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Five arrested at Scottish protest of visit by Israeli military musicians

Five arrested at Scottish protest of visit by Israeli military musicians, the Jerusalem Quartet to Edinburgh International Festival

Press Release from the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, 29 August 2008

Five protestors were arrested at Edinburgh's Queen's Hall today and charged with disrupting the performance of the Israeli Jerusalem Quartet, musicians, who enjoy a double status as 'Cultural Ambassadors of Israel' as well as 'Distinguished IDF Musicians'.

While the siege of Gaza continues, Israel should not be allowed to conduct 'business as normal' and musicians associated with the murderous Israeli Army, its state, or its illegal occupation should be denied any platform.

About a dozen music-lovers returned their tickets at the gates after realizing the concert was a means for Israel to legitimise its ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. Gratifyingly, a further small but significant number of the audience left and expressed their support, one couple thanking the demonstrators inside and out 'for awakening our consciences'. One music-lover who had complained about the harsh ejection of a demonstrator from the hall was told to leave as well!

Earlier this week, local Jewish writer and journalist, Marion Woolfson had written to festival organisers asking that they rescind their invitation to "the representatives of a country that practices ethnic cleansing and a form of apartheid which even those who have lived in South Africa have said is worse than anything thought up by the former rulers of their country."

Police prevented protesters outside the venue from setting up a simulated checkpoint. Graham McVitie, spokesman for the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign that organised the protest said that the checkpoint was designed to mimic one of around 600 Israeli controls scattered throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories: "These checkpoints are designed to restrict movement within Palestine and strangle its economy."

Mick Napier, Chair of the Scottish PSC, said: 'Everyone loves music, but Israel's mountain of crimes against the Palestinians weighs more in the scales than some Scots enjoying a piece of music, or a cricket game, or a film, indifferent to the crimes their government supports. People stopped games by the old South Africa's apartheid sports teams; we can do no less with the cultural ambassadors of Israel's apartheid and ethnic cleansing.'

In 2006, during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, Edinburgh International Film Festival organisers returned sponsorship money provided by the Israeli embassy.

Israel is also under increasing pressure from Trade Union boycotts. Last year, Britain's University and Colleges Union (UCU) caused unrest in Israel when its conference voted to discuss a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

Former US president Jimmy Carter also faced heavy criticism last year on publication of his book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, in which he compares Israeli policies with those of Apartheid South Africa.