Open Letter to Choir of Clare College, Cambridge University

Open letter to the Choir of Clare College, Cambridge, November 09

Dear Director of Music, Timothy Brown and members of the choir,

We understand that you intend to tour Israel with the Choir of Clare College to perform J.S. Bach’s ‘Christmas Oratorio’ between 25th and 30th December this year and we are asking you to reconsider this decision.

Artists and musicians in Palestine, inspired by the example of the campaign which
brought an end to apartheid in South Africa, have asked people of conscience around the world not to perform in Israel as an act of solidarity with them. They do not do this lightly, but because over forty years of talking have brought no meaningful results in the implementation of international law and humanitarian law to help Palestinians achieve an independent sovereign state.

December 27 will be the anniversary of the terrible day last year that Israel unleashed a military onslaught on the trapped population of the Gaza Strip. While the rest of the world will be remembering the massacre of 1,400 Palestinian people, your choir will be performing in the capital city of the government which perpetrated acts now regarded as war crimes, according to the latest UN report from Judge Richard Goldstone.

Your invitation to perform in Israel is from the Israel Camerata, a body partially funded by the Israeli government. To accept such an invitation is to ignore the fact that Israel is currently engaged in the longest ever occupation of a people, an occupation declared illegal by the United Nations. You will see nothing of the reality of life under occupation for the Palestinian people of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

The Gaza tragedy was merely the latest episode in the catastrophe which has befallen the people of Palestine since the destruction of their villages and the creation of hundreds of thousands of refugees at the foundation of the State of Israel in 1948. The town of Karmiel, where you are due to perform on December 30th, is built on land expropriated from the Palestinian villages of Deir al-Asad, Bi’ina and Nahf.

The fact that you have been invited to participate in the traditional Christmas Eve carol service in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem only emphasises the publicity value to the Israeli government of this trip. Many Palestinian Christians are denied the right to attend this service by the Israeli government and army.

To go ahead with this tour could appear indifferent to Palestinian suffering.
Music brings a message of hope but in this instance it will be seen by the Palestinian people as an endorsement of Israeli occupation. We ask you again to reconsider your decision.

Signed, all in a personal capacity:
Prof. Manuel Hassassian, formerly of Bethlehem University –
Samira Hassassian, formerly of Bethlehem University –
Rev. Garth Hewitt, Canon of St George’s Cathedral, Jerusalem –
Betty Hunter, General Secretary of Palestine Solidarity Campaign –
Sir Geoffrey Bindman, lawyer –
Victoria Brittain, journalist –
Poppy Burton-Morgan, actor and director –
Caryl Churchill, playwright –
Jeremy Corbyn MP –
William Dalrymple, writer –

And many more.
Click here to view the full list of signatories