AFMB vs. Israel Philharmonic
by Peter Lippman
Thirty protestors demonstrated at Benaroya Hall on February 26 before the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra’s appearance. The protest was organized by Palestine Solidarity Committee–Seattle (http://www.palestineinformation.org/main.htm) and Voices of Palestine (http://www.voicesofpalestine.org/).
In 30-degree F weather, the demonstrators were accompanied by the Anti-Fascist Marching Band (http://antifascistmarchingband.110mb.com/)playing “Caravan,” “Misirlou,” “Masters of War,” “Oseh Shalom/Khaveynu Sholem Aleichem” and other thematic tunes.
Demonstrators handed out a PSC-designed leaflet with one side detailing the ills of the occupation and noting the IPO’s role in the “Brand Israel” campaign; the other side explained the goals and specifics of the academic and cultural boycott.
Inside: The orchestra’s politicized role in whitewashing Israeli apartheid was apparent from the first moment of the concert, when the orchestra members stood and played both the US and Israeli national anthems.
While American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (http://www.afipo.org/) had bragged that the concert had been sold out for five months, it was apparent that there were empty seats in all sections of the house. It was also apparent that a significant number of the occupied seats had been reserved for Israeli security personnel.
Eight human-rights activists had entered Benaroya Hall as concertgoers. Some of them played a cat-and-mouse game with plainclothes security officers, who were present in abundance. Many of these sported ear wires and were heard speaking Hebrew.
The activists managed to distribute more than 400 stylish postcards throughout the hall both before the concert and during intermission. The front of the 5” x 7” card displayed a white bust of Beethoven on a black background, with the heading “Noble Music.” The back of the card read “Shameful Occupation” and outlined the nature of the occupation and the apartheid situation within Israel. At the bottom it read “Stop US Aid to Israel; End the Occupation.”
Activists placed the cards on seats, handed them to audience members, and left some in the washrooms. Clearly, part of the security force’s objective was to eliminate this message countering the orchestra’s “Brand Israel” “cultural diplomacy,” as agents were seen gathering up the “Shameful Occupation” cards as fast as they could.
Two who were passing out cards were ejected early on. Four more continued to pass out cards, being more surreptitious about it. Two other activists waited until the last note of the concert had sounded and then raised a 10-foot “END THE OCCUPATION” banner from seats in the center orchestra section. These people were made to leave the concert hall, but not arrested.