Tag Archives: Deborah Fink

A tribute to Willem Meijs



Willem Meijs appears here with J-BIG co-founder Deborah Fink, putting his fine singing voice at the service of the Palestinian cause.

A Tribute from Naomi

It was with huge regret that I was unable to join Willem’s other loving family and friends to say farewell to the most genial and supportive of comrades at his funeral in the Netherlands on Monday March 27.

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The Autumn edition of Green World – the magazine of the UK Green Party – includes a well-argued explanation of the party’s support for the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, and also a write-up about Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (J-BIG) by founder member Deborah Fink, who is also a Green Party activist.

Green World is a print-only publication so we are posting scans of the relevant pages here. Click on the text to make it easier to read.

green world bds 001

Green World  BDS 2 001



Today’s MORNING STAR (“The People’s Daily”) carried this feature about the foundation and work of Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods.

DEBORAH FINK and Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi are co-founders of Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (J-Big), a group which has scored major successes as progressive Jewish people respond to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

The pair met through Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JfJfP), founded in February 2002 in response to the second intifada.

Fink joined in July that year. Coming from a conservative, pro-Israel background, she found it reassuring to meet fellow Jews who were against Israel’s policy in Palestine.

She sees JfJfP as an important organisation.

“It shows the world that Israel does not represent all Jews, that it cannot count on all Jews for support,” she says.

“And to a certain extent it protects non-Jewish critics of Israeli policy from bogus charges of anti-semitism.”

Anti-semitism is often the accusation thrown at Israel’s critics, with the aim of intimidating them into silence.

Fink felt there needed to be a specifically Jewish voice supporting the campaign to boycott Israeli goods, so with Wimborne-Idrissi she founded J-Big in 2006.

They chose the tongue-in-cheek slogan “it’s kosher to boycott Israeli goods,” highlighting the fact that many Jews are involved in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, so it’s “kosher” to take part.

Wimborne-Idrissi comes from a left-wing Jewish household. Her father used to sell the Morning Star’s predecessor the Daily Worker, so solidarity with oppressed peoples is something she grew up with.

She discovered JfJfP in the run-up to the Iraq war in 2003.

A speaker at a Stop the War demo was speaking, as a Jew, for Palestinian rights. Wimborne-Idrissi signed up there and then.

She felt that JfJfP, while doing great work in the Jewish community, did not go as far as she and others wanted in the boycott campaign. A further step was needed.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign had set up a Boycott Israeli Goods campaign and was showing an interest in getting a specifically Jewish voice involved.

Wimborne-Idrissi and Fink pulled together some like-minded people and set up J-Big. A founding statement was published, a banner sporting the “kosher” slogan produced and J-Big set about mobilising support.

Wimborne-Idrissi says it wasn’t long before the expected deluge of venomous accusations flooded in.

They were denounced as “self-hating Jews” and “traitors to the Jewish state of Israel.”

“We had no illusions that the campaign would bring the Israeli economy crashing down,” she says.

“Boycotting avocados and peppers grown on illegally occupied Palestinian land and then sold as Israeli would not bring the country’s economy to its knees, but the immorality of how and where these goods are produced is an important message to get across.”

J-Big became more interested in boycotting Israel at an institutional level — by, for example, boycotting cultural events such as when Israeli musicians come to Britain under the Israeli flag to perform here while Palestinian artists are suffering under the occupation.

Here Fink’s musical training — she’s a bachelor of music and a trained soprano — came to the fore.

Working with others in the BDS movement Fink debuted by interrupting the Jerusalem Quartet at the Wigmore Hall in 2010, singing a parody of Jerusalem, Holy City.

J-Big was involved when the campaign tackled a more high-profile target, encouraging as many as possible to join in the protests when the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra played the Royal Albert Hall in 2011.

There were many disruptions to the orchestra’s performance, the first of which involved 13 activists in a choir led by Fink.

Sue Blackwell, a prominent member of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine who had written the words to the Wigmore parody, wrote a new version of Ode to Joy as Ode to Boycott, including the words “Israel end your occupation, Palestine must now be free, ethnic cleansing and apartheid should belong to history.”

Protesters, who came from as far afield as Edinburgh and Brighton, were strategically seated around the auditorium and their interventions carefully timed.

During a quiet musical passage protesters in vacant choral seats stood up with cloth banners which together spelled Free Palestine.

The protesters were eventually escorted out of the hall, but the protest made global news.

Fink explains the controversial action by pointing to the way the orchestra operated as a cultural ambassador, making Israel appear civilised.

“As a musician I find it hard to disrupt beautiful music,” she says. “But basic human rights are more important.

“It’s not just about influencing the audience at a prom, but about influencing world opinion. You can’t do that by handing out a few leaflets.”

Wimborne-Idrissi adds that the protests were planned to disrupt the beauty of the music as little as possible.

The Bruch violin concerto was part of the programme, for instance. So “free Palestine!” would be shouted when the conductor was raising his baton at the start of a piece, but not once the violin had started playing.

The disruptions were done to be in keeping with the performance, turning it into a weapon for the Palestinians.

The concert was not aborted. It was the BBC that cut the broadcast — which had never happened before in the history of the proms.

It was an even more successful protest than the previous action at Wigmore Hall.

I suggested that what this party of 30 or more people had done that night at the Albert Hall was not so much to disrupt Beethoven, who featured, but to be true to his spirit.

Fink and Wimborne-Idrissi agree: “Beethoven was a revolutionary.”

Wimborne-Idrissi stresses that the global boycott movement, started by the Palestinians themselves, does not target individual Israelis — and certainly not Jews as Jews.

It targets institutions and aims for equality for Palestinians living in Israel, freedom for Palestinians living in the occupied territories and justice for Palestinian refugees, including the right of return for all those forced to flee their homes since the Nakba (“catastrophe”) of 1948.

Together, these movements hope to win justice for Palestinians — something the UN has signally failed to achieve.



The Mondo Awards: A J-BIG Nomination

 From Mondoweiss

Entry 22: Deborah Fink of J-BIG by Bruce Levy on December 31, 2010 · 11 comments

This is Entry 22 in the Mondo Awards end-of-year Inspire-us contest. The author is secretary of Americans AGAINST Apartheid UK

We would like to nominate our personal hero, Deborah Fink, a UK activist (as well as a talented soprano and cabaret artist) from London, a dynamo of activism who has inspired me, as well as many other people in the Palestine solidarity movement here in the UK.

Having seen with her own eyes the horrors perpetrated on the Palestinian People, Deborah has devoted her life to fighting injustice on a grassroots level. In the past, she was active in the UK organisation Jews for Justice for Palestinians for which she helped to set up a student wing and recruited many big names in the world of theatre, music, art and academia. In 2005, she combined her singing with her politics by organising and singing the soprano solos in the World Premiere of Philip Munger’s cantata for Rachel Corrie, ‘The Skies are Weeping’ at the Hackney Empire.

A fantastic storyteller and communicator, Deborah co-founded the UK-based BDS group, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (J-BIG) and uses her singing and other talents to draw in and inspire others to become more involved in the BDS/Palestinian Solidarity movements. As well as organising alternative carol concerts, Deborah uses a variety of innovative and creative ways to get the message across. Her performances inside supermarkets and at demonstrations, and at other events, always attract attention.

Deborah has participated in numerous creative civil disobedience actions and was once arrested, but successfully fought the charges in court after police unlawfully moved a demonstration.

She is also a member of the UK Green Party and always speaks out untirelessly against injustice, be it in person, online and in print. She is not afraid of putting herself in the line of fire and has repeatedly drawn the scorn of Zionists who she has successfully debated on their own ground time and time again.

As Deborah would always agree that actions are just as important as words, here are two videos of her. The first one is a CNN report from 2008, the second one is of Deborah at the 2008 Salute to Israel Parade in London. During the parade, the police demonstrated a zero-tolerance approach to any form of protest. After being assaulted and handcuffed by the police, Deborah was questioned under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, but was later released.

We would like to nominate Deborah for her hard work, efforts and success in helping to further Palestinian solidarity in this part of the world.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

 1 Scott December 31, 2010 at 3:01 pm


 2 lareineblanche December 31, 2010 at 3:07 pm

Some more music :

O vos omnes qui transitis per viam:
attendite et videte si est dolor sicut dolor meus.
O vos omnes qui transitis per viam, attendite et videte:
* Si est dolor similis sicut dolor meus.
V. Attendite, universi populi, et videte dolorem meum.
* Si est dolor similis sicut dolor meus.

O all ye that pass by the way,
attend and see if there be any sorrow like to my sorrow.

O all ye that pass by the way, attend and see :

* If there be any sorrow like to my sorrow.
V. Attend, all ye people, and see my sorrow:
* If there be any sorrow like to my sorrow.


3 annie December 31, 2010 at 3:41 pm

Deborah rocks! wow, bruce thank you so much for sending this in. i had never even heard of deborah before. i want her and her choir to go on an opera tour and come to san francisco !

4 Philip Munger December 31, 2010 at 9:13 pm

In 2005, she combined her singing with her politics by organising and singing the soprano solos in the World Premiere of Philip Munger’s cantata for Rachel Corrie, ‘The Skies are Weeping’ at the Hackney Empire.

When I was forced to cancel Anchorage performances, and the NYC production was pulled of The Skies Are Weeping in 2004, Deborah was there, with her marvelous colleagues at Jews for Justice for Palestinians in London, to bring that work, born out of pain, searching for hope, to such vibrant life.

While Debbie’s talents as a musician and dedicated advocate of Palestinian rights are well known in the UK, they need to be better known elsewhere too. Her flair for organizing events needs to be recognized too.

Yes, annie – Deborah Rocks!

 5 annie December 31, 2010 at 9:23 pm

believe me, i SOOO noticed the mention of your opera when i read that. it jumped out at me. remember when we discussed it and i asked if there were any videos of the performance?

yes, she radiates talent compassion and beauty. she’s a trifecta.

 6 SWalinets January 1, 2011 at 7:51 am

As a member of JfJfP and J-Big, who has observed over many months Deborah’s untiring and dedicated work in the interests of the subjugated West Bank Palestinians, I wholeheartedly support Bruce Levy’s nomination of her.

 7 Sue Wood January 1, 2011 at 10:17 am

I first ‘met’ Debbie when I saw her solo vocal protest at the Israel Anniversary Parade online. Even then my first thought was about how courageous this lone protester was, surrounded, as she was, by all those people celebrating what she was protesting. So great was the impression she made, that I never forgot her name. I finally met her last summer. She is tireless in her activism and is still attracting attention. At our vigil at the Israeli Embassy on 27th of December, her singing caused people across the road to stop and listen to the alternative Christmas carols. Also due to her singing, we met some Dutch BDS activists who were very interested in our song sheets, which they want to utilise in Holland next year. Not only is Debbie totally committed to her cause, but she is also great fun to be with! And her nominee, Bruce, is also a hero in my eyes. I thoroughly endorse his nomination of Debbie for the Mondo Awards.

8 alexseymour January 1, 2011 at 10:33 am

Debbie is intimidated by nothing and by no one; she is never fearful of raising her powerful soprano voice in support of the Palestinian People, not just to interrupt Israel sponsored artists in the concert halls of London, not just to sing subversive carols in the city’s churches and not just on stage and on TV. She is ready to get her hands dirty, come rain or shine, on the streets of London singing and occasionally dancing, whether it be against Zionist counter demonstrators or against the fascist thugs of the EDL Jewish Division or against other members of Israel’s fifth column in the UK. Debbie is 100 per cent deserving of recognition by Mondoweiss.


 9 MichaelSackin January 2, 2011 at 8:40 am

A great idea: well done Bruce and of course well done Debbie. I share Debbie’s concerns about Palestine, only she gets things done. That has included some enormous undertakings, such as putting on the huge ‘The Skies are Weeping’ concert and singing in the main part, but the list is endless. Also, she’s a first-rate professional singer, and not just at alternative carol services or at demonstrations. She performed Britten’s song-cycle “Les Illuminations” with me conducting the orchestra. Amazing!

 10 annie January 2, 2011 at 11:27 am

She performed Britten’s song-cycle “Les Illuminations” with me conducting the orchestra.


11 brucel January 3, 2011 at 2:05 pm

Also, I would like to add that last March, Deborah gave an outstanding performance at London’s Wigmore Hall, singing “Jerusalem is Occupied” to the tune of “The Holy City” and was joined by four other protesters who bravely disrupted the performance of the Jerusalem Quartet at regular intervals before they were all removed in turn by security staff.