Ori Kam, a viola player, joined the Jerusalem Quartet after it was attacked at the Wigmore Hall last year by some of the same agitators who disrupted the BBC Proms last night. Although he was not in the quartet at the time, his view is that of a musician unfairly targeted by a politically motivated fringe. Here’s what he writes to slipped disc:

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

Mark the date: 12 October 2011.

The Royal Opera House  Muscat still has a Coming Soon website but wagging tongues say it’s going to open in six weeks’ time with Franco’s Z’s jumbo Turandot, followed by a Carmen, who may be a little more decorous than usual.

Zeffirelli had Salvatore Licitra inked in as his Calaf. No word yet of a replacement since the outstanding tenor suffered his terrible accident.


I am posting three clips of video taken by a young friend at last night’s disrupted concert with the aim of countering the self-glorifying propaganda videos coming from the perpetrators themselves.

You’ll find the clips here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mrfH9GMM_iE

and here: http://www.youtube.com/user/britishisraelc#p/a/u/0/NlHWiykc-24.
The person who took them can be heard shouting ‘stop it!’, to loud applause from those around him. Gil Shaham, who emerged with huge credit, returned to play a solo encore.
The clips remind me of the way the Nazis broke up leftwing political meetings in Weimar Germany.
Here’s an excellent account of the events from Igor Toronyi-Lalic at theartsdesk.

Why has Valery Gergiev agrred to become honorary president of the Edinburgh International Festival?

Here’s his version:

“I can easily celebrate my 20 years with the Edinburgh International Festival, it is a wonderful place to visit,” Gergiev said. “We artists come here with a tremendous sense of responsibility and excitement. I very much hope that the festival continues to thrive and flourish and I am very privileged to be part of its future.”

Hmmmmm…. given that Gergiev barely has time to brush his teeth with all the organisations he’s involved with, why take on Edinburgh now that it’s been eclipsed bit its own fringe and is in danger of falling off the map?

Because he has a soft heart for ladders that he climbed on his way up … and because at times he believes that the mere fact of his faith in a declining institution can save it from extinction.

He may be right, but Edinburgh is no Tchaikovsky Competition that he can bring back from the dead by sheer force of will. The political support in Scotland is negligible and the case for maintaining a festival that presents second-division touring companies is no longer compelling. This may be a Gergiev leap-of-faith too far.


One of this morning’s respondents to slipped disc hits the nail bang on the head. Here’s Alan Williams’s letter:

I’ve probably been more in sympathy over the past few years with the views of the protesters than most people who are posting on here. I don’t think they helped their cause by this protest, and I think the BBC was right to avoid being manipulated. I also wonder whether the value of the event being disrupted in purely financial terms was probably similar to that of the property destroyed by the behoodied rioters down the road a few weeks ago. Those “protesters” certainly were dealt with in a more draconian fashion – but then, they were working class and inarticulate, and the target of their wrath was the cultural products they most aspired to. Peaceful protest is an important right which urgently needs protecting, and I don’t see what the difference is between smashing up a shop, or smashing up a concert. It’s still peoples’ time and energy that is being wasted in the end.

Many criticsed the BBC last night for stopping the live broadcast of the Israel Philharmonic concert, which was barracked by a handful of well-organised agitators. When the shouting stared, Radio 3 took the concert off air and the announcer made no more than the blandest of references to the disruption, stating neither the cause nor the peaceful removal of the disrupters.

An attempt was made to resume the concert after the interval, only for a second group of objectors to make themselves heard. Once again, the luve feed was taken off air.

Some argued that since this was a news event in a public forum, the BBC should have continued its coverage – but that would only have boosted the aggrandised self-publicity that this tiny minority were seeking. By shutting down the broadcast, the BBC denied them a propaganda coup.

In retrospect, the incident was correctly and ethically handled.

See previously here.