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BDS Portugal | December 17 2015

Protesters disrupt Jerusalem Quartet concert in Lisbon

Activists protested on Wednesday (16/12) the concert of the Jerusalem Quartet at the Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon. They opposed the Quartet's official association with the Israeli army committing war crimes against Palestinians. 

In a video released by the Comité de Solidariedade com a Palestina protesters are seen chanting "boycott Israel" as the concert was taking place. At one point the Jerusalem Quartet was forced to interrupt the performance. 

The heckling came in two waves and lasted for several minutes catching the audience by surprise. The Jerusalem Quartet seemed daunted and indeed used to the protests given the frequency in which they take place at venues where they play around the world.  

Protesters distributed leaflets explaining the reason for their action and condemned the Gulbenkian Foundation for hosting the Quartet despite appeals. This is the second time the Gulbenkian Foundation, an Armenian cultural institution based in Portugal, hosts the Jerusalem Quartet. Both times activists protested the performance. 

This year Armenians from the diaspora, from the US and Palestine, wrote to the Foundation's management requesting for the concert to be canceled. Similar appeals were sent by Portuguese citizens. They pointed at the Foundations history of support for Armenians in Palestine, who like other Palestinians live under Israel's occupation and apartheid, echoing evidence linking the Jerusalem Quartet with Israel's propaganda in defense of war and occupation. The appeals went unheeded and the Gulbenkian Foundation refused to address the arguments in the letters. 

The direct action by Portugal's Comité de Solidariedade com a Palestina is in support of the Palestinian-led Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which advocates for a cultural boycott of Israeli cultural institutions complicit with Israel's violations of international law. 

Jerusalem Quartet complicit with Israel's policies against Palestinians

The Jerusalem Quartet enjoys official status as “distinguished IDF [Israeli army] musicians”. Israel's army has taken on a repressive role in ruling over millions of Palestinians for almost half a century denying them basic rights and committing daily war crimes with the purpose of sustaining a regime of colonialism and apartheid, condemned by the UN and countless human rights organizations.

The Quartet was established in 1994 under the auspices of the Jerusalem Music Centre and the America-Israel Cultural Foundation, which funded their studies. Its website states clearly: "Our recipients serve as Israel's cultural ambassadors around the world..."  The Jerusalem Quartet has loyally played the role of cultural ambassadors by their deeds.

In 2003 the Israel Press Service reported: "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 2006, Cellist Kyril Zlotnikov told an Australian newspaper they were happy to be called "the best ambassadors from Israel."

This association with the Israeli government is particularly disturbing in light of Israel’s use of arts and culture in its public relations campaign to distract public opinion from its oppression of Palestinians. In 2006, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs launched an initiative called “Brand Israel,” to salvage Israel’s deteriorating image abroad. Arye Mekel of Israel’s Foreign Ministry has stated that, “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.” As part of this cultural offensive, the Jerusalem Quartet tours regularly under initiatives funded and organizedby the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


The Israeli ambassador to the UK said in 2008 when protesters disrupted the Quartet at the Edinburgh Festival “we must not give in to attempts to sabotage the marketing of Israeli art and culture….” Since the quartet has made no attempt to dissociate itself from Israel’s apartheid policies, issuing only half-baked statements, we can only conclude that it is happy to play under the patronage of the State of Israel and/or its institutions while the charges of war crimes against Israel hang thick in the air worldwide.

Posted on 17-12-2015

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