Monday, September 14, 2009

our ordeal in Barcelona

About 3 months ago, Gil Dor and myself recieved an invitation to perform in the ‘Diada’ in Barcelona, the most important celebration in Catalunya, that takes place on their national day, september 11th (it is actually the day they lost their independence and were forced to join the Spanish union). I was asked to sing a song called “el cant del ocells”, the song of the birds. It is an old Catalan song that was resurrected by Pau Casals, the world famous cellist (from Catalunya), who made it into a national symbol of peace and dreams yet to be fulfilled. It is one of the most important and well loved songs in catalunya. The organizers asked me to collaborate on this song with the Arab Orchestra of Barcelona, with whom I happily agreed to join forces. It was also planned that I sing the theme song from ‘life is beautiful’ in Catalan as well. The invitation was a huge honor for us.

A few days before the concert, a group called “Palestinian Solidarity Group” in Barcelona called to Boycott me and my performance, claiming that since I had “justified the bombing of gaza” in my open letter to the Palestinians during the gaza war, I could not sing for peace in Barcelona. The radical left wing party, ICV, who are ironically also in the government and so responsible for inviting me to begin with, joined this group in calling for the cancellation of my concert, a boycott on me personally and on Israel as a whole.

The newspapers were full of this story, it was on the front page everywhere in Spain and especially in Catlunya as the Diada is a hugely important event for them, and I am very famous in Spain. A large internet campaign was launched as well.

Gil Dor and myself decided to fight back, with a major retaliation against this indomitable propaganda. We got prime space in all the newspapers, tv and radio. Our point was, that the situation in the middle east is much too complex to be judged by such childish, simplistic terms. We are people with a long history of peace activity. Condemning Hamas does not mean going against the Palestinian people, the opposite is true. We believed during the Gaza war and still believe the Palestinian population in Gaza are being held hostage by hamas and their fanataic views, who are willing to sacrifice innocent victims on the altar of their death-loving ideology. At the same time, we continue to support Abu Mazen’s strategy of dialogue, co-existence, and a two-state solution. We support dialogue and compromise above all else. Our well known peace plan, “recognize, apologize, share” is the flag we bear proudly (read more details on earlier blog posts, especially 'politics, first step'). The Israeli embassy in Spain, the Spanish foreign ministry (Miguel Moratinos and his staff, who were visiting Israel at the time), our Israeli and Spanish management and promoters all came to our assistance. Mira Awad was also interviewed, and expressed strong support for our cause and our message.

This message came across clearly in all the media, and in Friday morning’s headlines the tide was clearly changing in our favor.

During the concert, there were about 50 people in the front rows form this organization, waving Palestinian flags, blowing whistles, yelling “boycott Israel! Boycott Israel”! they tried as hard as they could to get me off stage, to make me stop singing, to make sure nobody could hear me.
But they failed!
Even though my heart was breaking inside, I decided not to surrender to this ‘violent’ minority and to respect the event and the people of Catalunya who invited me.

I sang the lovely song ‘el cant dels ocells’ with the Arab orchestra, who played beautifully. It must be said to their credit, that despite the fact that they were attacked by the Palestinian organization constantly and urged to cancel their performance with me, they refused, preferring to stand on stage together and convey this message of peace for all to see.

Then I spoke. I read a speech I had written, translated into Catalan. In this speech, I said that I was honored to perform in Catalunya and that I admire how, despite all the dreams they have yet to fulfill (referring to ther dream of independence), they cultivate peace and brotherhood on their lands. We in the middle east, I said, have many dreams too, but our road is a bloody one. we look to the west and take inspiration from a continent that was once drenched in blood and has found somehow a way to live in unity and solidarity. That is our wish too.
Then I said that it is my dream to sing in the signing of the peace treaty between Israel and Palestine.

I got a huge standing ovation from the audience, and when I sang “life is beautiful”, there was perfect silence.

you can see the video here, our performance is 27 minutes into the ceremony
the song 'beautiful that way' here

The next day, the newspapers were full of compliments, saying “victory for Noa, star of Diada”. The media condemned the behavior of the demonstrators, and the ICV radical left party , who initiated the boycott, claimed they had never meant to do it and they were misunderstood …! Now they want to collaborate with us!

It is important to state that this victory was not only ours, it was a victory for Israel, and for all people everywhere who believe peace is not only a dream but can be a reality of we work for it!! In days when Israel’s image is being so ruthlessly and diabolically distorted everywhere, I feel this incident is a real ray of light.

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