Palestinian orchestra shut over Holocaust concert

JENIN, West Bank (Reuters) - Palestinian officials in the occupied West Bank have shut down a youth orchestra because it performed before Holocaust survivors at a concert in Israel.

Adnan Hindi, an official in the Palestinian refugee camp in Jenin, said on Sunday the band’s director had broken rules against holding “political” performances by taking the 18 boys and girls to a concert last week near the Israeli city of Tel Aviv.

About 10 women who survived the Holocaust were in the audience, said Wafa Younis, director of the “Strings of Freedom” orchestra based in Jenin refugee camp, a site of a fierce 2002 battle between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants.

Hindi told Reuters by telephone Younis had “used the children for political activities.”

“She took them to a place in order to teach them about the Holocaust, this is against her objectives and ours, which are only recreational,” Hindi said.

Many Palestinians feel formally recognizing the murder of six million Jews in World War Two amounts to an acceptance of the West’s justification for Israel’s establishment in 1948, an act which displaced hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.

“We decided to close down her office and now she is not allowed to work in Jenin refugee camp,” Hindi said, adding the band would also not be permitted to meet again.

Hindi said Younis, an Israeli-Arab citizen, was no longer welcome. “We won’t prevent her from entering Jenin refugee camp, but we can’t ensure her safety,” he said.

Younis said the show in Israel was part of a good-will day sponsored by an Israeli businesswoman and philanthropist.

“I have no political agenda,” she told Reuters, dismissing the decision to disband the orchestra as “ignorant.” She vowed to return to Jenin to continue her work.

“Hindi can’t, and even (Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas) can’t, prevent or stop my project,” Younis said.

Hindi also accused Younis of taking the orchestra to a protest demanding the release of an Israeli soldier held captive in the Gaza Strip, a charge which she denied.

Reporting by Wael al-Ahmed; Editing by Matthew Jones