In the Times (off-line) today, the long-serving secretary general of the Israel Philharmonic, Avi Shoshani, announces that the orchestra may never return to Britain after last summer’s Proms disruption.
‘I don’t think I really want to return to the UK,’ he tells Neil Fisher. ‘Why should I put my musicians in such an unpleasant situation? We want to make people happy – that’s what music is all about – and if people behave in such an uncivilised way why should we be part of it?’
The stupidity of his statement, in contrast to so many other reasoned arguments, beggars belief. In two sloppy sentences, Shoshani delivers a slap in the face to the BBC, the Times and the British public who supported the orchestra’s right to be heard at the Proms – and an unearned victory to the Boycott Israel campaign which cannot surely believe its luck that Israel’s musical flagship has slunk off, defeated.
His remarks contradict Zubin Mehta’s determination to present the orchestra on every major stage and to make the orchestra more reprsesentative of its multi-cultured country. The IPO has yet to admit its first Arab Israeli player and is losing audiences among the younger generation and the religious sector.
Shoshani is employed by the orchestra as secretary general, a position less authoritative than chief executive. He has taken recently to speaking out in its name.
He has been in the job since 1973 and in that time the world has changed and Shoshani hasn’t. If Israel and its orchestra want to join the 21st century, they may need to nudge Avi Shoshani, 63, towards a well-earned retirement.