British Antisemites interrupt Israeli orchestra at Proms

Zubin Meha and the IPO

Zubin Meha and the IPO acknowledging the audience at the Proms

I was going to post about this scandal in real time but Shabbat preparations had to take precedence, and it’s too big an issue for me to skip over, even though it happened a couple of days ago.

Anti-Israel protestors disrupted a performance by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, put on at Britain’s famous Proms at London’s Royal Albert Hall, causing the BBC to stop transmission of the show. They have since informed the public that the show will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, with the protests edited out.

I deliberately used the word “Antisemites” in my headline, and not “Anti-Zionists” because, as Stephen Pollard writes so eloquently in the Daily Telegraph:

The demonstration at the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra BBC Proms concert was against Jews, not the Israeli state.

Until Thursday night, nothing in the history of Proms broadcasts had forced a concert off air. Certainly not the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. On the very night the tanks moved into Prague, the great Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich was at the Proms with the USSR Symphony Orchestra. And he was performing, with intense poignancy, the Czech composer Dvorak’s cello concerto. I have a cherished recording of the concert. The audience was rapt and not a word was uttered.

When Chinese performers grace the Proms with their presence, there is not a word of protest about their government’s abuses of human rights. Nor should there be. They are musicians, not politicians.

But when the Israel Philharmonic played on Thursday evening, a band of around 30 thugs – none was wearing jackboots, but they should have been – launched into chanting and mock singing, disrupting the concert to such an extent that BBC Radio 3 decided it could not go on with the broadcast.

It shouldn’t need saying that protesting against the actions of the Israeli government is not the same as being anti-Semitic. Clearly not: this month, 250,000 Israelis joined rallies against their government’s economic policies. They could hardly be driven by anti-Semitism.

But Thursday night’s events can only be understood in the context of anti-Semitism. When have there been similar protests against “violations of international law and human rights”, as was chanted on Thursday, by any other country? And this in the middle of the Arab Spring, when genuine protesters for human rights are daily risking their lives in Syria against a murderous dictatorship.

If, indeed, this was a protest against the actions of the Israeli government, rather than against Jews, where have been the similar disruptions of performances by Russian, Chinese, Turkish, Iranian or any number of other nations’ musicians? What about disruptions of British national companies, in protest at British human rights abuses? To pose the question is to answer it.

But it is far from all doom and gloom …  As for the Proms hooligans, there is one big difference from the Weimar audiences. Far from being afraid of the thugs, the Proms audience turned almost as one on them. They chanted “Out, out, out”. As one of the men fought with security guards, a woman can be heard shouting “Shut your mouth”. In fact, their violent, thoroughly illegitimate tactics did nothing but harm to their cause. Ed Vaizey, the Culture Minister, was in the Royal Albert Hall for the concert. As he tweeted on the night: “Demonstrators seem to have turned [the] entire audience pro-Israel.”

The Telegraph has two other articles about this ugly protest: There is something very ugly about this attempt to  ghettoise Israeli musicians; and a slightly tongue-in-cheekarticle: “Tip to Palestinian activists: upset the English Middle Classes at your peril“.

Elder of Ziyon also has a posting about the protest with a video.

But for the most comprehensive coverage of the entire performance, including all the protests and counter-protests, I can do no better than highly recommend that you read Richard Millett’s blog-post and watch the numerous videos he has posted.  Here is one of the videos of the protests.

As an interesting aside, someone told me today that she heard that one of the IPO musicians was interviewed by the BBC, and was asked how the orchestra copes with these sorts of protests wherever they go. The musician answered: “Oh, we only ever encounter these protests in England”.   I’m not sure if this is an apocryphal story or if it is really accurate, but it certainly reflects the antisemitic atmosphere in Britain today.

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12 Responses to British Antisemites interrupt Israeli orchestra at Proms

  1. Andrea says:

    Anne,

    I have commented this shameful episode on an Isreali blog ( not observing Sabbath apparently).
    i hope you do not mind if I re post here my consideration here again

    Why are not the same initiatives ever taken against Syria or Turkey and other countries that send its army abroad to occupy others’ land – right or wrong? Israel is subject to a process of dehumanization in her opponents mind. Accoding to them it is a place where culture can not arise from and people do not deserve to be heard. Some days ago I commented on an Israeli blog Barghouti assertions on the fact that occupation of Palestine ( his words) has transformed Israelis from human beings into an inhumane tool by militaristic culture. In one of the replies to my comment, Barghouti pont of view was reiterated by saying that Ziyonism has anthropologically transformed human beings to the same extent as Nazism transformed Germans in the same way.
    This is to give an idea about the lowest limit evere reached.

    • anneinpt says:

      Andrea, thanks for your (requoted) comment. What you say echoes what Stephen Pollard says in his article which I quote in my post, and of course you 100% correct. The fact that one doesn’t see similar protests against musicians and performances from other countries with terrible human rights records shows how these anti-Israel protests are antisemitic and not “just” anti-Zionist (as if that’s any better).

      Bargouti’s point of view about Zionism is vile. It is the same point of view as the Nazis – that Jews are sub-human. He is projecting his own Nazism onto the Jews. It is sickening. You are very brave to comment on those kinds of blogs. I don’t know if I could bring myself to do so.

  2. Andrea says:

    In fact it was an Israeli blog and I was not the only one claiming how Israeli people has been deprived of their humanity in the way their opponents represent “the enemy”. In spite of the fact that the subject was very difficult to be treated, everyone – Palestinians and Israelis – had the opportunity to say their reasons. I hardly belive it would be possible in many other countries – with inclusion of western ones.

    I am not brave – I take only advantage that my political background put me in the condition to have a – let’s say – little chance to discuss with some (not all) of Palestianians – most depending on the fact they have or not secular views on politic.

  3. Brian Goldfarb says:

    Anne, your readers might be interested in the article and discussion on the engage website. There it started with a link to the original letter to The Independent. If people go down to the signature list, they will find all sorts of people misrepresenting themselves. One, Deborah Fink long known on engage as a stalwart of Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JfJfP, and a noble cause, in anyone else’s hands but theirs), declares a soprano. If you want to know what she sounds like in full throat, go to simplyjews and listen to the video. She sounds like a sparrow with a cold, and any real soprano would be ashamed to be heard pretending to be able to sing.
    http://engageonline.wordpress.com/2011/08/30/independent-carries-call-on-bbc-to-exclude-israeli-orchestra-from-proms/#comments

    Actually, googling them shows up some interesting results, some of them in the comments on that article.

    • anneinpt says:

      LOL! Your imagery is hilarious! I actually had the misfortune to hear Fink “sing” on one or other of the various videos posted about this protest. I am surprised that windows didn’t shatter for miles around.

      Thanks for that very interesting link to Engage. I had read the original letter in the Independent and thought about writing a letter in response, or at least a talkback, but never bothered in the end. I just assumed the talkback would be moderated and the letter would never be published. It didn’t occur to me to follow it up through Engage. There’s some very good and useful research done there. Kol hakavod. I’ve filed it away for future use.

  4. Charles Kremer says:

    You call these demonstrators thugs. Have you seen this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKzNrNhTu5w&feature=player_embedded of the settlers in Anatot beating up a few peaceful Israeli demonstrators twice, the second with police looking on and doing nothing? I am a Zionist who wants Israel to be a democratic Jewish state as envisaged by the founders. I hope you understand the full implications of your support for these settlers. Israel is in grave danger of becoming a pariah state and sooner or later, in addition to restricting Israel’s exports to Europe, that will cost you/us America’s support which is the true existential threat. You probably think you are doing God’s work. Unfortunately so does Hamas.

    • anneinpt says:

      Charles, whenever I hear someone say “I am a Zionist/Jew but…” my antennae all start quivering. There is no ‘But” to being a Zionist. Either you are for a national homeland for the Jews in Israel or you are not. If you are, then some uncomfortable viewing of a video should not change your mind. If you are not, then at least be honest about it.

      As to the video that you provided, it is not at all clear that those attacking, or holding a knife (if that’s what it was. It looked suspiciously like a mobile phone to me) were actually “settlers”. Not one of them was wearing a kippa or had tzitzit. To me they looked like the “activists”.

      “Israel is in grave danger of becoming a pariah state” – Israel is always, and has always been, a pariah state. This has nothing to do with anything that Israel does, and has everything to do with what Israel is – a homeland for the Jews. The operative word being “Jews” in case you didn’t realize. In fact Mahmoud Abbas openly declaring that the future state of Palestine will be completely Judenrein, whereas Israel will be obliged to take in Arab refugees. If this had to do with “settlers” why would Abbas object to Jews living as subjects in his country? It is pure antisemitism and until it is acknowledged as such, there will never be peace in the Middle East.

      As to American support, it has always been conditional and grudgingly given – even though it is hard to see what not supporting Israel has brought America under Obama except yet more America-hatred. Last week Obama warned strongly against voting for t a Palestinian state and spoke in support of Israel, and I can’t see that that has harmed his standing anywhere in the world. You’re just setting up a straw man argument here.

      Remember – nations don’t have “friends” or “pariahs”. They have interests. If the US can be “friends” with the likes of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the like, they can surely stretch themselves to ignore a few houses on a hilltop in Samaria.

      If you want to read more about your empty dire warnings about Israel’s “isolated” and pariah status, read my blog posts here and here.

      As to your last statement “You probably think you are doing God’s work. Unfortunately so does Hamas.” I take enormous exception to that. Do you really think I am as bad as Hamas? Do I shoot missiles at innocent civilians? Do Israeli settlers target Palestinian civilians and kill them? They do not despite all the propaganda you may find. Check facts not propaganda. And for your information I am not a settler, though since I live in Petach Tikva, near Tel Aviv, the Palestinians, who claim ALL of Israel, might dispute that.

  5. Andrea says:

    Dear Anne,
    By reading Charles and your highly evaluable comments,I would take the chance to express some personal , even if not definitive – since I admit I am not fully aware about Israel domestic political situation, point of views to possibly have some feedback from you and people reading this appreciated blog.

    I can not define my self a Ziyonist of course but I surely show my symphaty for jewish people living in Israel. I support of course Israel rihgt to exsist in peace within safe boundaries which I admit cannot be those of before June 1967.
    I am pretty conviced that Jerusalem was always a Jewish centre ( I think but not sure that there was a consistent Jewish majority in Jerusalem over the years of ottoman domination ) and Israel has the right to establish her capital in Jerusalem.
    I am incline to say that even some portion of what is called today West Bank can not be precluded to Jewish settlement, in principle ( but for reasons i would try to explain after I would recommend to limit to some specials circumstances i.e. to the setllements established before1948 and destroyed by Jordans after the independence war ).
    I am strongly convinced that Israel must be a secular democracy ( and this is not questioned by anyone if but some ultra orthodox I happen to meet on Internet ) and majority of people has the right to decide if it has to be a Jewish state.
    I am also convinced that if Israel has the right to be a jewish state this should be based on jewish nationality but not on judaism. Every citizen in fact has the right to choose his own religion irrespective of nationality . Implication of this is that religion should not be registered or alternatively Jews have the right to elect a non- religion status but keeping jewish nationality in the same time.
    In my view civil marriage should be allowed but many jewish friends warn me that this is almost impossible in a jewish state – i admit i have not well understood that.
    Christian and Muslims Israeli citizens with equal civil rights but possibility to be esempted from military service ( but right to be part of IDF ) and bilinguism in public documents.

    I apologize for this long and maybe obvious list but this allows me to clear any possible misunderstanding after saying the following point of view based on some notes taken from different readings on internet ( sources can be disclosed on demands).
    One of the chief cultural ambitions of the Zionist movement was to create a‘new man’ – an idea produced by historic encounter between the Jewish Diaspora and European culture and came into being only when the idea of a separate Jewish nationality was accepted and realized in Israel. This happened in a way characterized from its early days by a highly ambivalent approach to the middle east and Arab culture. I read in a blog that Theodor Herzl stated: “For Europe we will constitute a bulwark against Asia, serving as guardians of culture against barbarism.”
    Not the majority of Zyonist shared this advice but over the years this approach generated a position of western arrogance, an attitude of fear and suspicion, which also made the Jews see
    the east as a threat.”Since then, the east has been perceived as a political reality, a place of
    ‘otherness’, a sort of absence or gap, rather than as an object of identification emanating positive values”. Of course Jews are not entirely to be blamed for this in consideration of years of refusal from arabs, but a cultural paradigm originated by western sense of superiority did not help the new State of Israel in having acceptance from eastern nations. This western taylored culture was the origin of internal discrimination as well like the one exsisting between askhenazies and sephardims, for instance.
    It is this cultural approach based on western superiority that makes me suspicious about the settlers missions in Judea and Samaria. When the usual reason that “there was only desert here when we arrived ” claimed by settlers is reapeated even by a ( minority ) portion of Israeli inellighenzia this is the sign the Israel did not succeed in its crucial mission which was the building of a new society, different from the ones exsisting in Europe and in the same time fully integrated in the territory and in the culture of Middle east.
    This is one of the reason I would quite consider what Charles said about Israel image and World’s perception of Israeli like a western military power in a foreign context ( this was not said by Charles but it is mine ).
    My modest opinion is that cultural identity of Israel in relation with “the others” is the real problem which also explain why some Jews “on the left ” are so uncomfortable with right wing oriented portion of Israel and Jewish worls as a whole.

    I do apologize for so many words and my sometimes poor english and please consider some not well expressed thoughts as due by my lack of knowledge of this language. I do apologize if someone’s sensibility has been inadvertently offended

    • anneinpt says:

      Andrea, thank you for your lengthy comment. In the first part of your comment you claim you are not a Zionist, but by the very things you admit you support, you are a Zionist: supporting the rights of the Jews to live in Israel, accepting that Jerusalem was always a Jewish city and the only capital it ever served as was the capital of Israel in both ancient times and modern. (I hope you are not offended by my conclusion :-) )

      Regarding Israel being a Jewish state, you are 100% correct. So many people misunderstand but you have shown that you understand correctly (even if you think you don’t!). Judaism is both a nationality and a religion. Israelis today want the state of Israel to be recognized as a Jewish state, i.e. a state or homeland for the Jewish people, and its official religion is Judaism. That does not mean that other religions have no rights there. Of course they do! The Muslims have freedom of religion and can and do build mosques and pray there; they have their own religious courts and judges, as do the Christians, Bahai, and other denominations. But just as Italy and Ireland for example are officially Catholic countries, and the UK is Anglican, and Jordan and Egypt is Muslim, there is no reason why Israel cannot be Jewish. The Christian and Muslims are already Israeli citizens with equal civil rights with the possibility of being exempted from military service ( but right to be part of IDF ) and we already have bilinguism in public documents. None of that is going to change.

      I happen to agree with you about the need for civil marriage but that is a whole different story.

      In your comment you wrote:

      I read in a blog that Theodor Herzl stated: “For Europe we will constitute a bulwark against Asia, serving as guardians of culture against barbarism.”
      Not the majority of Zyonist shared this advice but over the years this approach generated a position of western arrogance, an attitude of fear and suspicion, which also made the Jews see the east as a threat.”Since then, the east has been perceived as a political reality, a place of ‘otherness’, a sort of absence or gap, rather than as an object of identification emanating positive values”. Of course Jews are not entirely to be blamed for this in consideration of years of refusal from arabs, but a cultural paradigm originated by western sense of superiority did not help the new State of Israel in having acceptance from eastern nations. This western taylored culture was the origin of internal discrimination as well like the one exsisting between askhenazies and sephardims, for instance.

      I think you are conflating and confusing two separate issues. Certainly one of Herzl’s premises was that Israel would form a “bulwark against Asia”. Remember, this was said at a time when the Ottoman Empire still ruled in this region. And possibly the early Jewish settlers in the 1900s saw the East as “other”. But one of the main aims of the “new Jew”, the Zionist pioneer, was to become part of the region, not a European outpost. The superior attitude of the Ashkenazim to the Sephardim was partly a Western superiority complex and partly an anti-religious “new Jew” syndrome. It has mostly disappeared in Israel today. There is so much intermarriage between the two communities, and even the liturgy of the prayer services has been standardized to a certain extent, that it is not a factor any more.

      It is this cultural approach based on western superiority that makes me suspicious about the settlers missions in Judea and Samaria. When the usual reason that “there was only desert here when we arrived ” claimed by settlers is reapeated even by a ( minority ) portion of Israeli intellighenzia this is the sign the Israel did not succeed in its crucial mission which was the building of a new society, different from the ones exsisting in Europe and in the same time fully integrated in the territory and in the culture of Middle east.

      I’m afraid I don’t agree with you here. The settlers don’t see their mission as bringing Western culture to the benighted East. They see their mission as settling and building in the Land of Israel, the ancient homeland of the Jews. Whether this is practical or wise is a different matter. When they claim that there was only desert here, they are literally correct. They are not denigrating the local culture and calling it desert. They are calling the empty land “desert” and that is what it was. It only began flourishing when the Israelis began settling there. Have a look at maps and old pictures and compare what used to be there to what is there now. It’s quite fascinating.

      My modest opinion is that cultural identity of Israel in relation with “the others” is the real problem which also explain why some Jews “on the left ” are so uncomfortable with right wing oriented portion of Israel and Jewish worls as a whole.

      Leftist Jews have a problem with rightist Jews and Israelis because they view settlers and even the centrist patriotic Israelis as imperialists and colonialists. They cannot accept that the Jews have a place in the Middle East and therefore anything that is done by Israel in self-defense or in building up the country is seen as intrinsically wrong. OK, I’m generalizing here, and also exaggerating (a bit) but that is the basic reality as I see it.

      I do apologize for so many words and my sometimes poor english and please consider some not well expressed thoughts as due by my lack of knowledge of this language. I do apologize if someone’s sensibility has been inadvertently offended

      Honestly Andrea, I welcome your comments because they are always interesting and challenge me to think and rethink my opinions. Your English is a million times better than my Italian too :-). As for length – I love to talk and discuss so you really don’t need to apologize. You haven’t offended me or anyone else – I can see that you are genuinely interested in my answers.

      I look forward to seeing you again!

    • cba says:

      Andrea, I’d just like to echo what Anne said. Your views are very interesting and expressed very respectfully. I hope you keep writing here!

  6. Charles Kremer says:

    Generally I agree with what Andrea said.
    I just want to respond as briefly as possible to Anne’s response to my comment. I did not say “I am a Zionist/Jew but”. I AM for a democratic national homeland for the Jews. You are in denial about the contents of the video.The settlers were not wearing tzitzit because Anatot is a “quality of life” not a religious settlement. Israel has NOT always been a pariah state and it has EVERYTHING to do with what Israel does. If you think American support has been “conditional and grudgingly given” you must have missed the 30+ standing ovations Netanyahu just received from the US Congress. If you don’t think an American veto of a Security Council resolution will hurt its standing in the muslim world (where over 250,000 American soldiers are currently involved in trying to win the local population’s hearts and minds) you are again in denial. I do NOT think you are “as bad as Hamas” – my observation speaks for itself. I never said you were a settler. I know very well where Petach Tikva is – I have visited it a number of times over the last 44 years. Thank you for providing a forum for discussion and for responding so promptly.

    • anneinpt says:

      Charles, I apologize if I impugned motives to you which were not there, and I take back my comments to you.

      I agree with you, as I said above, that the video makes for uncomfortable viewing. However, some Israeli thugs having a fight with protestors cannot devalue a whole political and national movement. There are very many videos from the other direction, of Arab thugs attacking, beating up and otherwise assaulting Israelis, whether “settlers” or otherwise. And I have yet to hear of Jewish settlers breaking into Arab villages and slitting throats of sleeping babies in their beds.

      Israel has become a pariah state because the leftist international chatterati have decided that Zionism is indeed racism, UN withdrawal of its infamous resolution notwithstanding. Anti-imperialism and anti-colonialism are the causes du jour with these chattering classes which fits in nicely with the anti-Zionist narrative. They have the ear of the international media and press and the lie spreads. The reason they find such a supportive audience is because, let’s face it, Jews have never been popular. And I deliberately use the word Jews and not “Israel” because there is a strong dose of antisemitism hiding behind modern anti-Zionism. Antisemitism has become unfashionable but anti-Zionism is tout la mode.

      Israel is doing nothing different today to what it has been doing for the last 70-odd years: building up the land of Israel and developing it. The territories captured, or should I say liberated – in 1967 are an irrelevancy when one takes into account the Palestinians stating that ALL of Israel is occupied territory. And this talk has been going on not since 1967 but since before 1948. The PLO itself was established to “liberate Palestine” back in 1964. What “Palestine” existed then if not the state of Israel itself?

      Places like Gush Etzion were inhabited by Jews up till 1948. So was Gaza believe it or not. Kfar Darom was legally purchased by Jews before 1948. So if it was legal for Jews to be living there until 1948, and the Arabs invaded and took it by force in 1948, why are they suddenly illegal after 1967 when Israel took them back?

      American support has been “conditional and grudgingly given” over the years. Israel never received any material support at all until after 1967 when the Americans realized the value of Israel as a bulwark against the Soviet supported Arab Middle East. In the Yom Kippur war of 1973, whose anniversary was marked today, Secretary of State Kissinger said “let them bleed a little” and brought Israel almost to the brink of destruction before he deigned to send more armaments to resupply Israel after it was invaded by Egypt and Syria. President Bush I withheld loan guarantees from Israel to punish it for its settlement policy. President Clinton openly interfered in Israel’s electoral process, bringing down Netanyahu and bringing in the useless Barak. And I won’t even mention the openly anti-Israel Carter.

      This is not to denigrate the overwhelming support that Israel receives from American citizens, but I am talking about the various White House administrations.

      If Netanyahu received 30+ standing ovations Netanyahu from the US Congress it just shows that he is a lot more popular there than in the White House or State Dept. It does not prove that the American Administration unflinchingly supports Israel.

      I’m not sure if an American veto of a Security Council resolution will hurt its standing in the Muslim world – certainly Barack Obama’s grovelling speech to Muslims worldwide after his inauguration did nothing to raise America’s standing. In fact it is davka when America stands firm against the Muslims – or against any dictators and totalitarian societies – that its popularity rises. It’s not a popularity contest. It’s politics. A country and its leader need to be respected, not loved. Love is nice but respect is better. And again – have you stopped to consider WHY Obama threatened to issue that veto? (it hasn’t been used yet. The Palestinians are still haggling and the matter has been kicked into committee for the moment).

      You claim that Israel’s actions might cost it America’s support. I suppose that is a consideration for the Israeli voter, and while I understand that you and other Israeli-supporters are frustrated about this, that’s what democracy is all about. Israelis should be given the same right at their ballot box as Americans are at theirs.

      There’s also a matter of mutual respect here. You are asking Israel to consider America’s standing in the Muslim world. But Israel is a lot closer to the Muslim world. In fact we are right inside it – and America’s actions rebound on us a lot more directly than Israel’s actions do on America. When America sells arms to Saudi Arabia or Egypt or even Turkey to placate them for some perceived slight (even for support for Israel) who do you think those arms are going to be turned against (after their own civilians of course)?

      Israel’s supporters need to give us some credit for having some kind of an idea what is good for us, not just for the USA. Please stop trying to save us from ourselves and accept that we probably know what’s good for us better than others do.

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