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Page last updated at 15:23 GMT, Monday, 30 March 2009 16:23 UK

Orchestra shut over holocaust row

Members of Strings of Freedom youth orchestra, after concert in Holon, Israel
The group began their concert with an Arabic song called We Sing For Peace

Local residents have closed down a West Bank children's orchestra after it performed a concert for Holocaust survivors in Israel.

Adnan Hindi, a social leader in the Jenin refugee camp, accused the group's director of "exploiting" the children for political reasons.

Thirteen children travelled to Israel last week to play for an audience which included holocaust survivors .

It was part of the Good Deeds Day event set up by an Israeli billionaire.

Mr Hindi, the head of an organisational committee in the refugee camp, said the concert had overstepped the purely "recreational" remit of the Strings of Freedom orchestra.

'No agenda'

The room in the house of the orchestra's director, Wafa Younis, where the teenagers practiced, has been locked and boarded up, local residents say.

Parents are also said to have stopped their children from participating in the group, saying they were not informed of the nature of the trip to Israel.

If I had known this was a political excursion, I would not have let my son go
Ibrahim Samour
Father of a member of the orchestra

"I have no political agenda," Ms Younis told Reuters news agency, and dismissed the decision to close down the orchestra as "ignorant".

Many members of the audience at the concert in the Israeli town of Horon were surprised to discover the performers were from Jenin, known for brutal fighting between Palestinian militants and Israeli forces in 2002.

And reports from the concert said it was the first time some of the young people had heard about the Holocaust, and seen civilian Israelis, rather than the soldiers they encounter in the West Bank.

"If I had known this was a political excursion, I would not have let my son go," Ibrahim Samour, father of 18-year-old Qusay, who plays the kamanja, a traditional Arab stringed instrument, in the orchestra, told AP news agency.

Neither he nor Mr Hindi deny the fact that some six million Jews were killed by the Nazis.

The need to provide sanctuary for the hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees is widely seen to have speeded the creation of the state of Israel, which led to a war during which about 700,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled.

"I'm not denying bad things happened to them, but there has to be mutual recognition," said Mr Samour.

Good Deeds Day is an annual event to foster "hope and brotherhood" founded by Israeli billionaire Shari Arison.



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