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18 Nov, 2014

New Yorkers to Protest Israeli “Cultural Ambassador” Idan Raichel

NEW YORK, November 17, 2014 (WAFA) – On the evening of Tuesday, November 18, New York human rights advocates will gather for a music- and dance-filled protest of Israeli musician Idan Raichel, who will perform at Symphony Space with Vieux Farka Touré. Raichel is a self-proclaimed cultural ambassador for the state of Israel, and upon arriving in the US for his tour, his first stop was a gala fundraiser for the Israeli military.

The concert is presented by the World Music Institute (WMI), and in a public letter over 4,000 individuals and 50 groups from around the world called on WMI to cancel the performance. Signatories include filmmaker and honorary WMI board member Mira Nair; Grammy-nominated Haitian band Boukman Eksperyans, who will be presented by WMI in the spring; and Palestinian American oud virtuoso Simon Shaheen, also a past WMI performer.

Human rights activists delivered the letter to WMI on November 4 and briefly met with staff. According to New York Jewish Week, WMI has refused to comment on the letter.

Tuesday’s protest is a part of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which aims to pressure Israel to end its human rights abuses and is inspired by the international boycott campaign that helped to abolish apartheid in South Africa. Last week, Israeli dance company Batsheva faced protests at its November 12th performance at Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Idan Raichel and Brand Israel: Idan Raichel calls his music “global fusion,” and cultivates an image of a representative of “tolerant, multi-ethnic Israel.” This image has made him an important cultural ambassador for Israel in its rebranding campaign. Israeli Foreign Ministry official Andy David said of Raichel: “I think Idan is maybe the best ambassador that Israel has through his music and his inclusiveness.” Raichel has affirmed his role in drumming up support for the Israeli government, saying, “I believe that our role as artists is to enlist in the Israeli propaganda campaign [Hasbara].” He has endorsed right-wing organization Thank Israeli Soldiers and performed for the Israeli army before, during, and after its August 2014 attack on Gaza, which killed over 2100 Palestinians, including 500 children.