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Israel: Palestinian Youth Orchestra Disbanded for Israeli Performance

In honor of Good Deeds Day in Israel, a Palestinian youth orchestra performed for a group of Holocaust survivors. Known as the “Strings of Freedom,” the group was composed of 13 children, ages 11 to 18, from the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank.

CK of Jewlicious relays:

The 13 member orchestra performed an Arabic song, “We sing for peace,” followed by two musical pieces with violins and Arabic drums. Sweet, right?

But not so fast. Upon learning of the event, Jenin officials immediately disbanded the orchestra, and banned its leader and the event organizer from the city. Adnan Hindi (alternately identified as Adnan al-Hinda), director of the Popular Committee for Services in Jenin, called the orchestra's performance:

[A] “dangerous matter” with “suspicious elements… seeking to impact the national culture of the young generation and cast doubt about the heroism and resistance of the residents of the camp during the Israeli invasion in April 2002.”

Simply Jews reflects:

“So what is the crime perpetrated by the youngsters? It appears that the presence of a few Holocaust survivors in the audience was interpreted as a ‘political event.”

Concluding:

“”Yeah… if you feel the peace in the Middle East in your waters, better send your waters in for an analysis. Sad.”

News sources are now reporting that both the audience and their young performers had a degree of ignorance about the event. Jenin parents only knew that their children were performing in Israel; the youth did not know who comprised their audience; and the Israeli audience did not know their performers were from Jenin.

According to the Jerusalem Post:

“The youths said their conductor, Wafa Younis, 50, of the Arab village of Ara in the Triangle, tried to explain to them who the elderly people at the event were, but chaos on the bus prevented them from listening.”

Jenin parents said that if they had known about their children's destination– the Holocaust Survivor's Center in the city of Holon– they would not have granted permission for them to participate.

Jenin activist Ramzi Fayad condemned the event, declaring:

“There can be no normalization while Israel is continuing to perpetrate massacres against our people.”

Dion Nissenbaum of Checkpoint Jerusalem sheds light on the situation for those unfamiliar with regional intricacies. He elaborates :

“Jenin… was the scene of one of the most politically-explosive Israeli military operations of the second Palestinian uprising.”

Adnan Hindi emphasizes:

“The Holocaust happened, but we are facing a similar massacre by the Jews themselves… We lost our land, and we were forced to flee and we've lived in refugee camps for the past 50 years.”

Perhaps the most interesting figure in this story is not the young Palestinian musicians with their peace music, nor the audience of Israeli Jewish Holocaust survivors, but the orchestra conductor herself, Ms. Wafa Younis. Younis, whose Jenin apartment is now boarded and barred from entrance, asserts:

“They want to destroy this group… It's a shame, it's a tragedy. What did these poor, elderly people do wrong? What did these children do wrong?”

Good Deeds Day, the context of this conflict, was founded by Israeli billionairess Shari Arison in partnership with the nonprofit organization Ruach Tova in order to encourage Israelis to volunteer their time and energies toward helping the community. CEO Rafi Elul explains:

“The idea is that any one can get up in the morning and ask himself ‘what can I do for my neighbor, to help a new immigrant, to help Israeli society as a whole?’… We aim to increase the national level of volunteering, and to show that not only those with means can help others.”

Elul adds:

“Every one of you can be a part of a day that is all good, a day when thousands of people will open up their hearts to the needs of others and will try to help them even just a little bit.”

One has to wonder what would have happened if everyone involved had had informed consent? What could have gone differently to enable a successful interaction? Readers, let's hear your thoughts.

23 comments

  • Ibn Verga

    Why? They did something nice. Played for old people. Who are the people who disbanded this group? I believe same people who cry racism, free speech protection for their hate. They can’t swallow that young Palestinians can be playing nice music instead of suicide bombing.

    • The reaction we are missing is the kids’ perspective. We’ve heard the outrage from the municipal officials and confusion of the parents, but it sounds– from what information has been relayed– that the kids and audience had a pretty good time and enjoyed each other. They youth performers are the missing voice here.

      Also, I didn’t quote it here, but some of the news reports were saying that the audience members had such a good time that they were singing and dancing with the music. It must have been wonderful to see.

      I really do wonder about what was going on in the children’s minds when they returned home to all the hub bub after that nice experience.

      ~ Maya

  • MERC

    Maya, Did you do a piece back in December/January about the 400 Palestinian kids crushed or incinerated in Gaza? If not, why not?

  • MERC,

    What’s your goal here because I’ve stopped reading your comments. You’re not accomplishing anything with me. Your energies are best used elsewhere.

    ~ Maya

  • Flores

    I read this story in the NY Times this morning and thought it sounded like a miscommunication that has been politicized out of control. The symbolism of it all is deeply unfortunate. The woman who worked with the kids has been coming to Jenin for years. She should have been more sensitive to how an event like this would be interpreted by parents and community members.

    • Hi Flores,

      That was my interpretation as well. It sounded like a huge communication snafu, although that wasn’t my original impression when first reading the reactions, which is why I tried to include all the perspectives in this article.

      I’ll have to check out the NYT article, thanks for referencing it.

      ~ Maya

    • Ibn Verga

      Hi Flores,
      I believe the parents new but became scared. In that part of the world you get unfortunatelly killed if you do not follow “official line of so call activists”. Yestarday I had been in the meeting where Jews and Arabs were sitting together and discussed the Haifa University, where both people study together. Contrast that with this case covering in this blog. The study by Muslem educational scholar showed that 96% of Arab population consider Hebrew and living together peacefully very important for their children. From that study 4% of Palestinians are holding general population hostage with support of western anti-semitic “freedom fighters”

      • Interesting point about the parents’ reactions.

        Was the study of Muslims living in Israel? Do you have a link in English? I’m surprised that the numbers were that high. Are you able to share what else went on in the meeting? Was it hosted by the Jewish-Arab Center at the university?

        Thanks, Ibn Verga.

        ~ Maya

        • Ibn Verga

          Hi Maya,
          The meeting was hosted by friends of Haifa University. Program was really about architectural diversity. Organizer was an architect. (surprise!) The Presentation which I previously mentioned, had been given by professor from Haifa University (sorry I had forgotten his name) The websites in English covering Haifa University are: http://www.asuh.org, http://www.haifa-univ.ca.

          Have a nice day

          Ibn Verga ( just if you wander, why I choose this name. Ibn Verga was a traveling Jew in 16th century. Rationalist, who wrote the book asking, why people hate Jews?) Still the question is valid!

    • Here’s the link to the story Flores mentions if anyone anyone is interested:

      http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/30/world/middleeast/30mideast.html?ref=middleeast.

      ~ Maya

  • MERC

    Ibn Verga, “a blog of understanding, not hate and lies”? Tell me, where’s the hate? And where are the lies? 400 children crushed or incinerated in Gaza? Sorry about the underestimate. It should have been 1,919. Palestinian Centre for Human Rights figures (12/3) give 313 kids murdered in Gaza and 1,606 injured. I do hope that will add to your understanding of Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people. And please stop crying ‘anti-Semite’ whenever you’re exposed to the facts. It simply doesn’t work any more.

    • Ibn Verga

      Unfortunately for you it’s total lie. I, personally am against any human death, arab or jews. Palestinian,s figure is in 1300’s of course they state most were civilians. The figure supplied by IDF is in 1200’s with names listed with 3/4 males of fighting age and associated with terrorists organizations. The women were put into non combatant side of the ledger even though at least two were known suicide bombers. This was reluctantly confirmed by UNWR not exactly lovers of Israel. Italian independent study shows only 600 deaths. Israel disagrees stating that most of the death arab fighters were hidden in hospitals to keep their number of their deaths low. These are the facts confirmed by all sides involved. But all that is really beside the point. People are dying and your statements just encourage the Hamas extremist by their actions to kill more. Most of the innocent Gazans were killed because they were used as a human shields. Read as an example famous school bombing – 12 people killed, 9 Hamas fighters and 3 innocent Gazans forced probably to stand besides racket lunchers. Confirmed very reluctantly by UNWR after first they spread all the lies about 43 deaths. Peace!

  • Ibn Verga

    I have forgot to add to my response to Merc. This blog is about music and cooperation between arab and jews. Those young arab musicians not only shown a musical talent but also understanding of humanity. Congratulations Ms. Wafa Younis, we need more like you on both sides!

  • MERC

    Ibn Verga, I take it you mean that the PCHR figures are a “total lie,” and that by implication Palestinians are liars. Tell me this isn’t racism.

    • Ibn Verga

      Merc, what has racism with disagreeing with the numbers? Specially when numbers taken out of thin air. This is an old approach when you can’t back up the data. Nazis did it! Communist did it! McCarthy did it in USA! It did not work then, it does not work now.

  • MERC

    So Palestinian human rights workers, like Nazis and communists always “take numbers from thin air,” but never the Israeli army? Tell me this smear isn’t racism.

    • Ibn Verga

      No is not. I am disputing your numbers first. You took it from the thin air. Not even PCHR agrees with your figures.

      From PCHR website:

      “PCHR regards this as a deliberately manipulative attempt to distort the reality of the offensive, and to disguise Israel’s illegal actions. Following extensive investigation and cross-checking, PCHR have determined that a total of 1,417 Palestinians died in the offensive. 926 were civilians, including 313 children and 116 women. 255 were non-combatant police officers. 236 combatants were killed, representing 16.7% of the total deaths.”

      Their figures are also wrong although interestingly they are not so hysterical when they are caught with misinformation. Using their information the difference between IDF count and their count is 47 people. Of course they differ who were combatants. The large percentage children include men between 15-18 who were associated with terror organizations and fighting. We in the West classify them as children and PCHR took advantage of it. They also included as a civilians the police officers (255). They included same as IDF, women as a non combatants although at least 2 were suicide bombers.

      IDF supplied a list of Gaza casualties with names, ages and membership in the terrorists associations. Not even PCHR or UNWR are able to contradict any of the names , their age, their associations. While both organizations PCHR and UNWR had to back down and take names from the lists or reassigned to combatants list.

      Every death is a bad death. You should instead of stirring hate work toward understanding and cooperation. That what originally this blog wanted to cover.

  • MERC

    Excuse me, Ibn Verga? I’m taking numbers from thin air? This is an outright lie. I’m taking numbers not from thin air but from the PCHR. Do the PCHR math, if it’s not beyond you: 1606 children injured + 313 killed = 1919 killed & injured (or as I originally put it “crushed & incinerated”). 1919 was a number you then went on to assert was a “total lie.” And why is 1919 a “total lie,” according to you? Because you and/or the I’D’F insist on redefining male Palestinian children as “men,” if they’re between 15 and 18 years of age. Of course, if one of your male children (15-18) so much as had a hair on his head rearranged by a Palestinian, you’d be the loudest in classifying him as a child. You can play these silly semantic games all you like but the I’D’F version here is simply spin. Again, I ask you: if you regard the PCHR numbers as “thin air,” is this because you regard Palestinian human rights workers inherently as liars and the Israeli army as the only truthful source in these matters? And how dare you accuse me of “stirring hate” because I raise issues you prefer to sweep under the carpet. Yes, every death is cause for concern, but you obviously have more concern for the image of an ‘army’ that causes thousands of such deaths than for the deaths themselves.

    • Ibn Verga

      Because it did not happened. That’s what it means. Look “Merc” you are involved in rather crude anti- jewish campaign. I just had fun with it because it just show to other people, how you (singular or plural) are twisting and disording information to fit your proposition. There never were 300 innocent children killed. There were a fighters younger then 18 years killed. You should be upset and mad, not at Israelis but those cowards hidding under the hospitals in safe rooms, sending them to fight. You should be upset by Hamas “fighters” grabing real innocent and scared children and forcinng them stand at front of racket lunchers, knowing very well they will be killed. (see uTube videos made by Gazans). You should be upset that Hamas “fighters” instead of fighting Israelis were killing, throwing them from roofs or shooting legs their own people (see utube videos made by Palestinians) just because there were Fatah. You should be horrified by Arab animal (I can’t call him human being) axing a little children. (As I saw you were defending even that brutal killing too) This is the last time I will respond to you. You are not worth it. I did it only to show real considerate human beings to see what kind of people the Isreal has to fight with. Just for the interested people reading this blog.
      Statistics:
      Gaza from 1947-1967 the population increase only 40,000 to 280,000.
      Gaza from 1967-2005 (Israel occupation) population increase from 280,000 to 1,470,000.
      This tells you that mothers in Gaza new when their children are safe, will get enough food and medical services! Not terror at the hands of Hamas or other “freedom fighters”.
      Now what they have is the corrupted leadership which steals trucks (UNRW report) to sell to highiest bidder. UNWR said there is not problem with suuplies in central warehouses, distribution is the problem. The IDF did more to save innocent people from killing, then Hamas or any other orginization. There is an interesting video on uTube. Israeli sodiers with civilian Gazans young men talking. Those civilians were not afraid of Israeli soldiers or Israel and they said so.
      This is a blog about cooperation and understanding. You brought into it hate, lies and missinformation!

  • MERC

    Ibn Verga, Oh, I see, Palestinians beat themselves up. Nothing whatever to do with Israel. Goodness – I had absolutely no idea!

    Abba Eban once said that “propaganda is the art of persuading others of what one does not believe oneself.”
    Incredibly, you actually seem to believe your own propaganda. Such detachment from reality is truly pathological. Arab with axes are “animals” but Israeli pilots and gunners shredding and frying Palestinians from great heights and distances are kosher? You can’t be serious.

    • Ibn Verga

      The Israel pilots only shoot back once the rockets against civilian population were lunched. They do not go and pick up young children from streets to keep them as cannon folders like Hamas. They do not take axes and attack innocent children like Hamas. Look at the statistics. During the Gaza war only 10 Israeli soldiers were killed by Hamas. One week after almost 200 innocent Palestinians were killed by Hamas. They are cowards, hiding underground scared when opposite force will fight back but the the big “heroes” went out and killed 20 unarmed Palestinian wedding celebrants. Big “heroin? freedom fighters” !!! Now who is talking propaganda!!!

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