Palestinians have disbanded a youth orchestra from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency’s (UNRWA) Jenin refugee camp after it performed last Wednesday for elderly Nazi concentration camp survivors who now live in the Tel Aviv suburb of Holon.
The children performers ranged in age from 11 to 13, including the son of Zakariya Zubeidi, a Fatah terrorist wanted for murder.
As a result of last week’s concert, part of the “Good Deeds Day” organized by the Ruach Tova/Good Spirit Foundation, the camp’s popular committee, which oversees municipal activities in the camp, ordered its disbandment.
Leading residents of the UNRWA camp, however, say they did not know who the orchestra was playing for until they saw the report published in a Israeli newspaper, Yediot Ahronot, which reported about the performance for the survivors.
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Adnan al-Hindl, the head of the camp’s popular committee, told The Associated Press the Holocaust was “a political issue,” and he chastised Wafa Younis, the youth orchestra’s director, for dragging the children into politics.
“We want an orchestra; we want cultural education, but not by misusing the children,” Mr. al-Hindi said. “She exploited the children. She will be forbidden from doing any activities… We have to protect our children and our community.”
Other camp residents also agreed with Mr. al-Hindi’s sentiments.
Mr. al-Hindl charged the Palestinian people have suffered just as grievously as the Holocaust survivors had since the establishment of the State of Israel.
“The Holocaust happened, but we are facing a similar massacre by the Jews themselves,” Mr. al-Hindl said. “We lost our land, and we were forced to flee and we’ve lived in refugee camps for the past 50 years.”
The organizers, however, reject the claims being made by Mr. al-Hindl and others like him.
“We wanted to go to Israel with the children of Jenin and speak the language of music, which is the language of peace and respect between peoples,” said Ms. Younis, the orchestra’s director.
Kaynan Rabino, director of the foundation that organized the event, said he was disappointed to hear about the reaction in Jenin.
“They approached us and volunteered to play. Wafa knew the orchestra would play before Holocaust survivors,” he said. “We wanted to bring people’s hearts closer together, and if they are against that, then that’s a real shame.”
Ms. Younis, a resident of the village Ara in northern Israel, was declared “persona non grata” and was expelled from the refugee camp. The camp leaders filed a complaint against her with the Palestinian police on the grounds that she had acted unlawfully.
“The children are not to blame,” Mr. al-Hindi said yesterday. “They haven’t even heard about the Holocaust, but the director gave them politics instead of music. There are people who don’t even have mercy on children. Therefore, after a meeting of representatives of all the organizations in the camp, we decided to declare her ‘persona non grata’ in the refugee camp and closed her club.”
Members of the organization that helps the survivors heard the news with astonishment that the orchestra was being shut down.
“This is a foolish thing to do,” said Dan Waldman, director of the organization that provides psychological assistance to concentration camp survivors.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
David Bedein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org