Independent carries call on BBC to exclude Israeli orchestra from Proms






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?

25 Responses to “Independent carries call on BBC to exclude Israeli orchestra from Proms”

  1. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Okay, so I haven’t googled them all, but if you look at the list of signatories, down there at 9th (as the DJs might say) is our old friend Deborah Fink. Which designation will you buy: soprano or Jews for Justice for Palestine activist as her main identity? Perhaps you might prefer re-writer of Christmas carols to reflect her anti-Zionist proclivities? And at 12 we have Les Levidow, violinist, or, perhaps, we might know him better as “Les Levidow, DPhil (OU) Development Policy and Practice Faculty of Maths, Computing and Technology The Open University”; after all, this is the day job, however he might entertain himself and others during his ‘down-time’. And as for number 4, Malcolm Crowther, well, google has him, presumably self-proclaimed, as doing “creative photography and piano tuition”. And as for Ian Pace, (pianist), this is what his home page had to say (also linked to via google) “Ian Pace is enjoying a demanding and prestigious 2003-2004 concert season.” In case it had escaped your attention, today’s date is 31 August 2011. Then again, one of the google links for one of the Dominic Saunders is as a piano tutor: not quite the same thing as a pianist, unless the fact that I can manage two finger keyboarding entitles me to call myself a “typist” or a secretary, or whatever.

    Furthermore, if you go to:
    you will find 13 (i.e. 54%) of the names of the signatories to the letter in The Independent in a box at the end of the article. This includes 4 of the 7 self-identified orchestral instrumentalists. It also identifies “Leni Solinger (violinist)” as a singer. Umm…what happened between March 2011 (the date of the article) and late August 2011 to turn her from a violinist to a singer or back again? Lack of work? Political ideology? What?

    And as for Thomas Suarez (violinist, New York), guess what a google search turned up?
    “Contact page for Thomas Suarez soon… website of Thomas Suarez. violinist and composer. USA : 1146 …”

    Very interesting, as they used to say on the Rowan & Martin Laugh-In. (Sorry for the dated reference, folks.)

    Such unbiased support for a boycott of all things Israel is hard to find.

    Please, will others google the rest of these lovely people and tell us what they find?


  2. Thomas Venner Says:

    Let me guess – is Gilad Atzmon’s signature on this letter?

  3. Imshin Says:

    “The IPO has a deep involvement with the Israeli state”


  4. NicoleS Says:

    The PSC will be demonstrating at the Albert Hall against the devilish Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra. For those willing to risk encountering Deborah Fink, the British Israel Coalition is organising a counter demonstration, Thursday 1 September, 6pm. Details at (scroll down)

  5. From where I'm standing Says:

    At the moment, Britain is waging imperialists wars in Iraq, in Libya and in Aghanistan.
    At the moment, Britain is detaining people who commit petit theft for months if not years
    At the moment, Britain is launching an attack on Women’s rights.
    The BBC is a central institution for propogandizing these facts.
    The BBC has a deep involvement with the British state

    These musicians respond to the crimes of the British state with an attack on another state.
    One can only wonder why they are not calling for symbolic action against their own state?
    And the answer, they are caught within the webs of their own bourgeois nationalism.

    This is not the first time that such positioning has led to attacks on Jews.

    Is this really the state of British resistance?

  6. Luther Blissett Says:

    I think it’s yet another wasted opportunity. Why don’t they campaign for a Palestinian quartet to feature in the proms? Clearly in putting all their energies into boycotting Israeli cultural activities, the boycotters are also de facto boycotting Palestinian cultural activities. They waste their energy and relegate Palestinian cultural activities to the margins.

    • Thomas Venner Says:

      Please don’t tell me you’re naive enough to still believe that these people actually care about the Palestinians. Where were they during the various massacres carried out in Palestinian refugee camps by the Syrian Army? Where were they when Hamas were torturing and executing their political rivals? Were they protesting? On the other hand, where were these people when Palestinian film-makers, writers and musicians have been winning awards, or when Palestinian Trade Unionists have scored historic victories? Were they celebrating, and showing their support for Palestinian achievements?

      No. They were organising boycotts of Israel. This tells you everything about where their real priorities lie.

  7. Bialik Says:

    The UN definition of apartheid? What’s that about?

  8. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Actually, of course, Bialik, it doesn’t, as we know from the long debate with Philip Blue (I think) a month or so back, in which he agreed that the term apartheid could not be applied to Israel within the Green Line, although he and others did try to apply to the West Bank. Without much success, as I recall.

    However, this set of signatories have neither the wit nor the nous to be aware of such subtle distinctions, given that the IPO, when in the region, plays in Israel. Given this, even if one were to accept or concede a notion of apartheid on the West bank (which I most decidedly do not), it can hardly be complicit in any such activity. If it is, then all the comments about the activities of the British state apply to the LPO, the Chilingrian Quartet, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, and what does Tom Suarez (violinist, New York) have to say about the US government.

    Of course, they will all say that that’s different.

    Like hell it is.

    If it wasn’t Philip Blue, then I apologise for taking his name in vain, and would be pleased to be corrected as to who it was.

  9. Lynne T Says:

    What I suspect this is a reference to is not a definition per se as the EU definition of anti-semetism, but rather the old and later repealed UN resolution, moved by the PLO, that declared that Zionism was racism (or something to that effect) and the Durban I defamation against Israel, moved and passed by a majority of nations that actually do oppress religious minorities rather brutally.

  10. Karl Pfeifer Says:

    It is a great experience to listen in Vienna to BBC concert with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra playing in London.
    Without Engage I wouldn’t have heard about it.

  11. Karl Pfeifer Says:

    A few minutes after I’ve written this a bunch of antisemitic rowdies have interrupted the concert. BBC was forced to apologise, but plays a record of the same Bruch violin concert.
    I hope the perpetrators will have to answer for this act of violence.
    I am glad, that antisemitic rowdies would not dare in Vienna to interrupt a concert.

  12. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    According to a “breaking news” runner on BBC News 24, the broadcast of the concert had to be taken off air due to a demonstration disrupting the concert. I don’t know if it has resumed, live or otherwise, but that’s the Chilingrian String Quartet, the LPO and the Orchestra of The Age of Enlightment off my concert-going list (and we go quite often). If the Quartet find a significant reduction in their income, they know who to blame.

  13. paul stein Says:

    I was at tonight’s concert. There were several disruptions. The first occurred a few minutes into the first piece when a “choir” of about 10 “protesters” stood up and sang anti-Israel “lyrics” to the tune of the Ode to Joy. They seemed pretty joyless to me.

    The orchestra continued playing and did so through subsequent interruptions of “free free palestine” at the beginning of the second and third pieces. The “protesters” were ejected and booed by most of the audience.

    The most striking thing about all of this was the dignity of conductor Zubin Mehta (not Jewish) and of the musicians who sat quietly through the disturbance and proceeded to give a wonderful performance. What a difference in behaviours between the two groups.

  14. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Furthermore, the arrogance of however many people it was who interrupted the concert that they know better than the other several thousand other people in the hall, let alone the several hundred thousand (million(s)?) listening on radio is utterly breathtaking. As Karl says above, I hope that they will have to pay (literally) for the extra costs imposed on the BBC. It would be even better justice if they had to pay for any extra expenses incurred by members of audience – such as taxis home because the train was missed.

  15. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    The BBC’s own report on the demo. Note that it says that no arrests took place.


    However, if searches took place, how did they get banners, placards and a flag(?) into the Albert Hall?

  16. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Still on the BBC, but a change of subject, note the way the BBC reports the UN report on the flotilla action of last year:

    note the order of the items in the headline: the excess force is more important than the legality of the blockade, which thus makes the fact of intervention legal.

    Typical BBC, regrettably.

  17. Absolute Observer Says:

    Despite a letter in the Independent and knowledge of the concert since about April, anti-zionists could muster no more than 20 people t demonstrate outside the RAH. This in the age of Twitter and other forms of social networks, forms of communication that have brought down governments in other parts of the world.
    Once the 30 or so ticket holders come down from their activist high, perhaps they will reflect why they failed so miserably last night, why they have consistently failed to attract people and while their own hubris is doing more harm than good in both focussing public attention on the conflict and in pressuring for a just peace.
    But then again, they probably won’t.

  18. john strawson Says:

    There is something particularly revolting about the disruption of the Israeli Philharmonic at the Royal Albert Hall. While disrupting cultural events is not new in the boycotters’ armory they were no doubt attracted by having their chants broadcast live by the BBC. Few they might have been but they have been able to popularize their poison. Over the past year we have seen academics as well artists silenced – and no doubt much behind the scenes activity to prevent Israeli education and cultural events taking place. Yesterday’s chanting does have the resonance of the 1930’s about it. It is a great success for the no-normalization campaign running since 1945 – of which the various economic, academic and cultural boycott groups are the latest expression. Yesterday’s protest makes it quite clear that these organizations are essentially a pro-war movement aimed a building blanket hostility against the existence of Israel. They are not interested in seeking a two-state solution, decolonizing Palestine or understand the great opportunities of the Arab Spring for a new environment for peace and reconciliation. As we can hear in their voices they merely want to fuel hatred. It is that that is so revolting.

    • Yehuda Erdman Says:

      You are perfectly correct and it has also been remarked on that the “PSC” in Scotland is both more militant and better organised than their counterparts elsewhere. In Scotland it seems Palestine is a cause celebre as well as a vehicle to propagate various other agendas and ideologies, which is not new in the 20th and 21st centuries.

  19. Karl Pfeifer Says:

    Those who interrupted the concert behaved like the Mosley fascist during the 30ies. Only this time the perpetrators pretend to be antiracist.
    BBC radio 3 has announced the Royal Hall concert will be broadcast on Wednesday September 7, at 14.30 London time.

  20. Paul M Says:

    Perhaps I’m over-optimistic, for once, but maybe the most useful thing Israel supporters and real anti-racists could do is encourage more PSC “actions” just like this. Judging by the the response in the hall, people don’t like to have their cultural options dictated to them, or have their evenings spoiled or their money wasted. I bet they like it less the more it happens. I think the PSC scored an own goal and I wish them many more.

  21. Isca Stieglitz Says:

    Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra vs. Dismally Shrillmoronic
    Orchestrators; no contest!

    Considering IPO has links with these folks, it is clear who is for
    cooperation and peaceful activities:

    This is what beauty looks and sounds like. It’s not a music-wash, it’s
    peace in action. What a melding of the sounds!

    Whilst SPSC and PSC and their supporters engage in protests,
    violent words and ignoring evidence, they miss all of this beauty and
    the rest of real folk on the ground are getting on with the business
    of ‘Real Progress’.

  22. arnon Says:

    Has anyone seen this?

    “The Proms attack – a reflection by a leading British cellist”

    “The distinguished cellist Steven Isserlis sent the following letter to the Guardian newspaper after the attack on the Israel Philharmonic at the Proms. It was not published there, so we are giving it first airing here:”

    By not publishing Mr. Isserlis’ letter the Guardian has again shown its true colors.

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