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Palestinian activists protest Israeli musicians in Nelson

Palestinian activists protest Israeli musicians in Nelson

Marion van Dijk/Stuff

The Te Tau Ihu Palestine Solidarity Group was formed in Nelson in 2017.

An Israeli chamber music ensemble will be the focus of a political protest in Nelson later this week. 

The Jerusalem Quartet will be guests at the 2019 Adam Chamber Music Festival, which runs from January 31 to February 9. 

However, Nelson’s Te Tau Ihu Palestinian Solidarity group, who are aligned with the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) are planning to stage a protest.

The BDS movement categorises Israel as an “apartheid” state, with the aim of the movement to establish a single, bi-national state in Palestine/Israel. 

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Solidarity group spokesman Scott Stocker said they were calling for a boycott of the quartet.

“Our group supports the BDS process, and the advice we’ve had from them is that this group should be boycotted. 

“[The quartet] have played at least three times in recent years at events sponsored by local Israeli embassies, and one in particular was a concert to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the state of Israel.

“They are therefore part of the Israeli Government’s propaganda attempt to project a ‘normal’ image to the world.”

Stocker said unlike some overseas protests involving the quartet, theirs would not be a disruptive one. 

“There will probably be flags and banners, but it won’t be a noisy protest, the aim is to hand out information to those people going in.”

The group will ask concert goers not to watch the quartet.

The BDS movement has attracted equal parts support and criticism from political and public figures around the world. 

Earlier in January Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned the BDS movement at a town hall meeting, saying the movement unfairly singles out Israel. 

Adam Chamber Music Festival manager Bob Bickerton said the organisers were comfortable with the decision to host the quartet, although they acknowledged the concerns of the protesters. 

“We’ve had good and constructive conversations with the group.”

Festival publicist Sarah Wilson said the organisers were satisfied the engagement of the Jerusalem Quartet was appropriate. 

Wilson said published BDS guidelines had been used to assess if the Jerusalem Quartet would be subject to boycott.

The festival organisers reached the conclusion that they did not qualify, due to the fact the quartet receive no direct funding from the Israeli State, and were not listed as cultural ambassadors.

“Action groups often cite out-of-date information about how the quartet regularly plays for the Israeli Army, something which they chose to do when conscripted in the armed forces more than 20 years ago, rather than take combative military service.

“By contrast it is noteworthy that in more recent times a number of members of the quartet have played alongside Palestinian musicians in Daniel Barenboim’s international peace initiative, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra.”

 

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