Cellist's letter finally appears – outnumbered by enemies

Cellist's letter finally appears – outnumbered by enemies


norman lebrecht

September 07, 2011

The Guardian today printed Steven Isserlis’s letter denouncing the attack on the Israel Philharmonic at the BBC Proms.

It held the letter for five days until two ‘balancing’ responses could be published from confirmed opponents of Israel. I guess that coforms to the paper’s editorial line.

Here‘s the link.


  • A. Druce says:

    I never read the Guardian if I can help it. However sometimes it is important to read the garbage in order to counteract its misleading information. It is not a newspaper that gives a balanced view, in fact very similar to the bbc – its a platform for a specific political agenda. By chance I happened to listen to the bbc world service news the other day and heard a totally biased report about the turkey/israel disagreement. Everything from the Turkish point of view !!! Part of the problem in this country and I have to say the rest of the western world is the infiltration of biased news coverage in established and trusted media. I think that there is an unbalanced coverage of news regarding israel because the bbc has an unfair control of the media.

  • Tommy says:

    When I was presenting at the BBC I would check the phone logs every morning to see what people had been calling in about.
    Every single day there would be about 50 complaints about the BBC’s bias against Israel. And about 50 complaints about the BBC’s bias against Palestine. The BBC is too hard on Israel. The BBC is not hard enough on Israel. Why does the BBC love Israel so much? Why does the BBC hate Israel so much? etc etc etc etc. I haven’t been at the BBC for 6 years but I’m willing to bet it’s exactly the same now.

    It was similar with complaints about John Humphreys interviewing politicians. 50% would complain he’d given them a hard time. 50% would complain he’d not been hard enough.

    I took the view that the BBC was therefore probably getting it about right.

    I wonder, which newspaper would A.Druce suggest gives a ‘balanced view’? Does such a thing exist, regardless of where your sympathies lie?

    • A. Druce says:

      I actually admire the loyalty that Tommy shows in his defence of the bbc. However in my opinion it is misplaced. Lets agree to differ. I know, when listening to various programmes, that there is a left wing bias and also a pro arab stance. I value my own intelligence enough to have worked that one out many years ago!!
      It does not give me any pleasure in saying this as I and many others of my age used to hold the bbc up as a shining example of this country’s institutions that are now crumbling as we speak.
      In answer to the question which newspaper gives a ‘balanced view’. Lets put it this way – some papers are more balanced than others – depending on their columnists and editorial constraints.

      • Tommy says:

        My ‘defence’ of the BBC, such as it is, is based simply on the facts of the phone logs.

        My point has been illustrated by you immediately – you say that there is a ‘left wing bias and also a pro arab stance’ and that you value your own intelligence ‘enough to have worked that one out many years ago.’ And of course many others share this view. But the phone logs proved every day that just as many people had exactly the opposite view. They would also say, I’m sure, that they are intelligent enough to have worked it out for themselves, and I know that their arguments for this were put just as vigorously and strong as yours.

        So where does that leaves us?

        • A. Druce says:

          It doesnt matter how many people agree or disagree to a particular point. What does matter in any persons book is that the bbc should not be seen to be a biased organisation at all. I was always under the impression that the bbc ‘s charter was to be impartial in its views and programmes. As far as I can see at present all they are worried about is not using swear words on air!!

          • Tommy says:

            People with agendas will always think the BBC is biased (the Daily Mail, anyone?). When an issue that is almost entirely agenda-led is covered, and equal numbers of complaints come in from both sides of an argument, I would think that it indicates that the coverage was probably about right.

          • Geoff Pahoff says:

            If I may bud into an old conversation regarding the “equal complaint” fallacy. I suspect the ABC also justifies its anti’-Israel bias in my country by pointing to the “both sides are upset so I guess we got it right” figure. I’m pretty certain the liberal/left media everywhere does that.

            The problem with that figure is that it ignores hotheads. I don’t mean people on all sides who feel strongly about the issues and over speak or over act.. I mean flaming or smoldering hate filled hot heads who react instinctively, aggressively and with increasing organisation. Antisemites for instance. .There is simply nothing remotely like this from the “pro-Israel side”. It is not good enough to point to the number of responses on any issue as an indication of bias or lack of it. This is especially true when it is so easy to respond. Once upon a time you had to write a letter and post it.

            It is even worse on this issue. It is the numbers that are the problem. It is easy to overstate this and alarmism is foolish. However it is just as easy to understate the problem and that could be fatal.

            In the meantime it is disingenuous to suggest any free media in our countries does not to receive a fair portion of its correspondence from motivated Jew haters of the worst kind whenever the opportunity presents and increasingly, regrettably, that means whenever the subject of Israel comes up and the subject of Israel comes up alot.. An awful lot. More than its fair share.

            This horrible festering dangerous little war has gone on long enough. Time for Palestine to accept the Jewish state and stand tall and proud as a new sovereign state. Israel could be the first nation in the world to recognise her. Wouldn’t that be a beautiful ending. Wouldn’t that be worth a concert? Likely they will not agree on venue but there is always RAH as backup.

            it is important for Israel’s friends to stand by her now more than ever. Israel depends on her friends just as Jews have always depended on their friends and there have been many.. It is fair to ask Palestine’s “friends” why don’t they ask their “friends” why they don’t accept the Jewish state. Now that they have made such a big fuss about it. More than fair. If they were true “friends” they would ask.

            It is possible to be a friend of Israel and a friend of the Palestinians. Indeed it is easy. I believe musicians will have no difficulty understanding this. It’s called supporting human rights. BDS are not human rights activists. They are something sinister. They are neither “friends” of the Israelis or Palestinians .They are “friends” of nobody. Look at them. They are not even “friends” of themselves.

  • Julian Rowlands says:

    The two other letter writers are well known for their ultra-extreme positions regarding Israel/Palestine, and Tony Greenstein identifies as one of the people who disrupted the concert. It is not too surprising that a city of eight million people contains thirty or so who will engage in this sort of behaviour, but it is very disappointing that a left-of-centre national newspaper fails to engage with the issues of artistic freedom and discrimination in the workplace raised by this incident.

    Gerald Kaufman raises the issue of the protests against Russian artists in the 70s and 80s. Perhaps he has forgotten that those protesters met the same overwhelmingly negative response from the public, and that their protests failed to benefit their cause in any way.

    Tony Greenstein leads a campaign to boycott israeli goods, which I suppose makes him less hypocritical than the protesters who just pick on musicians. However I don’t know whether this means that Mr. Greenstein refrains from using the Intel chip and the many medical advances developed in Israel that replace older, more uncomfortable and less effective treatments, or just that he stands outside the dead sea soap shop in Covent Garden on a Saturday.