Brian Eno bans Israeli performance

Brian Eno bans Israeli performance


norman lebrecht

September 08, 2016

The former Roxy Music composer, a prominent BDS supporter, has ordered the Batsheva company to stop dancing his music after discovering that its tour of Italy received Israeli government funding.

He wrote:

‘To my understanding, the Israeli embassy (and therefore the Israeli government) will be sponsoring the upcoming performances, and, given that I’ve been supporting the BDS campaign for several years now, this is an unacceptable prospect for me.

‘It’s often said by opponents of BDS that art shouldn’t be used as a political weapon. However, since the Israeli government has made it quite clear that it uses art in exactly that way – to promote ‘Brand Israel’ and to draw attention away from the occupation of Palestinian land – I consider that my decision to deny permission is a way of taking this particular weapon out of their hands.

‘I am trying to understand the difficulties that must face any Israeli artist now – and in particular ones like yourselves who have shown some sympathy to the Palestinian cause.

‘I feel that your government exploits artists like you, playing on your natural desire to keep working – even if it does mean becoming part of a propaganda strategy. Your dance company might not be able to formally distance itself from the Israeli government but I can and will: I don’t want my music to be licensed for any event sponsored by the Israeli embassy.’


One has to wonder if Eno would ban the Bolshoi from using his music, given that they receive Russian government funding and that the Russians are presently occupying land in at least three foreign states, Chechnya, Ukraine and Syria.

All touring dance companies receive public funding. Without it, they could not tour.

Unless Eno boycotts the Russians, this will go down as a self-serving, quasi-antisemitic gesture.



  • Anmarie says:

    More blatant than ‘quasi’-antisemitic.

  • Ann Nomynous says:

    His decision is more about politics than anti-semitism. Anti-semitism can be political, but not always. Objecting the Israel state politics is objecting bad politics, not even “quasi anti-semitism”.

    • Anmarie says:

      You may want to re-read NL’s last sentence.

      Comprehending it might be even better.

      • CDH says:

        Not sure what you are getting at, but the sooner people stop conflating criticism of a government with a racist attack on a people, the better. People quite properly savaged George W. Bush and Tony Blair for Iraq without outcries about anti-Americanism or anti-Britishness. I realise these are not races in the same sense that the Jewish people are classed as a race, but the comparison is legitimate. Israel is a sophisticated country, with a sophisticated government. It is no more immune to criticism than any other. It does not make its critics anti-Semites (though certainly some are).

        On the other hand, I wonder who Mr. Eno thought was funding Batsheva. I doubt there is a professional ballet company in the world operating without benefit of some government funding.

  • Greg says:

    How long before this “I Ain’t Gonna Play Sun City” nonsense balloons to a point where it will absolutely forbidden for any singer, instrumentalist or conductor to perform in Israel or with any Israeli ensemble? Knowing the courage and rugged independence of so many artists I bet not long.

  • Becky Goldsmith says:

    Yet another luvvie burnishing his anti-Israel credentials to curry favour with Leftie chums. Funny how this breed forgets to boycott China, numerous African states with their rampant slave trades, Zimbabwe etc. What does Israel have that these and many other human rights-ignoring states do not? Jewish blood. That’s what. That Israel has produced and continues to produce many of the finest instrumentalists in the world cuts no ice with this brand of bigot.

  • Afraid To Leave Name says:

    I found this genuinely distressing, as I have loved Eno’s music — or soundscapes, I guess — over the years, and as I have become increasingly alarmed and uncomprehending at the unending vitriol shown towards all things Israel among Western liberals. I myself, I hasten to add, am Western, liberal, non-Jewish and non-Israeli; I have no dog in this fight, other than a sense of basic ethics and commitment to honesty. It confuses and frightens me.

  • Allen says:

    I trust that Mr Eno is not allowing any of Israel’s wide ranging products into his life, or does his ban just cover the stuff that people are likely to notice?

  • harold braun says:

    Antisemitic moron.

    • Scott Fields says:

      A reasonably bright anti-Semite, Harold. Racism is stupid but not all racists are idiots.

      • Mikey says:

        Moron, yes,
        If one is incapable of understanding that bigotry is wrong, and WHY it is wrong, then that demonstrates a clear inability to think an issue through clearly.

        A racist is, by definition, an id10t.

  • Fred says:

    who is brian eno??????

    • Volen Antov says:

      Err….only one of the best, if not the best, guitar musicians of the 1970’s!!!!!!!! get with the programme Fred!

      • William Safford says:

        Eno is prominent in music circles, but his prominence is not primarily due to his guitar playing. You may be thinking of his collaborations with guitarists such as Robert Fripp. He is more a producer and collaborator, with such artists and groups as David Bowie and Roxy Music; and a creator of ambient music.

        • Neil van der Linden says:

          Indeed, in another comment I mentioned the achievements of Eno, and I knew I was forgetting something. Apart from his somewhat esoteric work with Fripp, his albums with David Bowie stand out, Low and Heroes, which did not only furthered Bowie’s artistic career, but also deeply influenced the evolution of pop music in general, and introduced Bowie to new younger audiences of serious music listeners. The handling of the theme of the Berlin wall, then still in place, was also interesting on the albums, in that they on the one hand portrayed the grim situation of the cold war, but also suggested that there could be life after the wall. That theme would return in the Eno-produced album Achtung Baby by U2, made after the fall of the wall.

    • Pianofortissimo says:

      Eno, aka “fruit salt”, is a sparkling antacid powder that can also be used as baking powder. In contact with water it sounds more or less like shhhhhhiiiiiiii…

  • I'm Disgusted says:

    The ball is in Mr Eno’s court. Does he have the philosophical and political integrity to also boycott the Chinese and the Russians ? If not, he is no more than an antisemite in liberal clothing.

  • Volen Antov says:

    I applaud Mr Eno for his brave and heroic stance against the oppressive Israeli regime. Let’s hope he will be joined by many in the music and entertainments indusrty to stand up for their beliefs rather than the size of their bank balance!

  • Neil van der Linden says:

    His wordings do not reek of antisemitism: ‘It’s often said by opponents of BDS that art shouldn’t be used as a political weapon. However, since the Israeli government has made it quite clear that it uses art in exactly that way – to promote ‘Brand Israel’ and to draw attention away from the occupation of Palestinian land – I consider that my decision to deny permission is a way of taking this particular weapon out of their hands. ‘I am trying to understand the difficulties that must face any Israeli artist now – and in particular ones like yourselves who have shown some sympathy to the Palestinian cause.’
    By equating criticism of Israel to antisemitism, it are the ones who criticising those who criticise Israel who make antisemitism more acceptable.
    And about the comparison with Russia: Israel is a very close ally of Western-Europe, often being seen as a purely Western country, and enjoying for instance many trade benefits with Western-Europe. In that case the political stance can be different from that regarding Russia.
    Meanwhile in these columns I remember Valentina Lisitsa and Valeri Gergiev have experienced strong criticism for their pro-Russian stances, legitimising Russia’s occupation of East Ukraine and South-Abkhazia, in the case of Lisitsa amounting to a call for a boycott. So why not apply similar criteria on Israel?

    • Hilary says:

      This is a very sensible weighing up of the situation. Thank you.

      • Mark says:

        I’m sure that you, Antov, and Neil — as well as the minimally talented Eno — are very comfortable with your anti-semitism. When the only state singled out for boycotts and shunning, despite the human rights violations committed by Russia, China, Iran, Iraq, Zimbabwe, et al, is the one Jewish state in the world, Israel, then that boycotting is indeed antisemitism. I fail to see why you and your friends are not proudly and honestly proclaiming your hatred of Jews from the rafters instead of hiding behind some pretend version of righteousness.
        As for Eno, his “music” is pathetic and I’m sure the Batsheva company can come up with far better music tracks to dance to. It will require new choreography to be created, but that is nothing unusual for any dance company. Let Eno go suck eggs!

        • Hilary says:

          His music is pathetic in *your* view.
          I’m remain hugely impressed with his soundtrack for Derek Jarman’s “Sebastiane”. The film has possibly dated somewhat, but not the understated soundtrack.

        • V.Lind says:

          Most people pick their issues. You ad others have named selected countries but not some of the many others who also qualify for severe criticism.

          So if someone decides to boycott, say South Africa because of apartheid policies that we do not agree with, it is invalid (or racist) because we are not simultaneously criticising every other country int eh world whose policies offend someone?

          Are you saying that Israel should be immune to criticism? As a government? If so, that’s rubbish. It takes part in world affairs, and as such is as subject to response as anyone else. In threads similar to this I have read much more racism against Palestinians, who seem to be considered beneath contempt as people.

          • Scott Fields says:

            Imagine that you teach a class that isolates boys with behavioral problems. You’ve got 9 white boys and 1 black boy. Ranking them 1-10 in misbehaviors, the black boy rates 5. When any of the white boys misbehave, you wag your finger and tell them to do better. When the black boy misbehaves, you punish him.

            Should the black boy be immune from criticism? Absolutely not. Are you a racist? Absolutely yes.

  • ketzel says:

    I have an idea for how the dancers can use the choreography. They can use it as is, but without music. They can call the piece “Homage to Brian Eno.” If they have the chutzpah, the dancers can wear headphones and listen to the judenrein music, even though the audience doesn’t hear it. Or they can suggest the audience bring their own copy of the music and listen on headphones. What can he do, sue them for listening to his music while Jewish?

  • Dave T says:

    Never mind boycotting Russia or China, how about Brian Eno and his BDS pals just speaking out against Iran’s oppression of minorities and terrorism sponsorship, or “Palestine’s” arbitrary arrest of political opponents, torture of prisoners, restrictions of freedom of press and speech, and abuse of women. One doesn’t even have to enumerate Syrian crimes.

    No, Eno? Didn’t think so. Your silence and hypocrisy are what make you anti-Semites.

  • Neil van der Linden says:

    As far as we know, no Russian, Chinese or Iranian ballet company has used Eno’s music, during a tour sponsored by their embassies. We will cross that bridge when we get there.
    That being said, the closeness of Israel to the West gives it a different position that that of Russia, China and Iran, so perhaps different considerations might prevail. With nations that are close you might need some distance, with nations that are distance some rapprochement might be beneficial.

    The conditioned reflex of shouting antisemitism whenever somebody, in a nuanced way, tries to criticise Israel will promote antisemitism. Even if too many people of Jewish uncritically identify with Israel’s politics and policies, that will further promote antisemitism. However there are numerous people of Jewish origin who also distance themselves from Israel’s current politics.

    That calling for a boycott of some artists or at least questioning them is not uncommon among blogs like NL’s was demonstrated when Valentina Lisitsa and Valeri Gergiev were heavily attacked for their pro-Moscow stances regarding Ukraine and their propaganda for Putin.

    Meanwhile read that Brian Eno uses careful words and for instance did not forbid the Batsheva company to use his music. But requested not to use it during a sponsored tour.

    Another phenomenon not uncommon in this discussion is belittling the artist. It happened to Roger Waters (one of the founders of Pink Floyd and the main drive behind The Wall and some of their other leading albums) and now it happens to Brian Eno, not only an original vector in Roxy Music, but a leading producer for years, of Talking Heads, U2 and many others and one of the main forces behind art pop and behind ambient music. Well, the more I would go into detail the more it proves uninformed some others are, and unwilling to let themselves be informed. It takes just a little research to find out who an artist is, regardless of his or her views.

    • Dave T says:

      The anti-Semitism charge is leveled, not because Israel is being criticized, but because it is being singled out. Leveled not when Israel is being held to a high standard, but when it is being held to a HIGHER standard that any other actors.

      You attempt to justify the uneven playing field with the claim that Israel deserves it because it is “closer to the West.” Why? This is entirely arbitrary. It is a search for an excuse to judge Israel differently and mask prejudicial biases, nothing more.

      As for belittling an artist because one disdains their statements and politics, we are in complete agreement. It is flimsy, week, and unfounded. Roger Waters, and Pink Floyd behind him, is a master artist in his genre. I do find it impossible to listen to him, let alone enjoy, any longer, but that doesn’t make him less outstanding.

      • Hilary says:

        In 1968 the Soviets invaded Czech. A Russian orchestra was greeted with squeals of protest when they accompanied Rostroprovich in the Dvorak Cello Concerto, at the Royal Albert Hall.

        Barbirolli was asked by EMI to record Mastersingers with the Dresden Statskapelle. He resisted for political reasons. Karajan recorded it instead.

        • Neil van der Linden says:

          At other moments Van Cliburn winning in Moscow, Kleiber recording in Dresden, Bernstein going several times to Russia and Eastern-Germany, Richter, Svetlanov, Kondrashin and Rozhdestvensky performing in the West, Kupfer directing in the West etc. helped bring down barriers and keeping communication lines open between parties that were politically opposites.
          However when Paul Simon included South-African Ladysmith Black Mambazo on his first solo album, in times of apartheid, there was serious debate about whether he was bringing down barriers, which he musically did anyway, or that he, inadvertently, helped Apartheid continue, at times when the South-African regime was trying to suggest how much ‘freedom’ the black communities had.
          It is always a delicate barrier.

  • ketzel says:

    Update: according to this linked article, the dance company states their Italian performance wasn’t funded by the Israeli embassy. The article includes a screenshot of the correspondence from the dance company.

  • Robert Holmén says:

    Are the Russians performing Eno music?

    Maybe he HAS banned them.

  • Chris Baxter says:

    BDS supporters should just be honest and say they don’t like jews.

    • Neil van der Linden says:

      That is a bizarre remark, which also concerns for instance Jewish Voice for Peace.
      I rather have the idea that some of those who oppose BDS or any other expression of criticism of Israel hope the country will forever be able to continue to do anything under a cover of being the victim.

  • Luigi NoNoNo says:

    Shame on them for ever using his shoddy excuse for music!

  • Lucio says:

    The Beatles refused to play in a packed US stadium where the blacks were not allowed, a protest against apartheid in America. IMHO it is a perfect right for artists to hamper the use of own art/performance for covering up indecent politics!!

  • Gil says:

    Eno, like Waters are no longer relevant. Both are lost and confused and since music is not exactly flowing out of their dry creativeness they try their hands at something else… protecting the most evil and murderous people on the planet.