Monthly Archives: March 2011

Campaigners withdraw threat to picket Israeli Music conference after organisers confirm “No Israeli funding”

Press release from the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine

24th March 2011

Groups campaigning for Palestinian human rights have declared that a conference on Israeli music is “no longer a priority for boycott”.

The conference “Art Musics of Israel: Identities, Ideologies, Influences” is being organised by the Jewish Music Institute (JMI), from 28th to 31st March. Some of its events are being held at SOAS, University of London.

Original publicity material for the conference had acknowledged support from the Israeli Embassy, London, and the British Israeli Arts Training Scheme (BI ARTS), “a British Council initiative in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Culture and Sport in Israel”. The British Friends of the Hebrew University was also mentioned.

Consequently the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP), Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (J-BIG) and the Boycott Israel Network (BIN) all called for the conference to be boycotted. They prepared a letter to be sent to all those taking part, whether as speakers, session chairs or performers.

This decision was communicated to the Conference organisers, and a strong statement opposing the holding of the event was signed by distinguished practitioners from many musical fields. (See text below).

However, in correspondence with the protesters, Geraldine Auerbach, the head of the Jewish Music Institute, stated “I confirm that there is no funding directly or indirectly from the Israeli Government or institutions”. Subsequently all reference to the Israeli- related organisations was removed from the conference’s online publicity materials. Similarly Ms Auerbach, who had stated in the Jewish Chronicle that the Israeli Embassy was helping to promote the Conference, now stated that no such promotion had taken place.

After some further discussion and clarification, the protestors declared that although they still had strong concerns about the conference, they would not be picketing it and would no longer be writing to participants.

The Palestinian Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) states “the Palestinian boycott call targets cultural institutions, projects and events that continue to serve the purposes of the Israeli colonial and apartheid regime”.

Reem Kelani, Palestinian singer and musician, said: “It is a stain on SOAS’ stature as an institution of academic excellence to host a conference which seeks to deny the existence of a Palestinian cultural narrative and whose primary purpose is to present a politically shaped Israeli musical history.”

Prof. Jonathan Rosenhead of BRICUP said: “Clearly the event has been formulated in close contact with the Israeli authorities, so that its programme and structure serve the Brand Israel agenda. Nonetheless we acknowledge that the organisers have now stated unambiguously that no Israeli funding or support has been received, even if they did change their story several times during our campaign.”

Deborah Fink, a professional soprano and founder member of J-BIG, said: “This is a victory for the BDS movement, and we continue to step up our campaign until Israel ends the occupation of the West Bank and the siege of Gaza and Palestinians are given their equality and human rights.”

PACBI and the British organisations are in agreement that the conference remains “completely boycottable”.

Although the campaigners have withdrawn their threat to picket or disrupt it, they are still intending to give out leaflets at some of the events pointing out the impossibility of holding an equivalent conference on Palestinian music because of the Israeli occupation.

Notes to Editors

1. The Palestinian Call for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel can be read at:

http://pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=869

More detailed guidelines on how the cultural boycott should be applied can be read at: http://pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=1047

2. Text of the original statement opposing the conference:

“As musicians we are dismayed that the forthcoming conference on Art Musics of Israel (28-31 March), hosted by the School of Oriental and African Studies and the Jewish Music Institute, is to be supported by Israeli state institutions – namely the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Culture and Sport, as well as their London Embassy. The reason for this support is all too clear: the conference fits snugly into the state’s ‘Brand Israel’ campaign to draw a liberal, cultured veil over a brutish reality.

“That reality is decades of illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, contempt for international law, deadly assaults on Lebanon, on Gaza, and on a humanitarian aid flotilla, the continuing siege of Gaza, and the deliberate and wholesale disruption of Palestinian social, economic and cultural life.

“Music should not be enlisted as a cover-up for these ongoing crimes. We oppose this conference and urge other musicians not to participate in any way.”

Signed, all in personal capacities:

Derek Ball (composer) Sue Beardon (singer) Frances Bernstein (community choir leader) Raymond Deane (composer)  Deborah Fink (soprano) Lisa Heller (singer) Andy Irvine (Irish music) Fergus Johnston (composer) Reem Kelani (Palestinian singer, musician and broadcaster) Les Levidow (violinist) Lubi (DJ) Ewan McLennan (folk musician/songwriter)  Dave Randall (musician) Leon Rosselson (singer-songwriter) Dominic Saunders (pianist) Leni Solinger (singer)  Kareem Taylor (musician) Nicolai V (DJ)

For further information contact:

music@bricup.org.uk

 


Campaigners threaten to picket Israeli music conference

Press release from the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine

8th March 2011

For Immediate release

Campaigners threaten to picket Israeli Music conference

A number of groups campaigning for Palestinian human rights today called on academics and musicians to boycott a forthcoming conference on Israeli music, and threatened to picket it.

The conference is entitled “Art Musics of Israel: Identities, Ideologies, Influences” and is being organised by the Jewish Music Institute (JMI), based at SOAS, University of London, where some of the events are taking place.

We don’t have a problem with Israeli music, and certainly not with Jewish music”, said Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi of Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (J-BIG).  “The problem is that this conference is apparently accepting money from the Israeli state.”

Other organisations behind the boycott call are the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP) and the Boycott Israel Network (BIN), which is about to hold its third conference.

According to the publicity leaflet, the conference is “supported” by the British Israeli Arts Training Scheme (BI ARTS), “a British Council initiative in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Culture and Sport in Israel”; and also by the Israeli Embassy, London.

BRICUP, BIN and J-BIG are in the process of writing to all those taking part, whether as speakers, session chairs or performers. Their letter says:

“This official sponsorship places the event clearly in a category which has been targeted for boycott by organisations representing the overwhelming majority of Palestine’s civil society…. In the light of this call, and of the manifold injustices of Israeli treatment of the rights of the Palestinians, we are asking you to examine your consciences in this matter.”

The letter goes on to ask rhetorically, 

“Just consider – could an equivalent conference on Palestinian music be held?”  It points out that such a conference would be “inconceivable” because no musical instruments are allowed into Gaza; no permissions are granted for musicians to travel out of Gaza; West Bank musical life  “is crippled by the road blocks and settlement building that fragments the residual Palestinian territory”; and East Jerusalem musicians are unable to leave without losing their residency permits.

Reem Kelani, Palestinian singer and musician, is supporting the boycott.  She said:

“When the Soviet Union used its artists as tools of its propaganda effort, there was a chorus of denunciation from the Western world, but when Israel’s Foreign Ministry recruits musicians in its hasbara (propaganda) campaign, many people simply ignore or find excuses for its subversion of art. It is a stain on SOAS’ stature as an institution of academic excellence to host a conference which seeks to deny the existence of a Palestinian cultural narrative and whose primary purpose is to present a politically shaped Israeli musical history.”

Composer Raymond Deane, who is also supporting the boycott call, said:

“As a composer, I believe that music is indeed above politics but not – alas – above exploitation by those whose politics negate humanistic values. The Israeli state must not be allowed to exploit the art of music or any other form of cultural expression in order to disguise the reality of its expansionist and racist character. I am deeply disappointed that SOAS is proceeding with this Conference; it must be boycotted by all who care about justice and human rights – and about the art of music.”

The SOAS Students’ Union passed a motion at its Union General Meeting on 24th January which stated the Union’s belief that “SOAS has no place participating in or facilitating a conference that is affiliated with official Israeli state institutions” and  demanding that the college withdraw from the conference, in particular calling for Paul Webley, Director of SOAS, to “cancel his speech and not collaborate in this event”.   Webley is due to give the opening address.

A student letter currently circulating on the SOAS Music Dept discussion list says:

“Israel is a racist, expansionist apartheid state. The term ‘Art Music of Israel’ is a code phrase for the dominant music of that apartheid state. The whole event is an attempt to sanitise the image of that state in the West. … The brutal facts of killings, torture, imprisonments and land expropriations by Israel continue, day by day.  Decent people should take a stand against these horrors.

“… Within the Student Union, and also in the outside world (the various Palestine solidarity campaigns), there is a solid opinion that no part of this conference or its concerts should be allowed to take place on SOAS property. That opinion is certain to translate into action during the coming weeks.

“From that point of view, it would seem advisable that events which are scheduled to take place on SOAS property should be removed elsewhere.”

The organisations calling for boycott are planning further action.

“If the organisers do not dissociate themselves from official Israeli sponsorship and refuse any funding from the Israeli state, we will be protesting outside the event – and perhaps inside it too.”

said Prof. Jonathan Rosenhead of BRICUP.

Notes to Editors

 The Palestinian Call for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel can be read at:  http://pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=869

More detailed guidelines on how the cultural boycott should be applied can be read at:  http://pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=1047

 BRICUP’s website is at:        www.bricup.org.uk