Israel Proms attack: the depressing pointlessness of dialoguemain
A bleak conclusion emerges from tonight’s anti-Israel attack on a concert in the heart of London.
We now know that it is possible for two dozen well-organised agitators to wreck a cultural event at will. There is nothing that can be done to prevent them. Nor does it make any sense to engage with them in any meaningful way.
They have convinced themselves that the state of Israel is the acme of evil, responsible for the worst atrocities on earth and deserving of condemnation by enlightened people everywhere – even at the expense of freedom of art and expression.
There is no point in trying to reason with such a position. It is as full of holes as any of the 9/11 conspiracy theories.
The idea that Israel is solely responsible for the wretched situation on the West Bank and Gaza Strip ignores the repeated offers by Israeli governments to evacuate most of both territories and half of Jerusalem in exchange for a peace agreement. The Palestinian leaderships and those who elect them have refused to engage in meaningful steps towards a two-state solution.
To condemn Israel for the situation is to condemn the Palestinians – indeed, to condemn them to a continuation of their undeserved fate. That is all the protestors have achieved.
But, as I say, there’s no point talking to them. There is, simply, nobody at home.
[…] A bleak conclusion emerges from tonight’s anti-Israel attack on a concert in the heart of London. We now know that it is possible for two dozen well-organised agitators to wreck a cultural event at will. There is nothing that can be done to prevent them. via state of Israel – Yahoo! News Search Results […]
I think it is deplorable to deprive many thousands of people (BBC!) from listening to a concert in peace. Loud protests like these tend to have the opposite effect and don’t help the Israel/Palestinian cause in any manner.
All should concentrate in signing a peace treaty, spare lives and leave the Arts alone.
As a national radio, the BBC did not do its job when they cut off the broadcast!
Must say, this response seems rather presumptious and, dare I say it, rehearsed. There’s a lot of assumptions made for which there is absolutely no justification. Hyperbole and fear-mongering with a clear ideological purpose. I in no way support the actions of the protestors, but this kind of dialogue is indeed pointless.
these protesters are deplorable people!
tommorow I’ll buy an Israeli product because of what they did.
they had hate in their eyes and no respect to any other person in the prom.
Support the IPO best by buying one of their excellent own label CD’s, historical performances by Antal Dorati & Pierre Monteux soon to be released-:
Amazon link: http://tinyurl.com/3k2ralx
I’ve just bought Blomstedt’s Mozart & Dvorak disc. I can’t wait for it to come – I’m inconsolable after last night’s awful events at the RAH
while disrupting the concert in london, palestinians also fired another 2 missles on israeli cities.
1 million israelis are now sitting in their shelters!
shame on BBC.
I was at the concert this evening. The protestors inside the RAH got short shrift from the audience – they did nothing to promote their cause – IF they had any valid arguements not one member of this audience would have any sympathy with them because of their childish behaviour. The audience of music lovers showed their appreciation to the orchestra, soloist and conductor who behave impeccably and with great dignity.
I am proud that our country allows people to demonstrate freely in public – as the pro-Palestinian protestors were allowed to do so outside the Albert Hall. But when they disrupt an event that other members of the public have paid to go to, I wish the law had more clout to deal with them. I was sitting in front of some USA visitors who were amazed that the protestors were just ushered out of the building – they would have met a greater force of law in that democracy loving country.
Back in the 1980s, supporters of the Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky disrupted a Proms performance by a Soviet orchestra of Prokofiev’s cantata Alexander Nevsky with repeated chants of “Free Sharansky”. As I recall they were politely ushered out of the Albert Hall. No doubt Deborah would have wanted more stringent measures used against them too.
I deplored the anti-Soviet disruptions at the time, and they swiftly stopped under almost universal social disapprobation. These must stop, too.
If I had been a paying member of that audience, then ‘yes’ – even though I might have had sympathy with the protestors. I go to concerts out of a love of music – I excercise my political views in other ways.
I too heard that performance of Alexander Nevsky. It came to a head when the Russian soloist rose to sing her lament over the dead on the battlefield. Time after time she tried to start, each time to be interrupted by a protester, carefully positioned in another part of the house (was it the RAH or the RFH? Probably doesn’t matter). Eventually, she got under way and the piece continued without further interruption. I remember being intensely impressed that the BBC had the guts to stick with it, to extend the programme to cater for the delay and to make only the most discrete an d dignified reference to the interrupton. Leaving the issues to one side – if everyone will permit me to – the principal issue for me was that in this country we are free to protest in more or less any way we choose without fear of repercussions, and, paying music lovers though we may be, that has to include the right to disrupt a concert in order to air our views, especially when the context (the identity of the performers) adds resonance to that protest.
As a Jew, I am very uncomfortable indeed with the issues behind this particular protest and haven’t come to any conclusions on the balance of right or wrong. That in itself will possibly have people on both sides of the debate baying for my blood. My comment, however, is NOT on the tragic events in Palestine and Israel, but on the imperative to protect the liberty we enjoy in this country to protest, and my disgust at the gutless BBC for supressing this protest by pulling the plug.
“I wish the law had more clout to deal with them.”
The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 (as amended) makes it an offence for a trespasser to disrupt or prevent a lawful activity. Even someone who has permission to enter land can become a trespasser as soon as they exceed the permission they have for being there. So if you have bought a ticket to attend a concert, you become a trespasser once you stop being a concert-goer and instead seek to disrupt that event – just as people who were permitted to enter a shop become trespassers once it is clear that they’re not there to shop but to disrupt other people’s shopping.
Charge the people who disrupted last night’s event with aggravated trespass – up to three month’s imprisonment.
Your readers may be interested to know, from my own experience, about a case of an action by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra that is incompatible with that of a democratic institute.
In 1987 I produced a documentary film called “Nablus – a Rebellious Town”.
In the film the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra was shot playing Dvorak’s “NEW WORLD SYMPHONY” in a special concert dedicated “IN LOVE TO THE I.D.F” . The sequence was shot in the Occupied West Bank to a crowd of Israeli soldiers gathered in a natural amphitheater in the Jordan Valley.
At the time Maj. Gen. Amram Mitzna led the IDF Central Command. He gave me an interview saying that “The IDF has won the fight against the Palestinians, by “a combination of force and wisdom”.
Gideon Gitai, film maker
With respect, I fail to see how this ‘is incompatible with that of a democratic institute’. If you are representatives and inhabitants of a country surrounded by sworn enemies bent on its removal from the map , I think the crucial role played by the IDF in defending one’s country (and incidentally, its democratic values, about the only such state in the region) would naturally lead one to give a concert as described above.
As to the General ‘s comment about ‘force and wisdom’, all armies fulfill their remit by force ( and given Israel’s hostile neighbours what the hell else are they meant to do) and very few show the latter quality. ( e.g. British isn Basra, U.s.a. in numerous places, Dutch in Sbrenica!). maybe the IDF comes out rather well.
We can do without this idiotic propaganda against Israel. It’s gone on too long and it’s pathetically ill informed and worst of all it encourages the worst people.
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.
The only people who lost out financially from protests would arguably be the ticket-holders to the concert. The orchestra would still have been paid (etc.), and no-one can directly lose out financially from a cancelled radio broadcast since there’s no advertising on the BBC, and the radio audience receives programmes free of charge.
Add up ticket revenue for the RAH, and work out the amount lost in value as a proportion of the concert for the interrupted period to the audience members. It’s not much at all. Indeed, the entire ticket revenue for the concert will be significantly less in value than the damage caused by rampaging rioters.
Mind, had this been a performance of 4’33” it would arguably have added to it rather than subtracting, bringing a new dimension from other performances!
Dear Norman Lebrecht,
As a musician I was a signatory to the letter to the BBC and as a musician I do not support the disruption of the concert and can sympathise with your feelings about that. What I cannot let go is your seeming disregard of history. Since 1948 Israel has been systematically grabbing land, creating illegal settlements and expelling Palestinian residents, destroying or diverting water sources from Palestinian areas, bulldozing thousands of houses, destroying crops and olive groves and laying waste to arable land. In recent years these activities have escalated including the building of the wall – not on Israeli land – but right through great swathes of Palestinian land, blockading and attacking Gaza with every kind of modern weaponry including depleted uranium and white phosphorus shells. The daily misery inflicted by the occupying IDF on all aspects of Palestinian life including forcing journeys of 4 hours to work that should take 20 minutes, harassment at checkpoints, the attacks on fishermen and ramming of fishing boats in Gazan waters – all completely against international law and over 300 UN resolutions. Now you propose to evict Palestinians from Gaza, West Bank and Jerusalem as well? This is crazy – what would there be left to have a settlement over? Any negotiation must start with the 1948 borders or, at the very least, with the pre 1967 borders [which President Obama recently proposed]. Anything else would be a travesty allowing overwhelming force to defeat legality and the UN.
Dear Roy Mowatt
I am very glad to hear that you disapprove of the disruption.
You then go on to say ‘Now you propose to evict Palestinians…’
Me? I have never evicted a Palestinian from anywhere.
I think you need to check your nearest anti-racism manual before tarring all Jews with the actions of the Israeli government.
From your blog”the repeated offers by Israeli governments to evacuate most of both territories and half of Jerusalem in exchange for a peace agreement. ” – sorry I assumed you wrote this because you agreed with it. Not much point in writing something otherwise!
Do you speak either language of the conflict? I do. Have you lived in the region? I have.
I’m not going to argue politics with a sympathy tourist, dependent on flawed secondhand information. Thank you for your responses. The dialogue is now closed. NL
You can probably tell that I’m new to this form of discourse. It can all be rather superficial and I’m sorry you’ve closed the dialogue just as it is getting interesting. What are the 2 languages of the conflict. Can it ever be resolved using those languages? Or does it need a third language? For my own education I’d love to know which of my secondhand information [by the way isn’t all information by definition secondhand?] is flawed. Will you condemn me to being a sympathy tourist and destined to remain ignorant for ever?
Yours sincerely & finally
The languages are Hebrew and Arabic. I wrote last night about the pointlessness of dialogue. I really haven’t the inclination to argue the rights and wrongs. let’s leave it there. Norman
I’d be very interested to know whether the OAE management were aware that Roy Mowatt and Catherine Ford were planning to use the orchestra’s name in that letter to the Independent.
I was not aware that the name of OAE would be in the letter to the Independent. It was on the letter to the BBC as an identifier. I speak as an individual and in no way represent any views of the OAE.
I have been an OAE donor since 1986. Until you, Catherine Ford and the orchestra make a public statement that it did not condone the misuse of its name in this way, there will be no more donations.
Dear Michael Smith,
Of course I will make such a statement. I will forward this exchange to the management and they I’m sure will do the same. I certainly don’t want to jeopardise the orchestra in any way, some of whose players definitely hold strong contrary views to me. I’m also sad that the exchange of honestly held views has upset you.
Thanks very much, Roy.
Dear Michael Smith,
I should clarify that I too was unaware that the name of OAE would appear in the letter to the Independent. It was used in the letter to the BBC merely as an identifier. However, it would never have occurred to me that anyone could imagine that I would presume to speak on behalf of such a disparate group of people as the members of OAE, (anymore than I would assume that a letter signed by a Cambridge University professor represents the views of that University).
Do be reassured that in adding my signature to the original letter to the BBC, I did so as an individual and absolutely not as a representative of the OAE. I will forward this to the orchestra’s management.
I’d like to commend the simple and balanced statement issued by the OAE.
Yours sincerely, Catherine Ford
I should clarify that I have no problem with the open exchange of views, and your implication that this upsets me does you no credit. I am very pleased that you have clarified that the orchestra did not sanction the misuse of its name.
The orchestra has made this statement this morning:
‘As freelance musicians who work for the OAE and other orchestras, the opinions expressed by any musician from the OAE are their own independent views and do no necessarily reflect those of the OAE as a whole on this matter or any other matter. The OAE was unaware that Catherine Ford and Roy Mowatt had expressed their views under the OAE name’.
I’ll try again to apologise. I’m sorry I upset/annoyed you. I hope that is uncontentious
Dear Michael Smith,
Just to put the record straight, my earlier comment seems to begin with a phrase I did not compose….”your comment is awaiting moderation”.
Unaccustomed to blogging, I’m afraid I’ve no idea where it comes from, is it a reproof of some sort, or a description?
The best thing you could do now is write to the Independent making it clear that, while as a signatory to the original letter you believe the BBC should never have invited the IPO, (to use you own words) “I do not support the disruption of the concert”.
Suggesting to follow Obama’s proposal would be suicidalm for both Palestineans and Israelis, as any other proposal by past American Presidents or Secretaries of State. This is the BIG mistake Israel has made several times.
Peace in the region, as anywhere in the world, is against USA, commercial and imperialistic ambitions. Don’t forget USA has over 750 military bases spread round the globe. To get a full picture of what USA Presidents mean, you need to study the activities of USA diplomats, CIA and other American secret agencies.
The world is not in the state it is by accident.
By the way, concentrating on the few demonstrators leads nowhere. One should analise “why” RAH ushers and other staff, as well as the policemen and security guards “specially” brought in that evening to keep everything under control, so easily allowed the demonstration.
These protests are justified, and to compare them to smashing up a shop ( in the other posting ) is fatuous and lazy.
Israel gains great cultural cache from it’s orchestra, and the Proms are a prestigious platform. The Proms is no stranger to moronic imperial flag waving, it’s seems an apt place for dissent.
Disrupting a performance seems like an apt way of saying – Do Not Fiddle whilst Palestine Burns.
I applaud the brave protestors, and snigger at the bourgeois harrumphing.
I may be challenged on the financial figures, as AVI does, but my point was that there is a financial implication to the disruption, just as much as there is in a riot which destroys physical property. It seems to me that disruption worth 10s of thousands of pounds in orchestral time is not insignificant. I don’t think it’s a fatuous or lazy comparison, because the law vigorously protects property (perhaps over-vigorously), but not time, despite there being (pace AVI) a similar or comparable financial impact.
Being worried about a policy of ‘kauft nicht bei Juden’ is a bit more than ‘bourgeois harrumphing’, and isn’t something to be sniggered at.
For me the issue is not what is going on in the region, whose fault it is or what can be done about it. This sort of issue really should be left out of music. If you insist on doing so, you shoot yourself in the foot. I sincerely hope, Mr Mowatt, that you haven’t jeopardised future donations to your orchestra from this donor or others. Same for the LPO members. I’m glad no members of my orchestra have sought to publicise their own political beliefs in the forum of concert giving, quite frankly it appears to be rather like sh*tt*ng on your own doorstep and posting it through the letterbox. By all means campaign for what you believe in, but do take care not to drag your colleagues into it, or the well meaning concert-going public, who are the very reason we have jobs in the first place.
I might add that it saddens me that they feel they have to protest around concerts anyway. The pro-Israel demonstrators also. Leave music be, please, it’s one of the last places left where people can escape lives, and put governmental politics aside, no need to violate this profession and its patrons. If people want to boycott, then boycott, stay out of it. If you feel that strongly about Israel Phil and its alleged “complicity”, then don’t go to the concert. Protest peacefully as our law allows, in a place where people will listen.
And regarding the hotly debated letter – why would you call on the BBC to cancel a PROM at just a few days notice? is this not a cheap shot at shock publicity? If any of you actually believed in your letter perhaps you would have started a serious campaign when the PROMS season was made public? Not a couple of days before. Of course you knew that the BBC would never do such a thing…
Is the Israel Phil ACTUALLY a political organisation? Because if it is, it would actively be supporting or denouncing the Israeli government. A non political organisation will stay silent. Is this the complicity you speak of?
Emotions, instead of deep study and analysis of the situation, seem to rule the minds of many a contributor to this Forum. If people were curious enough to observe and scrutinise the over 200 armed conflicts that rage in the world at any one time, and placed the Israel/Palestine situation in that context, they would understand “how” and “why” the Middle Eastern region that concerns us is in the situation we all know.
To all those who criticise the Israeli or the Palestinean Governments, I’ll say one thing: “if you were in charge, you would be doing exactly the same”. In reality, politicians are NOT in charge. Politicians work for those who are “really” in charge: Banks, oil, gold, silver, copper industries, corporate Media, the arms trade and various Churches.
Victims of the same situation and interests are the inhabitants of Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt, Libya, Sri-Lanka, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Sudan, China, Thailand, Ethiopia, Congo, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, several Latin American countries, etc.
The United Nations (United Necrologers to me) accepts that countries make and sell weapons. This helps control employment figures and brings good money to Treasuries. Weapons for self-defense they call them, the hypocrits, knowing well that land-mines, bombs, air-fighters, are for killing and nothing else.
Since all countries are already armed. UN could call for the closure of all weapon factories, but it doesn’t. We continue to produce new models, faster, more powerful, more sophisticated. We then need countries willing to buy (and try) these new toys. A vicious circle.
Angola has a shortage of schools, Hospitals and many other basic needs, but rich countries are not interested. Help to this African country was offered for 27 years of Civil War. This suited European and American economies better.
Politicians who tried to change the system, John Kennedy, Olof Palme, Indira Gandhi, Yitzhak Rabin, to name but a few, were all assassinated.
Much could be done and has to be done, but interrupting concerts is definitely not one of the good routes.
Hurray for Jessica.
Yes and she didn’t support the disruption last night, specifically arguing against it. Unlike yourself. Do keep up, perhaps you could learn something
As someone who studies the I-P conflict, I am intrigued by your statement that there have been “repeated offers by Israeli governments to evacuate most of both territories and half of Jerusalem in exchange for a peace agreement.”
This is a remarkable claim, and to say the least would be miraculous news by all of us that work for justice in Palestine. Can demonstrate this? I do not mean simply citing “Oslo” (Israel’s greatest coup) or any of the other “offers” willfully misrepresented by the media, or that so-&-so stated this or wrote this. Can you direct me to the source text, the actually agreement?
There is no such offer. Israel’s ethnic cleansing requires that it keep an unending state of terrror, which in turn produces an unending “threat”, so that the Western public perceives Israel as engaged in self-defense.
When, however long in the future, this ends, and all the facades fall away, people will say they just didn’t know.
Thank you Mr. Suarez. I’m also waiting for the source of this amazing statement about “the repeated offers by Israeli governments to evacuate most of both territories and half of Jerusalem in exchange for a peace agreement.” Is anyone at home?
@ Mr Suarez. I personally know two Israeli families who were forcibly evicted from the homes and lives they had built in a seaside community of Gaza by their own Israeli government in a bid for peace with the Palestinians. These families now face nearly weekly missile attacks on the flimsy “temporary” housing they were moved to 7 years ago, missiles lobbed from Gaza and into their community which lies well within the undisputed borders of Israel. The Israeli government rarely responds to these attacks, by the way. What restraint! If YOUR home, within the undisputed boundaries of your nation, was regularly shelled by a neighboring country, would you be pleased if your government chose to look the other way, and simply provided you with SEWER PIPES to take shelter in? THAT’S the reality for many hundreds of Israeli families.
I am not Israeli, nor am I Jewish, but my eyes are wide open and I have at least a modicum of knowledge of history. I suggest you and so many of the others readers of these posts blow the dust off your histories and educate yourselves. The land that you accuse Israel of “grabbing” was for the most part won in a DEFENSIVE war, land they won when responding to vicious, unprovoked attacks designed to annihilate them, when they drove their attackers back. The fact that they’ve shown any willingness to return these lands or a portion of them in exchange for peace – in treaties that have time and again been broken by the other side – is quite remarkable. Many of the “palestinians” in the West Bank moved there two generations ago to escape persecution from the Jordanian government (remember Black September?) and have no long history in the region. The worst atrocities most of them faced came at the hands of their Arab or Hashemite “brothers”.
It terrifies me that individuals who sound somewhat articulate apparently can’t be troubled to check facts, read history from more than one point of view, but willing accept whatever distortion of reality is in vogue.
I’m sorry, although I have great sympathy for what the Palestinians are going through and agree with almost everything Mr. Suarez says in regards to this; this agreement stops at the insinuation that Israel is maintaining terror to maintain a threat to instigate ethnic cleansing. The situation which Israel causes in the territory it is occupying does in no way inspire peace, but to call all of this a desire to instigate ethnic cleansing is again breeding the very hatred ON BOTH SIDES (both believing the sole purpose of the other side is ethnic cleansing) which continues the struggle. I’m trying to find a source myself about the Israeli Peace offers, but am still looking and asking others who have studied this. When I find one I believe would be helpful to share, I will. And, I don’t believe that using such platitudes as “sympathy tourist” and to say another’s sources are second hand to then not offer any input but “dialogue is depressingly useless” is helping either.
There was a truce in 2008. This truce was broken by the Israelis.
Jessica’s points nos 8&9 seem to display disagreement with this way of protesting…? I still just don’t see what a concert has to do with it.
Thank you Norman! Eloquently and, sadly, truthfully put.
Can’t more people reading and writing in these conversations see the fact that many of these vicious anti-Israel statements are not just anti-Israel, but border on or are downright anti-Semitism? Is that not alarming, to say the least? It is one thing to have a strong opinion that is well grounded in facts and first-hand experience; quite another to spout offensive, wildly ignorant insulting garbage.
Did this same group of musicians send a letter in July 2010 to the NY Times protesting the Philharmonic’s joint concert with the Shanghai Symphony? Do they also boycott Lang Lang (last I heard China wasn’t exactly leading in human rights areas)? Is every musician on the hit-list who ever had anything to do with the IPO, or just the group of Israelis themselves?
Let us remember it is not just Jews around the world who have expressed a support and love of Israel– the great French cellist Paul Tortelier, a devout Catholic, took his family in the 1950s to move to a kibbutz in Israel, so moved was he by the emergence and existence of the State.
Mr. Lebrecht’s observation that the group of musicians writing the letter is not, for the most part, exactly top-drawer is valid– one finds much more information on the picture book about the Palestinians by Thomas Suarez than anything having to do with his violin playing.
I encourage donors to the OAE and LPO and other orchestras, members of which signed the letter, to stop donating until the offending members leave.
Roy Mowatt has no idea what he is talking about. Israel has never used ‘depeted uranium’, for example.
Israel has made every effort to achieve peace with security: the pullout from Gaza and the peace treaty with Egypt are just two examples.
Mowatt needs to get his facts right or stick to his last.
Thank you Mr. Hoffman. I was going to attend the LPO concerts at Carnegie Hall this upcoming season, but will not do so. While I confess to not being enthusiastic about the IPO and Zubin Mehta for artistic reasons, the letter and the scene in RAH was vile and despicable! I’ll get extra tickets to hear the Berlin Philharmonic (a vastly superior orchestra to the LPO in my opinion) instead. Nor will I purchase any of their recordings, as many were on my list. I was a big enthusiast of Klaus Tennstedt, but now I will need to find out who get royalties before I will buy LPO recording. The OAE is not on my radar in the first place. As you can imagine, New York City is quite different from London and I would not be surprised if these orchestras, or at least these musicians, would not be invited to perform in a venue such as Carnegie Hall or Avery Fisher Hall in NYC in the future. I am sure the power brokers behind the New York music scene will have a harsh opinion of the signatories of the letter proposing a boycott of the IPO. Please note that while these signatories call for boycotts, they need to pay the price of what they wish for others. Hopefully they are the ones who will soon be out of work, and then they will cry ‘restraint of trade.’ What hypocrites!
Why should there be a “two-state solution”? Is that what you were calling for to replace apartheid in South Africa? When the conservative Afrikaners were calling for a white homeland, did you support those calls? I very much doubt it. So why is Israel different? Why was majority rule OK for South Africa, but not Israel? What is so special about Israel?