Loving Beethoven and your country seem to be a dangerous combination.
A message from general director Suhail Khoury, following his arrest and the storming by occupation forces of the National Institute of Music and the Yabous Cultural Center in Jerusalem on July 29, 2020
"Beyond the ongoing daily policies that Israel enforce in East Jerusalem, we do not know what triggered the attack on two of the most prominent cultural institutions in Jerusalem―the Jerusalem Society for Music Education, also known as the National Conservatory of Music, and Yabous Cultural Center―carried out in the morning of July 22, 2020. Simultaneously, our apartment was stormed, and I was arrested alongside my wife Rania, who manages Yabous. Bishop Attallah believes the attack targeted Christian leadership in the city. Rania and I have considered a possible relation to the court case that is underway for the unification of our family because the Israeli authorities are trying to prevent us from living together legally in Jerusalem, even after 22 years of marriage. Several other theories are floating, all of which are possible and might be partly true. I, however, believe that Beethoven is to blame, and I will tell you why.
I have been brought up listening to classical music. My mother tells me that at four years of age, I would stand in front of the gramophone and move my hands with the music as if I was the great Karajan himself, conducting Beethoven’s fifth symphony. My addiction to Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik was intense, she reminisces. On the other hand, I was brought up to love my country and care for its people and their wellbeing. I have dedicated my life to the endeavor to try and instill those two values in the minds and lives of the young Palestinian generation.
To merely love Beethoven does not seem to bother the Israeli authorities. To simply love your country also does not seem to worry them. Because if you love your occupied country and do nothing about it, they see no harm in it. If you act upon this love violently, Israel is experienced in dehumanizing you and portraying you to the world as a terrorist. But to love your country and act on this love by performing Beethoven seems to be dangerous. The Israeli authorities apparently have no prepared formula for ways to deal with this ‘threat.’ Suddenly, you could become human in the eyes of the world, and Israel apparently hates that. After all, how can anyone dehumanize a well-educated and talented generation of Palestinians? How can anyone condemn an 80-strong Palestine Youth Orchestra receiving a standing ovation from approximately 2,000 Dutch and international spectators in the famous Concertgebouw Hall in Amsterdam or from the audience of 4,000 in the packed Royal Albert Hall in London?
The statement released by the Israeli police on the day of the attack mentions that they targeted two institutions that promote Palestinian culture. Guilty as charged. But what we also promote is hope. We teach tolerance, respect of the other, gender equality, freedom of speech, cultural exchange, and fundamental human rights.
We teach children to love Beethoven, Mozart, Sibelius, Bizet, Rossini, Albeniz, and all the great classical composers from Europe and elsewhere. But we also teach the music of Abdul Wahab, the Rahbani brothers, Said Darwish, and all the other great Palestinian and Arab composers of the twentieth century.
So how can they silence us? They have chosen to attempt to smear our reputation by falsifying evidence of money laundering, an outrageous and baseless accusation. To convince an Israeli judge to grant a police warrant, they must make it seem dangerous; thus, the money laundering had to be suspected of supporting terrorism. That is why the attack was accompanied by an extremist Israeli media campaign that tried to discredit the work of hundreds of artists and the music-learning of thousands of children.
Although our organizations love their country and respect their political parties and their struggle for independence, I can assure you that none of the ten members of the Jerusalem Arts Network– Shafaq have any affiliation with a political party. The fanatic Israeli media fabricated these links.
The amateurish level of this Israeli news invention even failed to distinguish between Suhail Khoury the Palestinian politician, who is affiliated with the PFLP and resides somewhere in the diaspora, and Suhail Khoury the composer and choral conductor from Jerusalem, who is writing this letter to you.
Nevertheless, the aim of this smearing attempt is severe, and it might lead to shutting us down. Therefore, we urge all our friends to move promptly and swiftly to safeguard the National Conservatory of Music and our cultural institutions in Jerusalem. Please organize music concerts to raise awareness. You can also lobby your politicians to pressure Israel to take its hands off our music school and Yabous Cultural Center. Sending letters of condemnation to Israeli diplomats in your respective countries might also help.
Your support at this time is crucial, so we can continue teaching the love of Beethoven and of our traditional Arabic music. Demand that the Israeli authorities lift their foot off our neck so we can sing in freedom".