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Franzen Meets Palestinian Flutist

Homeland Security doesn’t want to hear the music.

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The Department of Homeland Security cracked down on a quartet of Palestinian musicians trying to play a gig at Lincoln Center. Members of the Oriental Music Ensemble had applied for J-1 cultural-exchange visas, among the easiest to get, but group leader and flutist Suhail Khoury’s request languished for months; the DHS relented just six days before his scheduled arrival—and only after the Israel-Palestine desk at the State Department and the Smithsonian cultural-affairs office got involved. Khoury credited the holdup to his time spent in an Israeli prison camp, where he’d landed after writing an incendiary song during the first intifada. At the concert last Tuesday, he performed a song he’d composed in the camp on a flute crafted from a found PVC pipe. Jonathan Franzen, an honorary committee member of event host American Near East Refugee Aid, said, “The basic idea is, if you have an instrument to play, you might not want to be blown up or blow someone else up.” Something of a self-destruction veteran, Franzen offered this wisdom: “Oprah should keep away from white guys with the initials J.F.”


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