The IPO Has Got to Go: Letter in THE INDEPENDENT

The following letter was published in the 30 August 2011 edition of The Independent, a major UK national daily newspaper:

Proms exploited for arts propaganda campaign

As musicians we are dismayed that the BBC has invited the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra to play at the Proms on 1 September. The IPO has a deep involvement with the Israeli state – not least its self-proclaimed “partnership” with the Israeli Defence Forces. This is the same state and army that impedes in every way it can the development of Palestinian culture, including the prevention of Palestinian musicians from travelling abroad to perform.

Our main concern is that Israel deliberately uses the arts as propaganda to promote a misleading image of Israel. Through this campaign, officially called “Brand Israel”, denials of human rights and violations of international law are hidden behind a cultural smokescreen. The IPO is perhaps Israel’s prime asset in this campaign.

The Director of the Proms, Roger Wright, was asked to cancel the concert in accordance with the call from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott (PACBI). He rejected this call, saying that the invitation is “purely musical”.

Israel’s policy towards the Palestinians fits the UN definition of apartheid. We call on the BBC to cancel this concert.

Derek Ball (composer)

Frances Bernstein (community choir leader)

Steve Bingham (violinist)

John Claydon (saxophonist)

Malcolm Crowthers (music photographer)

Raymond Deane (composer)

Tom Eisner (violinist LPO)

Nancy Elan (violinist LPO)

Deborah Fink (soprano)

Catherine Ford (violinist, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment)

Reem Kelani (Palestinian singer, musician and broadcaster)

Les Levidow (violinist)

Susie Meszaros (violinist, Chilingirian Quartet)

Roy Mowatt (violinist, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment)

Ian Pace (pianist)

Leon Rosselson (singer-songwriter)

Dominic Saunders (pianist)

Chris Somes-Charlton (artist manager)

Leni Solinger (violinist)

Sarah Streatfeild (violinist LPO)

Sue Sutherley (cellist LPO)

Tom Suarez (violinist, New York)

Kareem Taylor (Oud Player/Guitarist and Composer)

Miriam Walton (pianist, organist and French horn player)

* There’ll be a protest organised by the PSC at the Royal Albert Hall between 6:00-8:00pm this Thursday, 1 September to send a clear message to these Israeli Ambassadors of Apartheid that they are not welcome in the UK.

Click here for further information.

IPO: Out of Tune with Human Rights

Note: This Thursday, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO) is scheduled to perform at the Royal Albert Hall as part of the 2011 Proms Season. This letter, originally published 18 July 2011, sets out the case why the BBC should cancel the IPO’s performance.

BBC Proms: Cancel Israel
Philharmonic Orchestra Invitation

We, Palestinian cultural institutions, including the leading musical organizations, urge the BBC to cancel the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO) concert at this year’s Proms [1], due to IPO’s complicity in whitewashing Israel’s persistent violations of international law and human rights. The IPO is scheduled to perform in September in London. Should the BBC fail to cancel this ill-conceived concert, we urge all people of conscience in the UK and especially those who stand for justice, freedom, equality and human rights to effectively protest this event, including by promoting a wide boycott of it, and by tapping into the impressive creative energies British supporters of Palestinian rights have always shown.

The IPO is one of the flagship institutions of the Israeli state, tracing its history to the 1930’s under the British Mandate. The IPO Foundation describes the orchestra as “Israel’s musical ambassador,” [2] while the American Friends of the IPO has this to say about it:

Often said to have more heart than other orchestras, the IPO is Israel’s finest cultural emissary and travels throughout the world, particularly to countries where there is little or no Israeli representation. In some cases, performances of the IPO are the only example of Israel’s existence. The goodwill created by these tours, which have included historic visits to Japan, Argentina, Poland, Hungary, Russia, China and India, is of enormous value to the State of Israel. As a result, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra maintains its position at the forefront of cultural diplomacy and the international music scene. [3]

As befits an institution that identifies with the Israeli state and openly serves Israel’s interests, despite its occupation and apartheid and decades-old denial of Palestinian rights, the IPO proudly announces its partnership with the army under a scheme whereby special concerts for Israeli soldiers are organized at their army outposts [4].

In this way, the orchestra has lent itself to the official Israeli propaganda campaign titled Brand Israel, which aims to divert attention from Israel’s violations of international law and Palestinian rights to its artistic and scientific achievements. [5]

Moreover, during the 1948 Nakba, the IPO made it a mission to entertain Israeli soldiers [6] who were busy ethnically cleansing Palestinians, committing massacres and systematically demolishing hundreds of Palestinian villages to prevent the refugees’ return. The IPO also entertained Israeli troops in 1967 [7], right after Israel’s war of aggression against the Palestinians and Arab states and its occupation of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), Gaza, the Syrian Golan Heights and the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula.

“…we call upon all Palestine solidarity activists in the United Kingdom to organize activities to protest and boycott the orchestra’s concerts.” -  PACBI

Given the orchestra’s strong association with the Israeli state and other Zionist organizations involved in “brand-Israel” activities [8], we call upon all Palestine solidarity activists in the United Kingdom to organize activities to protest and boycott the orchestra’s concerts. As long as it continues to partner with the state in whitewashing war crimes and international law violations, the Israeli cultural establishment cannot expect to be exempted from the growing boycott movement.

This appeal is made within the framework of the Palestinian civil society call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) [9], and the call for the boycott of all Israeli academic and cultural institutions issued by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) [10], and in accordance with the guidelines for the cultural boycott of Israel [11], which an overwhelming majority of Palestinian cultural and artistic institutions have endorsed.

We believe that the time has come to apply pressure on Israel in the form of boycotts, divestment initiatives and sanctions, as was done successfully in the struggle against the apartheid regime in South Africa. Israel must not be allowed to flout international law and precepts of international humanitarian law with impunity. Israel’s cultural ambassadors play a pivotal role in covering up Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people; they must be held accountable for their shameless complicity.

Signed:

- Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)

- General Union for Palestinian Writers

- Edward Said National Conservatory of Music

- Al Kamandjati Association

- The Palestinian House of Poetry

- Yabous Cultural Center, Jerusalem

- Palestinian Women Research and Documentation Centre

- The Popular Art Centre

- The Palestinian Forum for Culture and Media – Paris

- Sanabel Theater – Jerusalem

- Theatre Day Productions

- World Association of Writers – Palestine center

- Al-Harah Theater

- Palestinian Association for Contemporary Art (PACA)

- Al-Kasaba Theatre and Cinemateque

Notes:

[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/whats-on/2011/september-01/73

[2] http://www.ipo.co.il/eng/Fund/AboutUs/Articles,58.aspx
[3] http://www.afipo.org/ipo; emphasis added.
[4] http://www.ipo.co.il/eng/About/Profile/.aspx
[5] For more on the Brand Israel campaign, see:
http://www.forward.com/articles/2070
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/19/world/middleeast/19israel.html
http://www.haaretz.com/misc/article-print-page/about-face-1.170267?trailingPath=2.169%2C2.225%2C2.239%2C
[6] http://www.ask.com/wiki/Music_of_Israel

[7] http://www.jewishideasdaily.com/content/module/2010/12/24/main-feature/1/the-sound-of-classical-music

[8] One such organization is the America-Israel Cultural Foundation, whose mission includes “[d]epict[ing] the State of Israel as a thriving cultural environment that stimulates creativity and artistic life.” See http://www.aicf.org/about/mission . The organization takes credit for having supported and promoted all major cultural institutions in Israel, such as the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and the Israel Museum. See: http://www.aicf.org/about/impact/institutions
[9] http://www.bdsmovement.net/?q=node/52
[10] http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=869
[11] http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=1047

* There’ll be a protest organised by the PSC at the Royal Albert Hall between 6:00-8:00pm this Thursday, 1 September to send a clear message to these Israeli Ambassadors of Apartheid that they are not welcome in the UK.

Click here for further information.

Ahava Protest – Saturday 27 August

Video/report by Seymour

Despite rain showers, the fortnightly protest continued with a respectable turnout, including our saxophonist who provided an appropriate soundtrack. Also present was an Israeli Palestine solidarity activist who came to express her solidarity and is interviewed in this video report.

The Ahava shop is still open and carrying on its (illegal) business by selling stolen Palestinian produce as ‘Made in Israel’ thus (1) misrepresenting what it is marketing, (2) evading EU import duties, (3) receiving and handling stolen produce, (4) selling produce from occupied land … and you name a law at random and Ahava will probably have broken it.

This appears to be of no concern to Camden Council who of course worry most about such important things as collecting parking fines and making sure that local taxpayer’s money gets quickly recycled on to companies that profit from the occupation of Palestine – like Veolia Environmental Services.

Only a few more weeks to go before Ahava leaves Monmouth Street, thanks in part to the many human rights activists who’ve been attending the fortnightly protests that started in March 2010.

Al Quds Day 2011

Video by Seymour

By Internationalist

Sunday was Al Quds (Jerusalem) Day, and although Jerusalem is regarded as a sacred place by all three monotheistic faiths, Al Quds Day is marked mainly by the Muslim community as seen by the use of the Arabic name for Jerusalem, Al Quds.

The march began in Portland Place by the BBC offices because of the BBC’s craven reluctance to state the truth about what is happening in East Jerusalem, Israel and the Occupied Territories at large, and because of their failure to acknowledge that there was a humanitarian crisis in Gaza after the massacre and total destruction wreaked by Israel in December 2008 and January 2009.

The Neturei Karta.

Luckily, it was a pleasant, sunny day and after some preliminary speeches, prayers and rallying cries, the march, which had a good turnout, set off for Trafalgar Square, led by a line of Imams, closely followed by Rabbis and other members of Neturei Karta, the religious Jewish community who don’t believe that there should be a Jewish state and are totally opposed to Israel.  People carried flags, placards and banners, including placards referring to Israeli blood diamonds, the bombing and siege of Gaza, the constant killing of children, and a J-BIG banner (Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods), pointing out that it is kosher to boycott Israel.

It was a good-natured orderly march and when we arrived at Trafalgar Square we saw that there was a small group of EDL (English Defence League) members cordoned off across the road from the square.  The EDL, whose forerunners in the thirties and forties victimised Jews, and later black and Asian people, now target Muslims and support Israel (on the wrong side of history as ever).  As my friend John and I were walking into the square I noticed a suspicious-looking character and commented on this; as I was speaking about him, a police officer stopped the person in question, telling him that he couldn’t come into the square.

The thug called the policeman a “f****ing c**t” at which point the police officer, with help, rapidly removed him from the square.  The police did a good job in keeping the troublemakers away, ensuring that the rally went off smoothly.

As always, there were various speakers on the theme of the liberation of the people of Palestine and Jerusalem, including Lauren Booth, a Rabbi from Neturei Karta, John Rees from Stop the War Coalition and some brothers
from the Muslim community.  But this year there was an added dimension to the day with various people speaking to the rally about the BDS movement.

PressTV report.

Sean Clinton of the Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign spoke about the diamond industry, from which Israel profits annually to the tune of billions of dollars, thus contributing to the militarised state and the oppression of the Palestinian people.

Boycott Israeli blood diamonds!

These diamonds are not seen as blood diamonds by the Kimberly Process,
which embargoes rough diamonds mined and sold on the blood of innocent
people.  Polished diamonds do not fall under this category, which is one of the reasons why Israel, which polishes rough diamonds, escapes censure.  But it
cannot be denied that as Israel’s most lucrative industry, the diamond trade
contributes to the ongoing occupation, donations by rich diamond traders to
Israel notwithstanding!  Sean said that the Kimberly Process must be lobbied intensively so as to hold Israel to account.

Bruce spoke on behalf of our Israeli guest Yaar, a BDS activist in Israel since he was unable to be present in person having had a prior engagement in Oxford, but he made it clear that everything either known or suspected about Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people is indeed true.

The rally.

Natasha gave an excellent speech on BDS, pointing out that boycott is something that everybody can do with no cost to themselves.  And last but not least, a young man and a lovely little girl gave a stirring rendition of Michael Heart’s song “We Will Not Go Down”, which he wrote in response to the mad onslaught of mayhem and murder in Gaza two years ago.

It was good to see a sizeable and mixed crowd of people gathered together in the square, all in solidarity with the people of Palestine and it was also good to listen to such accomplished speakers on a sunny Saturday afternoon without interference from those who would divide our communities if they could.  The next step is to widen and intensify the call to BDS so that it becomes a truly mainstream movement, as it is fast becoming.

Outrage Outside the Israeli Embassy in London

Video and commentary by Seymour

The above video was made during an emergency demo called within a few hours notice outside the Israeli Embassy in London on Friday, August 19th. 

There were emergency demonstrations held last Friday outside Israeli embassies throughout the world at the latest outrage committed the day before by the Zionist Apartheid regime against the Palestinian people of Gaza.

This was one of those times when we, the people, get sufficiently angry about the arrogance and criminality of the murderous regime in Tel Aviv that an impromptu protest can be arranged within a couple of hours.

We already know that the reaction of our pro-Zionist government to Israel’s latest campaign of slaughter against the defenceless civilian population of Gaza will be totally inadequate and will in no way reflect the outrage and sense of helplessness felt by so many of us.

When war crimes of such gravity are committed with impunity because Israel knows that it is protected from any redress thanks to its lobby embedded within the governments of the US and the EU, then we know that the only recourse left open to us is to take to the streets, to shout and protest and ensure that the representatives of the evil Apartheid state of Israel, holed up in Palace Gate, clearly understand that their presence here amongst civilized society is abhorrent.

Below is yet another video that graphically illustrates the anger and outrage of those present last Friday outside the Israeli Embassy in London.

Video by Muslim Public Affairs Committee UK

Don’t Engage with Israeli Blood Diamonds

Report by Bruce

Saturday, 20 August 2011

BDS Activists – as well as Marilyn Monroe – joined Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign colleagues in Hatton Garden, London’s jewellery quarter and centre of the UK diamond trade, to educate jewellery retailers, customers and the general public about Israeli blood diamonds.

In 2008, Israeli diamond exports accounted for approx UK £12 billion. Israel is a leading diamond exporter and diamonds account for over 30% of Israel’s exports which indirectly funds Israeli Apartheid, war crimes and crimes against humanity. To put this into perspective, the entire Israeli military budget in 2008 was approx UK £9.5 billion.

Thanks to Seymour for the video

Sean Clinton, a leading authority in the campaign against Israeli blood diamonds, as well as a member of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, flew into London especially for this action. Mr Clinton recently had a letter published exposing Israeli blood diamonds in Retail Jeweller, the industry magazine for jewellers, which caused an uproar amongst Israeli diamond dealers.

As Mr. Clinton said, “When six of the most influential leaders of the Israeli diamond industry, representing nine different international bodies, react to a comment in a magazine you know you’ve touched a very raw nerve”. Sean’s letter can be read here and the responses can be read here.

Human rights activists called on jewellers to be held accountable for facilitating the masquerade whereby Israeli diamonds are sold to unsuspecting consumers under the guise of the misleading and deceptive label of the Kimberley Process.

Using colourful flyers, signs, banners, placards and humour, campaigners successfully engaged with both jewellery retailers and customers about the benefits of knowing where each diamond was crafted and spoke to a wide cross-section of people about why they should choose diamonds that don’t support Israeli war crimes.

The Kimberley Process certification, which the diamond industry and jewellers like to use, makes no mention of the term “conflict-free,” yet many jewellers deliberately use this term to describe all diamonds that fall outside the KP’s narrow definition of a conflict diamond and use the Kimberley Process as a smoke screen to sell diamonds crafted in Israel to unsuspecting consumers. The KP certification only applies to rough diamonds and does not apply to the much more lucrative and polished diamonds which Israel dominates.

In addition to urging consumers to boycott Israeli blood diamonds, human rights campaigners, as well as people of conscience are also calling for the jewellery industry to review the Kimberly Process, so that all diamonds that fund human rights abuses are banned and for diamonds to be laser inscribed to identify where they were produced and crafted.

As with the Boycott Israeli Dates and supermarket campaigns, human rights activists encouraged both ethical consumers and retailers to ensure they know where the product they are purchasing (or selling) originated and where it was processed.

The day proved highly successful in educating more people about blood diamonds and their link to Israeli crimes and violations of international law.

For further information, here are two highly-recommended articles:

Tell the Kimberly Process: Israeli diamonds are blood diamonds by Tania Kepler for the Alternative Information Center (AIC).

The diamond industry’s double-standard on Israel by IPSC member Sean Clinton who heads the Boycott Israeli Blood Diamonds campaign in Ireland that was originally posted on the Electronic Intifada website on 23rd June 2010.

What you can do:

Please add your name to the ‘Stop Israel’s Blood Diamond Trade’ PETITION

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

More coverage and photos on Demotix.

Video: Biking for BDS (and other causes)

Submitted by Maureen on Electronic Intifada

A new short video documents the journey of a group of community organizers, artists, food growers and cyclists who traveled from London to Palestine by bicycle in 100 days this spring.

The group, who traveled under the banner P.E.D.A.L., uphold the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions as one of their primary principles. The group’s website explains:

As the crackdown on popular resistance organizers in both Palestine and Israel expands P.E.D.A.L. will take the BDS tactic across Europe and into the Middle East; sharing information and working to build strong networks in solidarity with those fighting the oppression of the Israeli state.

Our journey will trace a trail of corporations complicit in the illegal occupation; highlighting their profiteering in the resource theft by the Israeli state of the Palestinian people.

We will do solidarity work around court cases for BDS actions and support protest taken to highlight and prevent the Israeli government’s breaking of fundamental human rights, and the complicity of corporations in the illegal occupation.

Along the journey, P.E.D.A.L. linked the anti-colonial struggle in Palestine with land rights, food autonomy and environmental justice issues in communities they passed through. According to the website:

P.E.D.A.L. will visit communities involved in struggles for access to land and water, and fighting for food autonomy; linking food growing networks across Europe to Palestine, and extending seed-sharing communities.

The bike ride will highlight the involvement of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) in appropriating Palestinian land. The JNF and its affiliate organizations enjoy charitable status in 50 countries as environmental charities, despite the JNF being legislated to carry out Israeli-government functions.

The JNF’s holds land in trust for “those of Jewish race or descendendency to promote the interests of Jews in the prescribed region”. The JNF has direct control of 13% of the land in pre-1967 Israel, and appoints six out of thirteen member of the governing board of the Israel Lands Authority (ILA) which also controls another 80% of land in Israel.

Scratch beneath the surface of JNF’s shining public image to see the forestation, parks and recreational facilities on the ruins of destroyed Palestinian villages. P.E.D.A.L. works with and promotes the campaigns of groups exposing the JNF’s greenwashing of land occupation- taking information and working to forge new relationships.

Be sure to check out P.E.D.A.L.’s website for the blog archive of the 100-day journey, images, and organizing resources.

Original Link: http://electronicintifada.net/blog/maureen/video-biking-bds-and-other-causes