Update on Marcel Khalife, Lebanese oud player

We reported earlier that the San Diego Salvation Army refused to rent their auditorium to UN artist for peace Marcel Khalife because doing so would be unbalanced if he didn’t also share the stage with an Israeli. Richard Silverstein of Tikun Olam called the Salvation Army to get the story straight from them.

Turns out that depending on one’s perspective, either it was an understandable move, or a classic case of muzzling.

Richard writes:

I spoke with Capt. John VanCleef who told me that when first approached, an individual was to rent their hall for the Khalife concert. But in the course of time this changed and a group named Al Awda took the place of the individual as sponsor. The Salvation Army would have had no problem with an individual renting the hall for this concert. Nor would it have had a problem with most Arab organizations renting the hall. But as part of the vetting process, the Theater asked Al Awda to present information about its mission. After reading this information, the Army decided it could not allow this group to rent their facility:

Al-Awda unequivocally supports the fundamental, inalienable, individual and collective rights of all Palestinian refugees to return to their original towns, villages and lands anywhere in Palestine from which they were expelled…All Palestinians are entitled to the rights to self-determination, to political, economic and civil equality, and to live in a single democratic state for all its citizens in all of Palestine.

I want to pause here to say that while I do not agree with Al Awda’s one state solution and its demand to full implementation of the Right of Return of Palestinian refugees, I would not have refused them the right to rent the hall. However, given that I am not the Salvation Army and they have larger community issues to consider, I can understand why they chose not to go forward with the concert.

The Arabist has a different take:

It’s good that Richard got this independently checked, although I strongly disagree with him that the Salvation Army’s decision is understandable. I very much doubt it would have made the same decision if the organization trying to book the venue was the Zionist Association of America, Hillel, or one of the countless groups that supports Israel. I would guess that the Salvation Army’s decision very much has to do with the well-known intimidation campaigns against pro-Palestinian organizations and individuals by Zionist groups, and that it chose to avoid the controversy and problems that would probably come with hosting an al-Awda event.

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