Palestinian orchestra leader deported after death threats

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The Independent Online

The head of a Palestinian youth orchestra who sparked outrage by performing a concert for Holocaust survivers in Israel has been deported from the West Bank because security forces felt "her life to be in danger".

Israeli-Arab Wafa Younis has been crossing into the Palestinian territories to give music lessons in the Jenin Refugee Camp for the past six years and set up the Strings of Freedom orchestra about three years ago. But when she tried to enter the camp on Monday, armed men in plain clothes took her into custody.

Colonel Raid Assaida, the commander of Palestinian security forces in Jenin, said there had been threats against Ms Younis's life by the parents of some of her music students, angry about their children playing in front of Holocaust survivors. "I warned her not to enter the Jenin area at all for the time being in order to keep her safety," Col Assaida said.

"She used innocent children to carry out a political agenda. Instead of taking them for recreation, she took them to participate in a day to commemorate the Holocaust. She exploited the children in a way."

Adnan al-Hindi, a leader of a popular committee in the camp, said residents had made it clear after the concert that Ms Younis's presence was not wanted. Camp officials had boarded up the rehearsal studio and confiscated the instruments. "But she insisted on challenging us and returning to the camp despite her crime," he said.

The 50-year-old music teacher said she was unfazed and would continue her teaching "after the storm dies down". She says that the aim of last week's performance in the city of Holon was not at all political and was designed to "revive the hearts of the elderly". "My calling is to serve the Palestinian cause and to prove to the whole world we are a people of culture and that we love music which is the language of peace," she said.

But the concert was widely seen in the Palestinian refugee camp – largely destroyed during battles between militants and the Israeli army in 2002 – as an act of identification with the enemy.

Many Palestinians believe drawing attention to the murder of millions of Jews during the Second World War helps Israel justify their dispossession and diminishes their claims to land.

Hossam Khader, a West Bank MP, said Ms Younis had made a mistake, but should not be threatened. "If there was real peace and the Israelis recognised our rights, maybe that [the concert] would be a great thing. But not now with the Israelis constantly demolishing houses and after the terrible war in Gaza. She should stand with us against the new Israeli Holocaust."