Monthly Archives: February 2013

Jerusalem Quartet faces multiple protests on European tour

Dutch campaigners confronted Israel's Jerusalem Quartet with a choral protest in Rotterdam on February 12

Dutch campaigners confronted Israel’s Jerusalem Quartet with a choral protest in Rotterdam on February 12

“This week several families are mourning the recent murder of their children by Israeli Defence force soldiers. This week malnutrition among children in the West Bank and Gaza continues to rise. This week the Jerusalem Quartet plays music but remains silent. These issues of human, including cultural, rights will come with them into the concert hall”.

BRICUP (British Committee for the Universities of Palestine) letter to the Wigmore Hall on 9 February 2013 asking that Jerusalem Quartet dissociates itself from the Israeli government and “Brand Israel”.

Israeli cultural ambassadors the Jerusalem Quartet encountered lively protests in Birmingham, London and Rotterdam during the early stages of their latest European tour.

One of the images used in Birmingham to highlight the role of Israeli culture in maintaining the subjugation of Palestinians

One of the images used in Birmingham to highlight the role of Israeli culture in maintaining the subjugation of Palestinians

On February 13,  students and pro-Palestinian campaigners gathered at the Barber Institute, Birmingham University, to leaflet concert goers, a number of whom decided not to enter after hearing about the Quartet’s role in whitewashing Israel’s crimes.

At London’s Wigmore Hall, a prestige concert venue favoured by the elite Israeli troupe, protesters also engaged with passers by and ticket holders on February 16. Many wanted to know more and asked for copies of the letter to the venue management, cited above, from the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine.

Wigmore Hall 1


London protesters engaged with the public, attracted by a huge banner reading "Israeli Apartheid Leave the Stage"  Photo: Rada Daniell

London protesters engaged with the public, attracted by a huge banner reading “Israeli Apartheid Leave the Stage” Photo: Rada Daniell

In the Netherlands, too, the Quartet encountered a protest choir and a demonstration in solidarity with hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners detained in Israeli jails without charge.

“We have nothing against Israeli art or artists,” said campaigners at De Doelen in Rotterdam on February 12, “But we do oppose the Brand Israel campaign through which the Israeli government sends troupes such as the Jerusalem Quartet on tours of Europe and America, using culture and the arts to obscure its breaches of human rights and its apartheid polices.”

By accepting facilities and promotion from institutions associated with the Israeli state, and by its failure to distance itself from Israel’s contempt for human rights and international law, the Jerusalem Quartet marks itself out as a target for cultural boycott actions everywhere that it performs.

It it due to perform again in the Netherlands with dates in Groningen, Den Haag and Maastricht on April 22, 23 and 24, following performances in some  other European venues as well as in Portland, Oregon and New York.


Palestine solidarity and Jewish opposition to Zionism

On Saturday 2 March 2013, dozens of supporters and friends of J-BIG, Jews and non-Jews, gathered for a conference to explore how the universalist, humanitarian philosophy central to much Jewish thinking has been marginalised by Zionism and how that universalism leads naturally to support for the  Palestinian call for a non-violent campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions, targeting Israeli institutions as long as it denies Palestinians freedom, justice and equality.

A detailed report posted immediately after the conference appears on Tony Greenstein’s blog.

Listen here to audio recordings. Film of the main contributions will be added shortly.

The first session, on Jewish values in support of Palestinian rights , began with the screening of a short film, BUNDA’IM,  introducing the last comrades of the Bund mass movement which was exterminated in Europe and ignored in Israel.

Then came a discussion led by David Rosenberg from the Editorial Committee of Jewish Socialist magazine  and Antony Lerman, author of The Making and Unmaking of a Zionist and former director of the Institute of Jewish Policy Research.

They dealt with aspects of Zionism and Bundism in pre-WWII Poland and described  how Zionist leaders have marginalised Bundism in the diaspora,  Zionist attacks on proponents of Jewish universalism and the conflation of antisemitism with opposition to Zionism.

In a panel discussion, a range of speakers tackled issues facing the BDS movement.

Sue Blackwell from the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP) outlined the Zionist resort to legal challenge against the Universities and Colleges Union (since gloriously vindicated by a tribunal) for its willingness to debate BDS and refusal to apply the so-called EUMC working definition of antisemitism which seeks to outlaw criticism of Israel.

Michael Deas, coordinator in Europe for the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) was unable to attend due to illness. In his stead Ronnie Barkan, a leading member of Israeli organisations Anarchists against the Wall and Boycott from Within, discussed the centrality of BDS to the anti-racist, anti-colonialist Palestinian struggle.

Tony Greenstein, speaking for Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (J-BIG), explained the rationale behind publication of the briefing document  Zionism and Antisemitism: Racist Political Twins.

John Rose, author of The Myths of Zionism, unpicked the Zionist myths used to perpetuate the idea that Israeli Jews confront eternal Arab hatred and Israel therefore has the right to “defend itself” by any means.

Hours of discussion were rounded off with an evening of entertainment compered by Deborah Fink, “The Diva with a Difference”,  and starred renowned Palestinian singer Reem Kelani with the up-and-coming musicians of the Raast collective, led by Kareem Taylor.

The conference was twinned with another event at the same venue on the following day, Sunday March 2, bringing together expert speakers on a range of subjects under the heading Reclaiming an Alternative Jewish Culture and Identity

Listen to audio recordings here.

 Ilan Pappe: Jewish Culture In A Non-ZionistOneState In Palestine.

Moshe Machover: Hebrew v. Jewish Identity

Prof. Helen Beer: Jewish Identity Without Yiddish?

Yuval Evri: 19C. Palestinian Arab Judaism

Murray Glickman: BCE Judaism

Cloe Skinner: Gender & Zionism

Sai Englert: The Bund & The 1917 Russian Revolution


The suggestion by Zionist supporters that Gerald Scarfe’s cartoon in The Sunday Times was anti-Semitic is a classic example of the abuse of the term. It drains the term of all meaning and, like the boy who cried wolf, desensitises people to anti-Semitism when it does rear its head.

This was the opening paragraph of a letter in the Independent newspaper on February 4, submitted by Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods and carrying 28 names gathered at short notice. They included actress Miriam Margolyes, OBE and writer Alexei Sayle as well as a sprinkling of professors and other academics.

Read the whole letter here.

 The letter has attracted several appreciative comments from readers of the Independent. 

Here is one:

I am writing to say how pleased I am to see the letter in today’s Independent: Gerald Scarfe’s cartoon is not antisemitic.   Your examples of Palestinian youths are shocking and they, alone, provide justification for Scarfe’s cartoon.  I am ashamed to hear the ‘anti-semitic’ outcry: why do even Jews mix Israel with being Jewish?

As a Jew, I despair when the holocaust is emotively and perhaps even cynically high-jacked to obfuscate facts.   Palestinians have lost land, their human rights and their lives  due to the trifold expedience of Israeli internal politics, international support and military power.

I am certainly in favour of boycotting Israeli goods and will sign up right now.