Independent carries call on BBC to exclude Israeli orchestra from Proms

 

 

 

 

UPDATE

The boycotters tried to disrupt the performance of the Jew-orchestra.

Less politically enlightened British people in the audience chanted “out out out” at the brave crusaders against Orchestral Human Rights Abuses.

The concert went ahead.

More on HP

 

 

A letter in today’s Independent.

Proms exploited for arts propaganda campaign

As musicians we are dismayed that the BBC has invited the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra to play at the Proms on 1 September. The IPO has a deep involvement with the Israeli state – not least its self-proclaimed “partnership” with the Israeli Defence Forces. This is the same state and army that impedes in every way it can the development of Palestinian culture, including the prevention of Palestinian musicians from travelling abroad to perform.

Our main concern is that Israel deliberately uses the arts as propaganda to promote a misleading image of Israel. Through this campaign, officially called “Brand Israel”, denials of human rights and violations of international law are hidden behind a cultural smokescreen. The IPO is perhaps Israel ‘s prime asset in this campaign.

The Director of the Proms, Roger Wright, was asked to cancel the concert in accordance with the call from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott (PACBI). He rejected this call, saying that the invitation is “purely musical”.

Israel’s policy towards the Palestinians fits the UN definition of apartheid. We call on the BBC to cancel this concert.

The letter is signed by 24 musicians, self-defined.

“The IPO has a deep involvement with the Israeli state” – as the BBC has a deep involvement with the British state – so why not call upon the Israeli orchestra to boycott this festival, which promotes a misleading image of imperialist Britain?

This week in history: the 1929 Hebron massacre

Spurred by rumors of an impending takeover of Al-Aksa Mosque, a mob slaughtered 63 Jews while over 400 were saved by local Arab families.

read the story on jpost.com

Adam Holland on Richard Silverstein

Student in Scotland found guilty of racially abusing a Jewish student

They placed their hands inside their trousers and on to their genitals before rubbing them on to a flag of Israel. It is also alleged they made comments of an offensive nature within Mr Reitblat’s presence, contrary to the Criminal Law Act.

They said that the Jewish student supports terrorists and should be held liable for putting up a “terrorist symbol” in his room – ‘pretty much,’ he reports, ‘that I deserve what’s coming to me. After they left my room, they went on an hour long rant throughout the hall about how Jews have no claim to Israel and that Israel is a terrorist, Nazi state.’

The students are associated with the Scotish Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Full story and sources on Harry’s Place.

Dave Rich on the CST blog discusses the story too.

Joe Kane on Just Peace UK describes this in the following terms:

‘A minute or two of mindless student pranks has got the Scottish authorities wasting valuable taxpayers money on the usual zionist accusations that criticism of Israel is racist.’

UPDATE:  Mike Cushman, the man who leads the campaign to exclude Israelis from UK universities, seems to think that this was not racist harassment, and he hopes that Brian Klug or Tony Lerman will be able to get the defendants off the hook.

Loved on both the antiracist left and by open antisemites – Latuff

Old antisemitic trope

Carlos Latuff, the Brazilian cartoonist who won second prize in Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial talent show, has now been legitimised, praised and embraced in the Guardian.

See CST blog.

See Adam Holland. 

UPDATE:

The BBC too is bigging up the antisemitic cartoonist.

UPDATE

More from Joseph W on Harry’s Place.

Noam Edry – Zionist art at Goldsmiths

This piece by Karen Glaser is from Jpost.com.

Noam Edry

Artistic defiance

Noam Edry decided to challenge demonization against Israel on her campus in her own creative way by breaking taboos through ‘zionist’ art.

That this Israeli artist has ruffled British feathers is obvious from the moment I walk through the door of the world-famous art college.  “I’ve come to see Noam Edry’s show. Could you direct me?” I ask the student- steward at reception.  “Just follow the noise,” she replies with an ironic smirk. “It’s impossible to ignore.”

It’s true: Edry’s MA graduate show at Goldsmiths College is one noisy piece of installation art. But this is not why it has been impossible to ignore. Edry’s exhibition has been impossible to ignore because it is a Zionist take on the Middle East conflict — on display in an institution that routinely refers to Israel as an apartheid state.

Actually it’s more complicated. “Conversation Pieces: Scenes of Unfashionable Life” is an installation comprising paintings, drawings, video, sound, sculpture and performance that look at the Arab-Israeli conflict through the artist’s Jewish-Israeli eyes. In so doing, it tries to challenge the ways in which people arrive at their political opinions.  A lot of the individual exhibits are ambiguous and open-ended. But knowing how reviled the Jewish state has become on many British campuses, and preempting, surely, her detractors, Edry herself writes: “Call it a Zionist show, call it what you like.” She is, in short, being provocative.

You could see this provocation as a riposte to months of antagonism from the other side. When Edry moved to London to start her master’s in Fine Art, following a first degree at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, she thought she was on reprieve from the Middle East. The world’s most bitter conflict was certainly the last subject on which she expected to be making art.  “I had always thought of myself as apolitical,” she says. “I was sure of one thing only – that the conflict was not as simple or clear-cut as a black-and-white painting.”

But then, on her first day at Goldsmiths, the Ramat Yohanan kibbutznik was assailed by posters at the university calling her homeland an apartheid state.

It was a punch to the stomach: “Apartheid? In what way? I had gone to art college with Arab artists where we had built our exhibitions side by side. Before that I had served in the army with Beduin, sharing the same awful, oily food and consoling ourselves with Arab coffee that we brewed for each other in makeshift pots. My army commander was a Druse.”

EDRY’S INITIAL response was to lie low, a tactic that most Israelis at Goldsmiths, of whom there is a good handful every academic year, employ for the duration of their degrees. During her first year, she never brought up the Israel-Palestine question, and she certainly didn’t make art about her Israeli identity.

But it didn’t work. Edry was constantly confronted about the conflict – on the way back from a party, over lunch or a cup of coffee in the student union bar. And there were ever more posters plastered on the university’s walls – ostensibly about her homeland, but actually depicting a place that was “barely recognizable, so crass was the misrepresentation.”

When she attended a meeting of the Palestine Twinning Campaign, it felt, she says, like the clock had rewound to 1939.  “I was expecting real dialogue, but instead they were calling for an academic boycott of Israel, rallying young people who were desperate to be passionate about something to silence people like me – artists and intellectuals who believe in human beings and mutual tolerance, the very people who are, in fact, the real hope for peace in the region,” she says. “I was horrified.  What next? Would they start burning Israeli books?”

Not yet. But what she did next was to make a complex work challenging the relentless campus demonization of the Jewish state.

The show begins in a corridor outside the studio, where Jewish Israelis serve Arab-Israeli coffee to members of the public while wearing, and giving out, T-shirts with the slogan “I come from the most hated place on earth” – continuing on the back, “second to Iran.” Before you enter the room, a security guard checks your bag; he’s part of the show, but for me, at least, it took time for the penny to drop.  Inside, there is a massage therapist rehabilitating volunteers’ left sides.

The noise to which the student-steward sniffily referred comes from various sources: a video installation screened on an ’80s portable television, entitled Groovy Little War Mix and featuring war footage (including a simulated bombing of Goldsmiths College) mixed with music that scratches back and forwards; another video of Edry talking about her work; and a live performance that includes a screaming woman running into the room before hysterically throwing herself on the floor and disappearing in what looks like a pile of mud. Two words spring immediately to mind: suicide bomb.

THE STEWARD isn’t the only person to object to the volume. Students in neighboring studios have complained that her noise is “infiltrating our space.” And a visiting gallerist asks her how she managed to get such a big room for her show. Not everyone understands her ironic answer to both questions: “I am Israeli. What do you expect?”

Irony born of bitter experience. When she was preparing her show, several of her tutors nicknamed her “The Zionist Terrorist.” She thinks they were being playful, but it can’t have been much fun. Other teachers said that because they disagreed with her political persuasion, they found it hard to discuss her ideas with her. To which she replied: “But this work is not about the politics of the Middle East – about who is right and who is wrong.”

Despite this, she says her tutors have generally been supportive and, more important, genuinely intrigued by the finished work. “They have certainly been asking me lots of questions. It shows, I think, that you can make art from an unpopular political position and it can still affect people and be open-ended.”

This open-endedness also affects, and baffles, many of the thousands of visitors who come to see her show. Yes, thousands.  This year at Goldsmiths, it is a Bezalel alumnus who has the art world talking – in all directions.

Here’s one exchange.  Visitor: “I don’t want to offend anyone, but I am pro-Palestinian. What position are you?” Edry: “Well, have a coffee, walk around and see what you think.” Visitor, after her walk-around: “You know, I don’t understand this issue of homeland. It’s not in my DNA, I’m Australian. l think I still have my prejudices, but maybe that’s because my friends are all pro-Palestinian. But I do, er, hate Zionists [pause]. Well, you wouldn’t be in favor of what’s happening in your country, that’s for sure… I guess?”

Or the man who comes in shouting, “This is just all propaganda! Everything you say about Hamas is rubbish [although nothing is directly said about Hamas in the piece]. I know what Israel is like. I read the papers” – but who, after extensive conversation with the coffee-stand volunteers, leaves saying, “Okay, maybe, I don’t know.”

And the student who tells Edry, “You seem to me to be someone who supports the demolition of Palestinian homes.” “Really?” she asks. “Why do you say that? Do you see that in my work?” “I don’t know,” the student says. “I can’t quite put my finger on it.”

Meanwhile, other Brits, perhaps more ignorant about the Middle East than they realize, can’t quite put their finger on the artist’s ethnicity, asking, “Are you Israeli or Palestinian?” And they certainly don’t know what to make of ironic graffiti such as “Zionist prick” and “The bad guys are coming.” The Hebrew graffiti scrawled across walls is, naturally, even more confusing. “For me, just writing in my mother tongue was to break a big taboo,” says Edry. “ As was writing the word ‘Zionist.’ I felt so good when I had done it.”

TABOO. THE word goes to the heart of this artwork. Zionism is arguably the most unpopular ideology in art circles, and Goldsmiths – the alma mater of artists such as Damien Hirst and Sarah Lucas – is at the center of the British art world. The London University college is also the birthplace of Engage, a campaign against academic boycotts of Israel, founded by sociology lecturer David Hirsh; its website has become a crucial resource for countering anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism in British academia.

However, it’s fair to say that most Israeli artists at Goldsmiths deal with the discomfort of campus anti-Zionism by either keeping quiet or joining in the criticism – which some would call self-abnegation.

Edry has done the precise opposite. “In my first year at Goldsmiths, I felt voiceless. I saw the daily delegitimization of my country, the dehumanization of the place which made me who I am, and I felt powerless. I didn’t have the words, the flashy slogans and the fashionable labels,” she recalls. “This work has been my voice. I have forced dialogue to take place and I have shown Israel’s detractors the faces of the people [the coffee-stand volunteers] affected by their hate campaign.  There is now an Israeli voice in Goldsmiths, and it’s loud and won’t be silenced.”

And in the process, she has also been given a voice in her native land. Since the Goldsmiths show, there has been interest aplenty from British and American galleries and art collectors. This week, the artist also had calls from two major Israeli museums. In her (noisy) video, she says she thinks her kind of political art will ruffle Israeli feathers, too. We’ll see.

This piece by Karen Glaser is from Jpost.com.

Jews in a whisper – Roger Cohen

This piece, by Roger Cohen, is from the New York Times.

IN his novel “Deception,” Philip Roth has the American protagonist say to his British mistress: “In England, whenever I’m in a public place, a restaurant, a party, the theater, and someone happens to mention the word ‘Jew,’ I notice that the voice always drops just a little.”

She challenges him on this observation, prompting the American, a middle-aged writer, to say, yes, that’s how “you all say ‘Jew.’ Jews included.”

This prompted a memory: sitting with my mother in an Italian restaurant in the upscale London neighborhood of St. John’s Wood circa 1970 and asking her, after she had pointed to a family in the opposite corner and said they were Jewish, why her voice dropped to a whisper when she said the J word.

“I’m not whispering,” Mom said and went on cutting up her spaghetti so it would fit snugly on a fork.

But she was — in that subliminal, awkward, half-apologetic way of many English Jews. My parents were South African immigrants. Their priority was assimilation. They were not about to change their name but nor were they about to rock the boat. I never thought much about why I left the country they adopted and became an American. It happened. One thing in life leads to another. But then, a year ago, I returned.

I was at my sister’s place and a lodger of hers, seeing I had a BlackBerry, said, “Oh, you’ve got a JewBerry.” Huh? “Yeah, a JewBerry.” I asked him what he meant. “Well,” he shrugged, “BBM — BlackBerry Messenger.” I still didn’t get it. “You know, it’s free!”

Right.

None of this carried malice as far I could see. It was just flotsam carried on the tide of an old anti-Semitism. The affable, insidious English anti-Semitism that stereotypes and snubs, as in the judgment of some gent at the Athenaeum on a Jew’s promotion to the House of Lords: “Well, these people are very clever.” Or, as Jonathan Margolis noted in The Guardian, the tipsy country squire commenting on how much he likes the Jewish family who just moved into the village before adding, “Of course, everybody else hates them.”

Of course.

Jewish identity is an intricate subject and quest. In America, because I’ve criticized Israel and particularly its self-defeating expansion of settlements in the West Bank, I was, to self-styled “real Jews,” not Jewish enough, or even — join the club — a self-hating Jew. In Britain I find myself exasperated by the muted, muffled way of being a Jew. Get some pride, an inner voice says, speak up!

But it’s complicated. Britain, with its almost 300,000 Jews and more than two million Muslims, is caught in wider currents — of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and political Islam. Traditionally, England’s genteel anti-Semitism has been more of the British establishment than the British working class, whereas anti-Muslim sentiment has been more working-class than establishment.

Now a ferocious anti-Zionism of the left — the kind that has called for academic boycotts of Israel — has joined the mix, as has some Muslim anti-Semitism. Meanwhile Islamophobia has been fanned by the rightist fabrication of the “Eurabia” specter — the fantasy of a Muslim takeover that sent Anders Breivik on his Norwegian killing spree and feeds far-right European and American bigotry.

Where then should a Jew in Britain who wants to speak up stand? Not with the Knesset members who have met in Israel with European rightists like Filip Dewinter of Belgium in the grotesque belief that they are Israel’s allies because they hate Muslims. Not with the likes of the Jewish writer Melanie Phillips, whose book “Londonistan” is a reference for the Islamophobes. Nor with those who, ignoring sinister historical echoes, propose ostracizing Israeli academics and embrace an anti-Zionism that flirts with anti-Semitism.

Perhaps a good starting point is a parallel pointed out to me by Maleiha Malik, a professor of law at King’s College London. A century ago, during the Sidney Street siege of 1911, it was the Jews of London’s East End who, cast as Bolsheviks, were said to be “alien extremists.” Winston Churchill, no less, argued in 1920 that Jews were part of a “worldwide conspiracy for the overthrow of civilization and the reconstitution of society on the basis of arrested development.”

The lesson is clear: Jews, with their history, cannot become the systematic oppressors of another people. They must be vociferous in their insistence that continued colonization of Palestinians in the West Bank will increase Israel’s isolation and ultimately its vulnerability.

That — not fanning Islamophobia — is the task before diaspora Jews. To speak up in Britain also means confronting the lingering, voice-lowering anti-Semitism. When Roth’s hero returns to New York, he finds he’s been missing something. His lover, now distant, asks what.

“Jews.”

“We’ve got some of them in England, you know.”

“Jews with force, I’m talking about. Jews with appetite. Jews without shame.”

I miss them, too.

This piece, by Roger Cohen, is from the New York Times.

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