Fatah slam Jenin band’s Shoah gig

By Anshel Pfeffer, April 2, 2009

A Palestinian youth orchestra was ordered to disband after performing for Holocaust survivors and its leader was arrested by the Palestinian security services and banished from the West Bank.

Fatah leaders in the Jenin refugee camp are furious that 13 members of the Strings of Freedom orchestra took part in a “Day of Good Deeds” event in Israel last week. The music group was set up six years ago by veteran educator and violinist Wafa Younis, an Israeli Arab. She lived in the camp but has now been banned.

The performance last week in Holon was part of a major event organized by the New Spirit organisation, led by Israeli businesswoman Shari Arison. The 13 musicians were granted entry permits into Israel so that they could take part. The audience included a group of Holocaust survivors who met the children after the performance.

Media reports of the emotional performance and meeting with the survivors enraged the Jenin camp’s Fatah leaders, Adnan al-Hindi and Zakaria Zbeidi, who have both been wanted in the past by Israel for alleged involvement in terror attacks.

“We are not denying the fact that the Holocaust happened,” explained al-Hindi, “but it is also a political issue and we are facing a massacre ourselves. Younis was using the children and we have to protect our community.”

Ms Younis had asked to participate in the Day of Good Deeds to show Israelis and Palestinians that a different kind of relationship between the two nations is possible.

After being forced out of the refugee camp, she vowed that she would return. “They won’t stop me from giving the children of the camp an opportunity for different, richer lives, through the music,” she said, “I want the orchestra to play everywhere, first of all in Israel.”

“I feel sympathy for them,” Ali Zeid, an 18-year-old keyboard player said after the concert. He was shocked by what he learned about the Holocaust.

“Only people who have been through suffering understand each other,” added Zeid.

Last updated: 11:58am, April 2 2009