NEW YORK — On the evening of February 22, 70 people from Adalah-NY, Jews Say No!, The War Resisters League, Al-Awda-NY and several other organizations held a protest across the street from Carnegie Hall where the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO) was about to perform. As concert goers arrived, many coming in limos wearing formal evening attire, clad in fur and sparkling gems, they were noticeably astonished to see and hear the tumult going on across the street. They stopped on the curb to read the placards and hear the chants and songs. Some took photos.
Some demonstrators were within the crowd waiting to get into Carnegie Hall. They handed out mock programs with a photo on the front of the IPO playing for Israeli soldiers with tanks in the background. Inside the program there was a call for an international boycott of the orchestra.
The orchestra will face six similar protests along their tour route. These protests are a response to the call from Palestinian civil society to boycott any Israeli organization that seeks to distract the world from the apartheid policies used by Israel against the Palestinian people — as well as the occupation of Palestinian land and the oppression of Palestinians within Israel, the territories, and those living in exile.
While the IPO does not discuss Israeli policy it is described by American Friends of the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra as “Israel’s finest cultural emissary,” which “travels throughout the world…The goodwill created by these tours… is of enormous value to the State of Israel. As a result, the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra maintains it’s position as the forefront of cultural diplomacy and the international music scene.”
Israeli billionaire, Lev Leviev, is a corporate sponsor of the IPO tour. He held a fundraising gala for them in November. Leviev’s companies have been shunned by UNICEF, CARE, Oxfam, film stars, and international investment companies because of Leviev’s construction of Israeli colonies (“settlements”) on Palestinian land — and human rights abuses in his diamond industry in Southern Africa.
Noelle Ghoussaini of Adalah-NY said, “Tonight we sent a clear message to the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and the Israeli government’s ‘Brand Israel’ campaign that their music cannot drown out the Palestinian’s call for justice.” Those supporting human rights all over the world will not allow cultural ambassadors to stamp a happy face on what Israel is doing to the Palestinian men, women, and children.