After playing for Holocaust survivors, Palestinian youth orchestra faces backlash

TEL AVIV – Last week, I reported on a goodwill performance by a Palestinian youth orchestra from a West Bank refugee camp. They played for about an hour for a group of 30 Holocaust survivors in a Tel Aviv suburb.

But that moving performance is now stirring tension in Jenin, where the orchestra's members live.

A Palestinian official from the Jenin refugee camp told the Associated Press Sunday that the apartment where the orchestra practices has been boarded up. The official also said that the conductor Wafaa Younis, an Arab citizen of Israel who visits Jenin several times a week to give lessons, would be barred from the camp.

The Holocaust is "a political issue," said Adnan Hindi, who heads the camp's municipal committee. "She exploited the children…. She will be forbidden from doing any activities."

But Ms. Younis rejected the charges and defiantly vowed to return to the refugee camp early this week. "Empty words,'' she said in response to Mr. Hindi's remarks.
Hindi says that he has called Palestinian parents to urge them to boycott the orchestra.

At least one girl has called the conductor in tears, Younis told me in a telephone interview Sunday. She predicted that the pupils, aged 13 to 18, would return despite the pressure.
"These are my children. Tomorrow I will be there. The camp is Palestinian land. It's my land. I feel like I belong there,'' she said.

"What happened that Adnan Hindi is speaking so much? Because my orchestra succeeded in Holon and Tel Aviv? I've gotten nothing from the camp. In seven years I have never seen him. The parents are with me,'' she said.

The Nazi Holocaust is a taboo topic in Palestinian and Arab society because of its place in the narrative of the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. Palestinian refugees see a link between their displacement and the arrival of Jewish refugees in British Mandatory Palestine after World War II.

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