Early April, Andre Rieu performed four times in Tel Aviv. Twice, the artist was asked to cancel his performance because Israel occupies and oppresses the Palestinians. But the show must go on, and Rieu will go to Tel Aviv, he said in an interview, because he “is not political.”
On the 9th of March, 20 Palestinian cultural organizations wrote an open letter to the Dutch artist in which they asked him not to perform in Tel Aviv, because Israel systematically violates human rights and international law and oppresses the Palestinians.
The Palestinian artists compared the situation in Israel under apartheid in South Africa and between Tel Aviv and Sun City, about which a protest song was released by international artists in 1986, in which they called upon their fellow artists not to perform in this a decadent city as long as apartheid reigned.
On 13 March 2018, Rieu’s spokesman responded to a local newspaper, the Limburger, and said that Rieu did not give in to the demands of twenty Palestinian organizations and that he had never heard of them.
The campaign attracted a lot of attention and the list of supporters grew steadily. On 30 March the letter was supported by 36 Dutch artists, led by the former Dutch theologian of the year, Janneke Stegeman and composer Merlijn Twaalfhoven. The famous South African painter Marlene Dumas and the Dutch author Désanne van Brederode also supported the open letter, alongside word artist Manu van Kersbergen and author Rosita Steenbeek.
Apparently Rieu thought it necessary to explain himself further, because on 6 April 2018, he responded on video to a national newspaper, the Telegraaf. Rieu mentioned as an excuse for his performance that the Dutch DJ Armin van Buuren played in Tel Aviv too. In addition, Rieu explained that he will not only tour in Israel, but that he will also visit Lebanon and Egypt.
Various pro-Israeli media wrote about the visit, including NIW, Christians for Israel and the Israeli Jerusalem Post alongside many comments on Twitter. It is striking that most of the critical reactions were not only negative, but also insulting and intimidating.
On Radio 1, in a conversation with Hanna Luden, director of Cidi, Janneke Stegeman explained how the letter to Andre Rieu not to perform in Tel Aviv is a peaceful way to gain attention for the cruelties of the occupation. “Israel occupies the Palestinian territories since 1967. Andre Rieu would have shown that he takes things serious, when had stayed home. There are always places in this world where things are worse, which we have to resist, but that does not change the situation in Israel.”
Janneke continues: “Also my Israeli friends say: Boycott us, because we are against the occupation and we need your support. It’s not about punishment, but it’s about a political situation that we all are against.”
Interviewer Tijs van den Brink, brought up that a comparison was made with apartheid. Janneke answered that there are two different legal systems in the West Bank and that this is a characteristic of apartheid. Hanna Luden protested.
“Do you say it is not true that there are two different legal systems?” Asked Janneke. Hanna Luden replied that this is a topic of discussion in Israel and tried to circumvent the question.
Janneke concluded: “Music does not unite us at all, because Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza cannot go to Tel Aviv to attend the concert. Ideally is the one-state solution, when everyone can go to a concert by Andre Rieu. “