Boycott the Jerusalem Quartet

The Jerusalem Quartet readily uses its music to art-wash crimes committed by the far-right Israeli regime against Palestinians (Photo: Mohamed Al-Zanon / Maan Images)

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) reaffirms its call for the boycott of the Jerusalem Quartet due to its complicity in art-washing Israel’s far-right regime of apartheid, occupation and settler-colonialism over the Palestinian people.

The Jerusalem Quartet is an Israeli cultural institution that does not recognise the comprehensive rights of the Palestinian people under international law and that has repeatedly partnered with the Israeli government in its propaganda programs.

The Jerusalem Quartet regularly tours under initiatives funded, sponsored or otherwise organised by the Israeli ministry of foreign affairs and Israeli diplomatic missions. From Croatia and Ukraine to the USA, including last year in Boston, the Quartet readily uses its music to art-wash the well-documented crimes committed by the far-right Israeli regime against Palestinians. One 2018 event in Houston “celebrate[d] Israel's 70th Anniversary", as Palestinians marked 70 years of ethnic cleansing and dispossession.

It is therefore boycottable according to the guidelines for the international cultural boycott of Israel, which specifically state the two requirements -- inspired by the South African anti-apartheid struggle, and agreed upon by Palestinian civil society -- that Israeli cultural institutions must meet to be non-boycottable:

a. Publicly recognize the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people as enshrined in international law (including the three basic rights in the 2005 BDS Call) and

b. End all forms of complicity in violating Palestinian rights as stipulated in international law, including discriminatory policies and practices as well as diverse roles in whitewashing or justifying Israel’s violations of international law and Palestinian human rights. 

The BDS movement does not target individuals for boycott as its track record proves beyond doubt. The boycotts of South Africa during apartheid were blanket boycotts, including the cultural boycott, and were widely supported. But BDS strictly targets institutions (and corporations), including cultural institutions, that are complicit in apartheid.

The Quartet was established in 1994 under the auspices of the Jerusalem Music Centre and the America-Israel Cultural Foundation, which funded their studies and later wrote: "Our recipients serve as Israel's cultural ambassadors around the world".

In 2003, it was reported of the Quartet: "When their military service ended three years ago, they changed status to Distinguished IDF Musicians and continue to play for troops three times a week when they're in Israel". In March 2006, Quartet cellist Kyril Zlotnikov told The Australian newspaper they were happy to be called "the best ambassadors from Israel".

The Quartet’s violinist directs a programme at the Jerusalem Music Centre, which "supports ensembles made up of Outstanding Young Musicians in the IDF" and "liaise[s] directly with the IDF".

The Quartet’s long-standing partnership with the far-right Israeli government is part of the Brand Israel programme of openly whitewashing war crimes through culture. As one ranking Israeli foreign ministry official admitted, “We see culture as a hasbara [propaganda] tool of the first rank, and I do not differentiate between hasbara and culture”. Another said, “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.”

International human rights supporters, including in Edinburgh, Brighton, London, Birmingham, Rotterdam, Lisbon, California, Kentucky, Toronto, and New Zealand, have protested against the Jerusalem Quartet’s blatant complicity in Israel’s far-right regime of oppression.

We call for peaceful, creative protests in relation to the Jerusalem Quartet’s international concerts, for venues to refuse to host the Quartet, and for conscientious concert-goers to refuse to attend.

- PACBI is a founding member of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement for Palestinian rights.


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