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.