Monday, February 28, 2011

Report on Seattle protest of Israel Philharmonic Orchestra

This report is from the Palestine Solidarity Committee of Seattle, a US Campaign member group, about just one of multiple planned protests in U.S. cities where the Israel Philharmonic is performing.

Monday, February 28, 2011

About thirty protestors demonstrated outside Benaoya Hall last night during the IPO's appearance, holding a banner and signs that read, "Don't Harmonize with Occupation" and "Israel Fiddles while Palestine Burns." The protest was organized by Palestine Solidarity Committee - Seattle, and Voices of Palestine.

In 30-degree F. weather the demonstrators were accompanied by the Anti-Fascist Marching Band, a local street band that played "Caravan," Misirlou," Masters of War," Oseh Shalom/Khaveynu Sholem Aleichem," and other appropriate numbers. Demonstrators handed out a leaflet designed by PSC with one side detailing the ills of the occupation and noting the IPO's role in the "Brand Israel" campaign, and the other side explaining the goals and specifics of the academic and cultural boycott.

One creative protestor brought a professionally-made banner that read, "Don't you dare use my music to whitewash Israeli tyranny!" – Beethoven.

Meanwhile, eight human rights activists entered Benaroya Hall as concert-goers, having bought tickets.  Some of them played a cat-and-mouse game with plain-clothes security officers, who were present in abundance. Many of these sported ear wires and some 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 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. The authorities managed to eject two people. Other activists waited until the last note of the concert had sounded and then raised a ten foot "END THE OCCUPATION" banner from seats in the center orchestra section. These people were ejected, but not charged.

While American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra had bragged that the concert had been sold out for five months, it was apparent that there were empty seats available in all sections of the house and that a significant number of the occupied seats had been reserved for Israeli security personnel.  Clearly, part of security force's objective was to eliminate our message countering the orchestra's "Brand Israel" "cultural diplomacy," as agents were seen gathering up the "Shameful Occupation" cards as fast as they could.  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.

One blogger mentioned the banner incident and there was a local news report that ignored the protest.