The Jerusalem String Quartet’s recital at the Brighton Festival on May 8th was interrupted by protesters objecting to Israel’s apartheid system, its illegal occupation of Palestinian lands, its attacks on civilians in Gaza and its suppression of Palestinian human rights in Israel and the Occupied territories.
The action was taken in line with the call from Palestinian civil society for a boycott of state-supported cultural events. The call is available at http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=1047
A spokesperson for the protesters said, ‘These musicians are cultural ambassadors for an apartheid state and as such should not be performing at the Brighton Festival .The Festival Guest Director’s mission statement affirms that the role of the festival is to ‘remind us of .. the positive changes we can all make to improve our world for future generations.’ Using music to whitewash the apartheid state of Israel should have no place here.
Art and culture have become an important weapon in the Israeli government’s public relations campaign, and in 2006, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Aﬀairs launched an initiative called “Brand Israel,” to salvage Israel’s deteriorating image abroad. Arye Mekel of Israel’s Foreign Ministry has stated that, “We will send well-known novelists and writers overseas, theater companies, exhibits… This way you show Israel’s prettier face, so we are not thought of purely in the context of war.”
The home base of the Jerusalem String Quartet, the Jerusalem Music Centre, is prominently featured on the Israel Foreign Ministry website and boasts that it collaborates with several Israeli government ministries, clearly placing the quartet and the other participating cultural institutions in the orbit of the campaign to “re-brand” Israel’s image in the West. Thus, Israel is portrayed as an enlightened centre of arts and technology, thereby concealing the ugly facts about its occupation, racial discrimination and grave violations of international law and fundamental Palestinian rights.
The America-Israel Cultural Foundation (AICF), a main funder of the Jerusalem String Quartet, has taken as its mission the support of musicians and artists in order to put a diﬀerent spin on the Israeli apartheid regime. “AICF plays a vital role in Israeli culture. We are the primary source of funding for young artists. These artists show the world a side of Israel many never experience.”
It is no wonder that the Jerusalem String Quartet has a link to the America-Israel Cultural Foundation on its website. All four of the quartet members received scholarships from the foundation; and the instruments used by three of them are on loan from the AICF.
Through its patronage of young artists like these, the AICF advances its agenda. In turn, by its close ties with and promotion of the America-Israel Cultural Foundation, the young artists of the Jerusalem String Quartet become part of the Israel re-branding campaign and are complicit in the attempt to obscure Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights.