Monday, March 30, 2009

The Day More Than the Music Died

A Palestinian children's orchestra from Jenin, in the West Bank has been disbanded after performing for a group of Holocaust survivors in Israel proper.

Palestinian officials said that the children and their parents had been mislead and that they had not been informed that the audience would be Holocaust survivors. The leader of the orchestra, an Israeli-Arab woman has been banned from Jenin and accused of the 'crime' of attempting to normalize relations with Israel.

Herein lies the problem. Neither the children not the survivors in the audience did anything wrong. Each were exposed to each other and new understandings were created. The survivors understanding the harsh lives of these children and the children meeting, perhaps for the first time, not only Jewish civilians but actual Holocaust survivors. As the articles above note, Palestinian children don't often receive a full education on the Holocaust which is a politicized subject for them. The opportunity for them to meet survivors, therefore, is not only an important life experience, but also another chance to try to understand Israelis, Jews and the Israeli national psyche, if there is such a thing.

Even more disturbing is the quote from the Palestinian official who shut down the orchestra:
"The Holocaust happened, but we are facing a similar massacre by the Jews themselves," Hindi said. "We lost our land, and we were forced to flee and we've lived in refugee camps for the past 50 years."
Palestinians have legitimate grievances, however, nothing that has happened to Palestinians, can be described as "similar" to what happened to Jews and millions of other "undesirables" in the Holocaust. Any such comparisons reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of the Holocaust.

It's a shame that children should be punished for an educational and peacebuilding experience. It's a true loss that the orchestra leader will be denied the opportunity to lead these children on other, similar peacebuilding missions--concerts that help to build understanding and put a human face on the "other."

Rather than being banned, Wafa Younis, the orchestra leader, should receive an award from both the Israeli and Palestinian governments for working towards building an understanding between peoples and a grassroots peaceful connection. Long live her efforts!

No comments: