raymond Deane, Composer, Dublin, Ireland
- Reem Kelani, Singer & Composer, London, UK
- Remi Kanazi, Spoken Word Artist, New York, NY, USA
- Renata Cobbs Fletcher, Actor, Philadelphia, PA, USA
- Rhone Fraser, Writer, Philadelphia, PA, USA
- Rich Siegel, Pianist/Vocalist/Songwriter, Teaneck, NJ, USA
- Roger Waters, Lead Singer, Lyricist & Bass Guitarist, Pink Floyd
- Rollema, Artist, The Hague, Netherlands
- Russ Jennings, Common Soul Productions, New York, NY, USA
- Sainatee Suarez, Musician, New York, NY, USA
- Samantha Barrow, Poet, Writer & Educator, New York, NY, USA
- Shailja Patel, Author and Theater Artist, Oakland, CA, USA
- Shelby Tucker, Author, Oxford, UK
- Steve Kowit, Poet, San Diego, CA, USA
- Suhell Nafar, Hip Hop Artist, DAM, Lyd, Palestine
- Susan Abulhawa, Author
- Tamer Nafar, Hip Hop Artist, DAM, Lyd, Palestine
- The Raskol Khan, Hip Hop Artist
- Tom Suarez, Violinist, New York & London
- Una Osato, Actor, Playwright & Dancer, New York, NY, USA