Boycotters 'victory' as music festival distances itself from Israel

By Jessica Elgot, March 24, 2011
Geraldine Auerbach

Geraldine Auerbach

Israel boycotters have declared a “victory” after organisers of an Israeli music conference assured them that the event would have no Israeli government funding.

Campaigners from British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP), Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (J-BIG) and the Boycott Israel Network (BIN) threatened to picket “Arts Music of Israel” which is being organised by the Jewish Music Institute at SOAS next week.

Organisers turned down a grant from the British Israeli Arts Training Scheme, after deciding they did not want political connections with the conference. JMI director Geraldine Auerbach said no money had been received from the Israeli government, and a £1,500 grant from BI-ARTS had been turned down.

This week, BRICUP published the correspondence it had with Ms Auerbach, which said: “I confirm that there is no funding directly or indirectly from the Israeli government or institutions.” BRICUP also claim Ms Auerbach told them that the event would no longer be promoted via the Israeli embassy.

Ms Auerbach said: “I was contacted by those who planned to disrupt the conference and I told them the situation. We did not enter into any negotiations with them, we did not have discussions. This was a decision we reached independently and has no bearing on any future decision we might take over funding from Israel. That will be decided depending on the circumstances.

LSE emeritus professor Jonathan Rosenhead of BRICUP said: “Clearly the event has been formulated in close contact with the Israeli authorities, so that its programme and structure serve the Brand Israel agenda. Nonetheless we acknowledge that the organisers have now stated unambiguously that no Israeli funding or support has been received, even if they did change their story several times during our campaign.”

Campaigners say they still plan to hand out leaflets outside the conference, claiming it would be “impossible” to hold a conference on Palestinian music.

An Israeli embassy spokesman said: "The Israeli Embassy is happy to support cultural events and Israeli arts, and will gladly continue to do so in the future.

"Art is made to build bridges and to help sustain an essential dialogue. "It is disturbing to see that the certain bodies has succumbed to pressures from external organisations whose sole purpose is to prevent that dialogue. Not only that, but to cooperate with them and to brusquely attach a much needed financial support for artists to political agenda is unhelpful."

Last updated: 10:48am, March 25 2011