Musicians call on BBC to cancel Israel Philharmonic Prom (update)

Musicians call on BBC to cancel Israel Philharmonic Prom (update)


norman lebrecht

August 31, 2011

A small group of musicians has sent a letter to the Independent newspaper calling on the BBC to cancel this week’s Prom by the Israel Philharmonic. The gesture is absurd, almost beyond words. The BBC knew what it was doing when it invited the Israel Phil. Political conditions have nmot changed markedly since the invitation was issued.

To cancel now would constitute breach of contract and leave an empty Prom night – something which has not happened for nearly 30 years (apart from a fire alarm in 2006, as one sharp-eyed reader points out).

So why send the letter? To draw attention to themselves, I suspect.

None is a player of great note and at least one is a permanent pro-Pal activist.

I attach the list of shame:

Derek Ball (composer)

Frances Bernstein (community choir leader)

Steve Bingham (violinist)

John Claydon (saxophonist)

Malcolm Crowthers (music photographer)

Raymond Deane (composer)

Tom Eisner (violinist LPO)

Nancy Elan (violinist LPO)

Deborah Fink (soprano)

Catherine Ford (violinist, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment)

Reem Kelani (Palestinian singer, musician and broadcaster)

Les Levidow (violinist)

Susie Meszaros (violinist, Chilingirian Quartet)

Roy Mowatt (violinist, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment)

Ian Pace (pianist)

Leon Rosselson (singer-songwriter)

Dominic Saunders (pianist)

Chris Somes-Charlton (artist manager)

Leni Solinger (violinist)

Sarah Streatfeild (violinist LPO)

Sue Sutherley (cellist, LPO)

Tom Suarez (violinist, New York)

Kareem [name redacted by request] (Oud Player/Guitarist and Composer)

Miriam Walton (pianist, organist and French horn player)


UPDATE: None of the above musicians has, so far as I am aware, condemned the disruption of the concert by people sharing their views. Here’s a further reflection.


  • Lee McLernon says:

    Sorry Norm, last “empty” Prom night was 3 September 2006 when (appropriately for today) Beethoven 9 was cancelled due to a small fire inside the Albert Hall.

    That said, I think the letter is preposterous.

  • At least three are known anti-Israel activists: Fink, Levidow and Walton

  • Thomas Suarez says:

    Mr. Lebrecht,

    I am one of the signers of the letter you reproduce, asking the BBC to cancel the IPO’s engagement at the Proms.

    Having witnessed the atrocities that Israel’s “cultural ambassadors” camouflage, I stand by the letter, as I stood by the boycott against Apartheid South Africa.

    You remark that “none [of the signatories] is a player of great note.” Rather than be sidetracked by the statement, however arrogant, let’s accept your judgment and address your reasoning.

    Arguments stand or fall on their own merits, not on the name recognition of those making them. If our names were those of international soloists, you would consider our argument more seriously?

    Tom Suarez (violin)

    • Mr Suarez
      Thank you for your comment. I respect your views. I would respect them more if you had voiced them when the New York Philharmonic visited Korea, a state which is starving its citizens, or when it recently did a deal with a senior member of the Chinese Communist Party, which locks up dissidents and has occupied Tibet for half a century. As for the regimes in Africa… Your condemnation of Israel is disproportionate, in my view.
      As for great soloists, Kreisler, Heifetz, Oistrakh and Isaac Stern would not have signed your petition. Oistrakh, I’ve been told by his close friends, longed to go and live in Israel.

      • Alastair Mitchell says:

        Mr Lebrecht,

        Simply stating that the views expressed above would have more legitimacy had similar sentiments been expressed about other instances of human rights violations is clearly nonsensical. Are you saying that no-one should ever express views such as this, unless they comment on all human rights abuses?

        The saying “Two wrongs don’t make a right” seems relevant here.

        I welcome boycotts of all, and any, human rights abusers – China, Korea, Israel, et al.

        • Alexander Radziewski says:

          Ms. Mitchell, before you welcome boycotts, would you be so kind to articulate here the standards of human rights abusing? Do you boycott living in your own country because even there human rights abusement happens? It seems for me you are articulating double standards.

      • Emil Archambault says:

        Well, that’s a twist in the argument, Mr Lebrecht. What do Oistrakh and Stern at all have to do with this petition???
        An international soloist is not more aware of political matters than an orchestral violinist from the LPO. Why resort to the “authority” argument by quoting Oistrakh?

        Besides, all four international violinists you name were Jewish; although I acknowledge that does not automatically make them pro-Israel, it does twist their perception somewhat, as Israel is officially a religious state.

        Still, the question of international soloists is irrelevant; es, when a star like Netrebko supports a cause, it does add extra visibility to it, but that does not dismiss all other petitions which lack such a “big name”. Again, what gives you the slightest clue that Joshau Bell, or Lang Lang, or any soloist is more politically aware than Mr Suarez and his fellow petitioners?

        Emil Archambault

        • Jonathan S says:

          Boom! Didn’t take long for you to reveal your antisemitism did it! You don’t like it wen Norman downgrades your opinions because he doesn’t think you’re a very accomplished musician (even though your profession was somehow being used in your letter to suggest you have special insight or importance in this issue), but you’re more than happy to try to downgrade the suggested positions of three others because they’re Jews.

          Solidarity with Palestinians is not the same thing as antisemitism. Think I can see which one you represent.

          • Emil Archambault says:

            First of all, I am not Thomas Suarez; I have not signed the letter, nor have I been involved with it in any way. You seem to have mixed my comments with those of Mr Suarez.

            What I said about Oistrakh et. al (by the way, there are four names in Mr Lebrecht’s statement), is that if Mr Lebrecht wanted them to be considered as representative of elite musicians, he failed completely.

        • Quoting Oisrakh is not for nothing , in 1967 after the 6 days war, Soviet musicians-jews were forced to sign a petition against Israel, and he refused, which caused a very agressive reaction from Soviet authorities, cancelling his 60 th birthday celebrations and only thanks to Shostakovich’s powerful actions- all finally happened, the concerts for 60th birthday, the titre “Artist of People” , but the situation stressed him so much, so he had 3 rd heart attack… But we aren’t talking about Oistrakh here…
          It is about the situation, were we have a dead end….mixing An orchestra (btw , why state orchestra ? The Israel Phil is supported by the state only 10%, as far as I know)concert and the political situation, which is to say the least- not clear- there is no black and white in the solution. Being israeli I feel a very strong will to destroy our country from the Palestinian authorities( not nessesary the citizens of Gaza and I think no one can ignore that during the “peace process” 1996-2009, Israel fulfilled the agreements signed in Oslo – withrowed all army bases from the territories, withrowed all the settlements from Gaza , moving people from their homes, and leaving behind cemeturies and sinagogues which has been immideatly burned and destroyed by the Palestinians… So dont put Israel just one sided, we are not violating any human rights, we are protecting ourselves. I want to see UK feeding North Ireland if british cities would ne bombed EVERYDAY… you would never protest a human rights violation at this case…
          But what is really bad- that musicians today are getting themselves into politics instead of achieving some artistic goals, probably these people who signed the petition and encouraged a brutal interruption of the concert last night, having nothing to say by their art making, and the only reason for attacking Israeli music events (happened at Wigmore as well , Jerusalem Quartet , April 2010) is a primitive jelaousy, artistic jelaousy , becaouse , we are, Israeli and jewish musicians , we are at the top of the Musical
          Olympus, we stand on top of the artistic level, Israel Phil. Orchestra with Maestro Zubin Mehta is one of the finest orchestras in musical history, Gil Shaham -(Zuckerman,Perlman,Mintz) is one of top ranked violinist in the world…. Jerusalem and Aviv Quartets are on top of chamber music stage, israeli concertmasters are leading the best orchestras Guy Braunstein – Berliner Philharmoniker, Erez Ofer- Radio Simfoniker Berlin, we have leaders in Orchestre de la suisse romande, Tonhalle Zurich, Bavarian Radio, I can go on and on…. But the result is very strong for such a small country, and it is annoying , I understand, this was annoying in 1934 as well , when Europe watched 6000000 jews getting killed like dogs, and the reason, why most of the people didnt even try to help, was simple jelaousy, which is making you to sign such a petition today…. Shame on you, guys!!! Go practice, work, research- maybe you get better and will not need to make youself famous this way.

          • Metin Yildirim says:

            Mr Ostrovsky,
            Jews sufferred enormously throughout history. How a race suffered so much cause so much suffering, this is what civilized or non civilized people can not understand. Second world war lasted six years, how long this conflict will last? How many more people will die? Why create another Warshaw ghetto? How can you talk about best musicians but be without any responsibility?
            Is playing the fiddle best make you a better human? Remember Heifetz attacked by a Jew because he was playing R. Strauss in Israel?

          • David says:

            Well said. These four people should use their hands to practice their instrument…

          • Nora says:


      • Emil Archambault says:

        As to your argument that “you should not boycott the IPO because you did not protest against the NYPhil, I believe that one still has the freedom of choosing his/her causes to support. There is no logical link between the NYPhil in Korea and the IPO. Again, what do LPO musicians and freelance musicians have to do with New York?

        Let’s keep the argument within the limits of logic.

        • Thomas Suarez says:

          Mr. Lebrecht,
          I would like to point out that —
          — you do not, in fact, know my stance on the other international issues you cite. They are straw issues.
          — The inevitable conclusion of juxtaposing North Korea, etc., against Israel, is that the moral standard to which you hold Israel is simply that some country be even worse. As long as you can say, well, North Korea [/whatever] is more dreadful, at least by selected criteria, that’s your standard for Israel? Not terribly flattering to Israel!

      • Roy Mowatt says:

        Dear Norman Lebrecht,
        As one of the non-entities who signed the letter concerning the IPO visit to the Proms, I would like to try to get you to understand why we object to the visit. May I draw your attention to this extract from the Independent 29/8/11.
        Music can change lives and it can also change perceptions. From being the hero
        of the Middle East, the single democratically elected nation, Israel is now more
        commonly perceived as the aggressor, at least in the West. Mehta recognises
        what a tool he has for change in his orchestra. “We visit hundreds of different
        countries all over the world, we have become ambassadors of Israel.”
        It is to this ambassadorial function that we object. There is no question that the IPO and all the people you mention in your reply to Thomas Suarez are giants in the field of music. My question to you is “would Oistrakh be happy living in Israel at the moment with its policy against the Palestinians?” I would love one day to go to Israel myself but not whilst it is pursuing this murderous policy. The dispossession and killings go on unabated. My view is that this will continue until ordinary people and non-entities such as myself say stop. It is our moral duty. In other word when the “list of shame” swells to sufficient numbers, then something will happen. I notice in your reply to Thomas Suarez that you don’t deny the atrocities, so I can’t call you an apologist. But people with your stance keep the killing going. It is a red herring to mention other ghastly things happening in the world. This can and should be stopped and I do so hope you will join the “list of shame” as soon as possible.
        Yours sincerely,
        Roy Mowatt

        • Yvetta says:

          “Murderous policy”?
          Come, come, Mr Mowatt, shome mishtake shurely.

        • Julian Rowlands says:

          Mr Mowatt,

          Do you consider that the actions of the protestors have helped the Palestinians? They were met with overwhelming disapproval on the night and in subsequent comment. They have damaged the cause of Palestinian rights, and they have damaged our culture. You should be aware of what Noam Chomsky, one of the fiercest critics of Israel, has said about this boycott movement: it is lazy, hypocritical and entirely counter-productive; and does not have broad support amongst Palestinians.

          Should musicians who object to your actions boycott you and your co-signatories? Should UK orchestras be boycotted over Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya? Please reconsider you actions which will only damage our profession whilst providing no benefit to those who are currently suffering in the middle east.

          Julian Rowlands

    • Hannah Decree says:

      You make a good point Thomas Suarez!

      These people have come together, not because they are musicians, but because they are compassionate human beings.

      I admire you all for standing up for something so important, well done!

      Hannah Decree

    • Marvin frackt says:

      I am surprised you don’t want to boycott yourself and the LPO as the UK continues to occupy Northern Ireland;Scotland;and Wales.

      Also, when is Great Britain going to pay back all of the countries it raped and pillaged over the last few hundred years.

      Look in a mirror prior to accusing others.

    • David says:

      The punishment is not too hard, they should also issue a public apology and immediately attend classes about history and real information on Israel. Overall they’re just ignorant people that need to be educated.

    • ulyssesjj says:

      Hugo Chavez – Venezuela. Simon Bolivar….. does more need to be said? Seems like a selective process.

    • Roberto says:

      Mr. Suarez,

      If you want to boycott Israel, please throw away your computer and cellphone, as there are many parts and software designed in Israel.

      Don’t use Maze. It was developed in Israel. Google, Microsoft, Intel, etc. have offices in Israel. Make sure to check if the functionality you use in any of this software is Israeli.

      Also, when you go to your grocery, research if the farm that produces the fruit and vegetables you buy uses any irrigation technology from Israel. If you boycott Israel, you cannot buy these products.

      Heaven forbids you get sick or need a surgery. Don’t forget to ask your doctor if any surgery technique or instrument or medical equipment was developed in Israel. Don’t even think about taking medicine developed by Teva.

      I hope you also don’t need this, but for some unlucky reason you need cancer treatment, get informed if the treatment that can save your life or improve your life expectancy was researched even partially by an Israeli university or hospital.

      You mentioned that you boycotted South Africa. I don’t even want to get into the comparison between Israel and South Africa. But as curiosity, which product or service from South Africa would you, your friends or the population in general have consumed if you have not boycotted? Maybe you like to buy diamonds…. I don’t know.

  • Tom Eisner says:

    In 1943 my mother who is still alive and enjoying life to the full at the age of 86 said goodbye to her parents at Berlin Charlottenburg station. She was one of the first children to be sent to England with the Kindertransport organisation. Her brother Helmut was not so lucky as later that year together with his parents they were sent across Europe to Riga concentration camp where the gas chambers ended their lives.
    They were put to death because they were the “wrong” people at the “wrong” time in the “wrong” place.
    In 1947-48 750,000 Palestinians were brutally evicted from their homes in Palestine by thousands of invading Jewish refugees from Europe who based on bible stories and other fairy tales claimed the country for themselves. They had no intention of ever equitably sharing the land with the Palestinians, the new country Israel was to be a Jewish state. Ethnic cleansing on an epic scale took place.
    The Palestinians were unfortunately the “wrong” people.
    I am afraid there are so many parallels between the fate of my family and what has befallen the Palestinians. For this reason I abhor what racist apartheid Israel stands for.

    p.s. How do you know those soloists wouldn’t have signed? Did you have dinner with Fritz Kreisler before he died in 1963 ? If so you must have been 13 ! 🙂

    • O Cantini says:

      Invading Jewish Refugees? What an intimidating group that must have been! Mr Eisner. Thanks for your clearly humorous view of history. I enjoyed it. I was puzzled, though: were the British involved at all, or were the mighty and powerful Jewish refugees calling all the shots?

    • Tone row says:

      Tom, umm err Jewish refugees who were greeted by pogroms in immediate post-Holocaust Warsaw, were interned in prison camps by the British, had nowhere else to go. And, umm, forgot about the invading Arab armies in a declared war of annihilation against the nascent Jewish state after Ben Gurion accepted the UN partition plan.
      Oh well, just as well they don’t check one’s history O-level certificate to play fiddle in the LPO.
      Speaking of which, do you boycott your own concerts with Kurt Masur, a long-standing supporter and artistic collaborator with the IPO?
      And bear in mind that the IPO is a privately supported arts organisation, and misleadingly a truly national orchestra in name only. It exists hand-to-mouth with minimal paltry arts ministry funding, far less in fact than your own LPO received from the evil war-mongering Labour government which upped your state subsidy to your glee I assume. So I guess you really ought to boycott yourself!
      Resignation letter to the LPO in the coming please?

    • Yvetta says:

      Tom, by drawing the analogy with the plight of Jews under the Nazis you make unwarranted slurs against Israel, implying that it has an exterminationist policy and cheapening the Shoah into the bargain. For shame!

    • Alexander Radziewski says:

      Tom, I am really sure your mother would not be amused to read your comment here obviously comparing the present situation of the Palestinians in Israel with the Jews during the Nazi-Area. Especially you should know the history better! The Nazi-Regime started a political campaign to dehumanize all jewish people. The Palestinian leader Amin el-Husseini supported this way of dehumanization as he supported the Nazi’s at all.
      You should know what followed: The boycott in 1933 “Don’t buy from jews”, the so-called “Nürnberger Gesetze” in 1935″ , the “Endlösung” in 1941: When your mother’s family -and even my parents family- where executed near Riga or killed in the gas-chambers, they were not anymore regarded neither as human-beings nor on the same level like animals or insects. Is there any comparable policy by the state of Israel in Israel, in the territories or in Gaza?
      I know Israel is really not the paradise on earth but the places around are really not on a higher level. After the last month, I have the realistic hope it will become much better for the whole region including the jewish state of Israel and including a State of Palestine in the future.
      I totally agree with Norman that this list of signers -mostly professional artists- is a list of shame. Why? As an professional orchestra musician in Hamburg/Germany I am connected to many members of the IPO and there are many With the content of your comment you add an disgusting level to it with comparing the Shoah with the Palestinian situation and with blaming Israel to be a racistic apartheid state.

      • Alexander Radziewski says:

        Sorry, there is a sentence which I have to clarify: …” I am connected to many members of the IPO and there are many cooperations with arab musicians. Without active support from the IPO, the West-Eastern Diva orchestra couldn’t exist and work. Especially the music-scene in Israel is the best prove, that cooperation is possible and it works. Do the signers of this petition know this?”
        With the content of your comment you add an disgusting level to it with comparing the Shoah with the Palestinian situation and with blaming Israel to be a racistic apartheid state.

    • David says:

      Tom and Co. you should be ashamed as musicians to be asking an organization to cancel other musician’s work. The answer is there, just revert it and see how would you feel if someone signed a petition to stop you from going performing to their country?

    • Marvin Frackt says:

      You wrote that “They were put to death because they were the “wrong” people at the “wrong” time in the “wrong” place.”

      What are you talking about ? They were put to death because they were the easy scapegoat during a lousy time in history. They picked on the Jews because they were easy to pick on at the time. Fourteen million poor souls on a planet looking for witches.

      You are the wrong person. Your Grandparents sent their 18 year old daughter (based on what you wrote that she is 86) to safety to give birth to you who spits on his ancestor’s graves.

      By the way Palestine is what the Romans changed the name of Yisroel to in the first century as a slur on the Jews and therefore the original Palestinians are the Jews not the Syrians; Egyptians; Bedouins; Turks et. al. who showed up in the land. Get your history correct.

  • Disappointed muso says:

    Oh dear, how sad that Norman Lebrecht’s (knee-jerk) response is to insult and suggest shame on those who exercise their right of free speech and representation in a free country. Unfortunately I think some will read this as lash-out retaliation.

    “None is a player of great note and at least one is a permanent pro-Pal activist.”

    What a mean-spirited suggestion, that Norman’s view of their playing might modify our reading of the sincerely held expression of a fellow human being. If there can be no brotherhood and sisterhood amongst musicians then we are in a terrible state indeed. Perhaps Norman doesn’t consider himself a musician (author, novelist, cultural commentator…) And his own list indicates many of them aren’t even primarily players (composers, community music leaders, associated with the wider music industry and fellowship)

    If we are to embrace the Israel Phil (and yes I would, despite my views on what Israel is doing, these are still musicians and every part of me cleaves to the belief that if we cannot make repairing human connection through music and musicians, how else can we?), if we do that, we do so without judging them politically no matter we might think they appear to represent. Please, we have to do the same for those musicians representing a polar opposite. Are we to discount someone because they are a permanent pro-Pal activist? Would Norman discount someone because they are a Muslim, or an aetheist, or Russian, or gay? Activism does not = wrongdoing. A Palestinian (or Israeli, or any nationality/identity) who harms others, commits moral or human crimes, yes we discount them. But surely we don’t discount for activism, in Britain, in 2011? Would we have votes for women, minimum wage, freedom of speech if it wasn’t for activists?

    The should-have-said-something-earlier comment is ridiculous. When? The day the Proms brochure was published? By scouring the IPO’s schedules, plans and press-releases? Surely Norman recognises that community representation arises through the gradual dawning of shared views (that’s the opposite of individual extremism, it is a cultural process based on moderation, consultation, patience, listening and sharing; it isn’t based on fanaticism). Others have responded to the bizarre comparisons with Korea etc.

    “So why send the letter? To draw attention to themselves, I suspect.”

    A crying shame that a man of intelligence could appear to misjudge so cynically.

  • Helen Lewis says:

    Palestinians cannot travel easily to the west -or indeed to two thirds of the West Bank and Gaza. Gazans cannot travel to the West Bank; West Bank dwellers can’t travel to Gaza. Most Palestinians cannot visit Jerusalem. They live in a kind of prison, and one of the things that Palestinians value most when at last they become sufficiently desperate to emigrate (which is Israel’s aim) is the fact that they can travel more than 20 miles without being stopped and all too often turned back.
    The IP0, like all Israelis, can travel anywhere. But where is there any awareness amngst these players, so valuable as ambassadors for the State of israel (a proud boast of Zubin Mehta), that several million Palestinians are kept prisoner in their own native land? The contrast between the IPO and the the East West Divan Orchestra, and Zubin Mehta and Daniel Barenboim, is strikng.
    No state orchestra is just about music. When the USSR invaded Czechoslovkia in 1968, the BBC refused to televise Rostropovich’s performance at the proms.
    Those who pour scorn on the protesters should perhaps learn some facts themselves about Israeli/ Palestinian history and what has really been going on behind the “peace process”. Information is readily available for those who wish to know and are not afraid of discarding their prejudices.

  • Helen Lewis says:

    Palestinians cannot travel easily to the west -or indeed to two thirds of the West Bank and Gaza. Gazans cannot travel to the West Bank; West Bank dwellers can’t travel to Gaza. Most Palestinians cannot visit Jerusalem. They live in a kind of prison, and one of the things that Palestinians value most when at last they become sufficiently desperate to emigrate (which is Israel’s aim) is the fact that they can travel more than 20 miles without being stopped and all too often turned back.
    The IP0, like all Israelis, can travel anywhere. But where is there any awareness amongst these players, so valuable as ambassadors for the State of israel (a proud boast of Zubin Mehta), that several million Palestinians are kept prisoner in their own native land? The contrast between the IPO and the the East West Divan Orchestra, and Zubin Mehta and Daniel Barenboim, is strikng.
    No state orchestra is just about music. When the USSR invaded Czechoslovkia in 1968, the BBC refused to televise Rostropovich’s performance at the proms.
    Those who pour scorn on the protesters should perhaps learn some facts themselves about Israeli/ Palestinian history and what has really been going on behind the “peace process”. Information is readily available for those who wish to know and are not afraid of discarding their prejudices.

  • Disenchanted says:

    I wish to voice my support for the artists who were brave enough to speak up. The mere notion of dismissing their statement because “none is a player of great note” is absolutely absurd. Any person whose views are worth respecting recognize all of the ensembles listed above as world class, and, one could argue, offer significantly more to society through community engagement and educational outreach.

    On what is your statement, “at least one of them is a permanent pro-Pal activist,” even based? Surely such an outright attack on one of the signatories, whom you haven’t had the guts to name, is evidence that you yourself are biased towards the opposite extreme?

    As a respected writer, why not use the recognition you have gained to draw attention to the reality facing the people of that region every day?

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to practicing my excerpts.

    • Excited! says:

      I believe Norman’s blog is about music, so why would he highlight the Palestinian plight here? Just asking. Oh hang on, that’s a bit like a group of protesters ruining a concert – in front of thousands who came to see a concert, not a load of people ready to blindly accept a cause at the expense of costly tickets! Again, wrong place! The cause is irrelevant, wether justified or not.

  • Tone row says:

    The IPO is not a state-run orchestra in the sense that the orchestras of the USSR were. It is a private organisation that receives an insignificantly small amount of arts ministry funding. It is an oasis of classical arts in a troubled corner of the world. Moreover, it is unique as a curator of the central European style of string playing largely lost once Jewish musicians were genocided out of their positions in the now identikit-sounding European orchestras.
    It doesn’t tour with support of the State of Israel; it tours as a private arts organisation. To view otherwise is disingenuous and simply racist.
    I too am horrified by Israel’s actions in the Palestinian territories, and may that all change soon, but I’m also glad that despite its government, an element of Israeli society still believes in cultivating civilised and humanistic arts, in the form of great orchestras such as the IPO.
    Boycott the IPO, and you must boycott all Jewish academics, artists, writers from Israel, regardless of their connection with the State/army etc. The mind genuinely boggles.

  • Ori Kam - violist, Jerusalem String Quartet says:

    I was pleased to come across this discussion. This is the proper venue to exchange different viewpoints on this issue. I wish there were more public forums to have this discussion rather than the disruptions of concerts, which achieve only further entrenchment into our prefabricated ideas.

    I applaud anyone who, in this day and age, takes a step to further causes larger than our daily routines, regardless of eminence or importance. I also applaud anyone who stands up for palestinian human rights and for the cause of a palestinian state, because I believe that the sane and responsible elements in our regions need all the support they can get. That applies to Israel, the palestinian authority, as well as to all countries in the region.

    Having said that, I would like to raise some point for thought on this issue.

    First, why limit the fight to palestinian rights in Israel and the west bank? The refugee issue was a result of the war in 1948. Even in the most pro-arab historical narratives, the responsibility for this war lies in all the participating countries. In that case, should not the refugee issue be a shared responsibility of the region? Why focus only on the west bank and not the appalling condition of palestinians in Syria, Lebanon and Egypt? Their treatment there is far worse than in the west bank or gaza.

    As for refugees, in the 1940’s the world was full of refugees. Some were jewish refugees from countries like Syria, Iraq, Morocco and Egypt. These refugees were never compensated nor do they demanded citizenship or property from the countries that expelled them. Jewish refugees from eastern europe are fighting still today for their property with little or no success. I’m not saying that this makes any of the situation “right”, but in the space of “right” and “wrong” one often loses sight of what’s possible.

    Finally, I think we have to be careful in targeting individuals and private organizations, who appear in commercial (as opposed to state-sponsored) events. I and my quartet are individuals and not state representatives. Our concerts are commercial events, which are not supported or presented by the state. We can not be held responsible for our government’s actions. Who would imagine boycotting Lang Lang for human rights violations in China? Few consider boycotting products manufactured in China or firms that do business there. I’m sure many of the musicians who signed this letter regularly travel to China to perform with their orchestras. I am often left with the questions why is the standard different for Israelis? The New York Philharmonic or Lorin Maasel traveled to North Korea to entertain the Junta that is responsible unprecedented atrocities. Who ever considered disrupting any of their performances?

    The Israel Philharmonic is not a state orchestra. It received minor government support for targeted outreach activities. Zubin Mehta has been a strong voice for cohabitation and peace in the region. I call for people who really care about our region to support sane, rational and cultured elements in our region. Not marginalize them further.

    I am always happy to have my opinions challenged, and am looking forward to hearing your comments.

    Ori Kam

    • Yvetta says:

      Thank you – the voice of reason in an excellent post.

    • Janey says:

      Thank you for commenting. A reasonable and thinking post. I hadn’t thought about Palestinians elsewhere in the region, although admittedly I should have. I appreciate this reminder. Perhaps if the topic were broadened at least some limited solution may be found – instead of simply focusing on one country.

  • Andrew DeWeese says:

    In the context of a participatory democracy, the statement “We can not be held responsible for our government’s actions” may be a convenient balm for our consciences, but is not, strictly speaking, true. One cannot simultaneously share responsibility for choosing a government then disavow all responsibility for its actions. I say this as a citizen of the United States, a country which, unfortunately, is no slouch in the commission of atrocities.

  • Marquis de La Rochelle says:

    “So why send the letter? To draw attention to themselves, I suspect.”

    Absolutely right Norman!

    As a professional musician myself I know the LPO players named above and they are the ones who had the biggest mouths and things to say about other people before putting their brain into gear. If I was the LPO manager I would sack them on the spot, and the the Union should have them blacklisted as anti Semitic and discriminating trouble makers. As it is they may well jeopardize the orchestras sponsorship as some of them are Jewish, a race, I hasten to add, I greatly admire for their huge talent.

    • Richard says:

      Little do you know, but many of these musicians ARE Jewish.
      Marquis de Sade des Hommes Avec Les Petits Quequettes de La Rochelle, your letter just shows what it takes to be a fool following in the footsteps of a village idiot parade. Keep marching.

  • Richard says:

    Norman, you are a very mean-spirited person. This was just a petition, not a demand, not a threat.
    Shame on you that you’ve turned it into a national issue, plus that you’ve probably caused some of these musicians great suffering. The word is Schadenfreude, and it’s all about you. You have a lot of spiritual growing up to do.

    A piece of paper cannot harm someone. It’s what people do with that paper which matters. Paper can’t hurt people.
    Men can. You’re no mensch. Is it worth it in your mind that anyone should have to suffer and YOU shame someone over it ?

    Besides that, even Einstein took a stance on the issue and refused the Presidency of Israel over the fact that there were rabid Rabbi Zionists he’d have to deal with and fight; and he chose wisely because he was a smart man, yet he even sided with these people’s stance. Your stance was the small, localized musical scene of London: theirs was worldly.

    In America, that petition would have been called an exercise in”Freedom of Speech”, and in the San Francisco Bay Area, if you DIDN’T take a stance, they would consider that there is something VERY wrong with you. I know this is England, but just because people come from different sociological more systems doesn’t mean you have to act as judge and god. I am telling you now: World War III will break out over this very issue, and Israel’s recklessness is about to cost her dearly. Perhaps this is an orchestral issue for you, but it’s from that country, period. An ambassador is far more important than an orchestra, and you can see what’s happening in Turkey. They are taking a stance. Israel is a bully and we should stop supporting bullies, even as the USA is a bully as well.

    The law or karma is the same as the golden rule is the same as a simple law of physics: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
    The thing which makes us HUMAN is the ability to have some perspective on that law and not share suffering. You have a perspective, but you don’t stop anyone’s suffering: the musicians, or the Palestinians, or the Turks.
    Oh, and by the way, I am of Jewish ancestry, so the shame belongs on your head. May you singularly get the same as you give collectively.

    • We have made a rare exception to the site’s moderation policy to include a smattering of personal abuse, undermining the letter’s flimsy case.

    • Julian Rowlands says:

      OK, so discriminating against musicians based on their nationality is freedom of speech now?

      Interrupting an orchestral concert will have precisely zero effect on the well-being of anyone in the middle east, but it will mark London as a city in which important cultural events can be disrupted by egomaniacal fanatics, while demonstrating to the concert going public and the radio audience that the campaign for Palestinian rights employs the tactics of fascism.

  • Geoff Pahoff says:

    I have searched for somewhere to comment on that strange and deeply offensive insult in the Royal Albert Hall last week and I believe I have found the perfect place.

    The IPO is among the very finest orchestras in history. Among the finest musicians of our times have been associated with it from the start. Everyone knows that. I know it and I am not a musician. Nor am I Israeli or British.When Hezbollah or Hamas get up an orchestra to perform at the Proms then that will be a good development for humankind. Better still if it was from Iran.

    The IPO is also a breathing testament to the eternal nobility of the human spirit, more moving that any memorial or museum. To quote from a remarkable Times editorial:

    “The IPO was founded in 1936 to assemble the talents of Jewish musicians from Europe who had lost their livelihoods under Nazi persecution. Its work testifies not to Israeli politics but to Israeli culture, the remarkable Jewish contribution to music, the role of cultural contact in defusing conflict, and the power of music itself.”

    Those who would stand in a famous music hall and try to tear down an orchestra because they want to tear down Israel and the Jews, and those who support them, must know exactly what they are doing. This is only the start of what they say they want to do. Music and the arts are just the beginning; like the last time. The suggestion they do this because it is about someone’s human rights is the spittiing lie of the bully.

    This was abhorrent because it was another calculated attack on the symbols of culture and humanity and especially because of what motivated the attack. Jews are at the centre of this, so to attack the Jews they cannot avoid attacking the culture even if they wanted to. Classical music is a good thing about us and Jews and the IPO are at the core of it. Israel is a good thing about the Middle East and the world. That is the message of the IPO and that is the symbol they must attack. Those jerky amateur Utube images of the jerks at the Royal Albert Hall may well endure in the public mind for the sheer audacity of the assualt.

    This is most cetainly not about Palestinian rights. That is one spit in the face lie too far by this stage of this old and ugly game. The “Palestinians” have been offered everything they can legitimately ask for and have from the start. There have been more Jewish refugees from Arab lands than Arabs from “Palestine” and most of them made their homes in Israel where they make up a majority of the Jewish population. I don’t see any demonstations in London in support of their rights. The only demonstrations for their rights I see are by free citizens, who doubtless include many of these refugees and their descendants, peacefully exercising that right in the largest city of the only country anywhere in the region where that can be done safely, let alone without risking the attention of the ruling tyrants’ battle tanks.

    Such as we are witnessing right now in Syria and all across North Africa and the Middle East. As we have already seen time and time again.

    Nothing about the rights of these people from those hateful jerks jumping and shouting like football hooligans at one of the most famous music halls in the world.

    Those who go to Israel and the West Bank to see for themselves the facts on the ground, and conclude it’s all Israel’s fault, have the intellectual depth of goldfish. Those who look at this situation and see anything like “apartheid”, presumably with the Arabs as the “blacks” and the Jews as the “whites”, have the moral reach of the terminably hypocritical or worse.Those who expect the citizens of the only liberal democratic state around to surrender all their human rights without a fight to the death have no respect for or even understanding of the human spirit.

    The “friends” of Palestine could devote a fraction of the time and energy they spend on demonising Israel to persuading their “friends” to abandon the glib and profoundly dishonest notion of an enduring Arab
    “right of return” to the Jewish state. They could persuade them that if a “two state” solution means anything at all then it means one of those states has to be the Jewish state and to not accept that means neverending war. If they did that for their “friends” then perhaps these tragic people could be finally liberated as well. But they cannot do that of course. If they did, they would no longer be “friends”.

    There are very real and serious human rights abuses of Arabs and there have been for decades but it is not the Israelis who are responsible. That is plain to see for anyone who cares to look . It is a libel to claim it is. There is no excuse for this. It is irrelevant that some of the worst of the Israel demonisers have or claim to have Jewish backgrounds. That is not unusual. Alas it has always been so. Dissent has always been an important part of Jewishness and that is something good. But there have always been”Jews” who see no point in Israel, or indeed the Jews at all, or who see personal benefit from joining their enemies against them. The British version has been nailed exquisitely by Howard Jacobson.