Tag Archives: London Philharmonic Orchestra

Zionists lash out as boycott profile rises

September was a lively month for boycott campaigners, and also for pro-Israel propagandists up their usual tricks of trying to keep Palestine off the agenda.

Israel Philharmonic conductor Zubin Mehta (Picture: JC)

Our campaign against the BBC’s decision to invite the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra to perform a Promenade concert at the Royal Albert Hall continues to make waves.

The protest by 30 campaigners inside the hall during the concert provoked far too much much media interest to itemise in detail here.  Classical Music magazine gave us fair coverage, and having taken part in the protest, J-BIG secretary Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi was given a generous chunk of airtime on Radio 4’s Any Answersprogramme on Sept 10.

The suspension of four musicians from the London Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO) for putting their names to a letter objecting in advance to the IPO Prom has raised a perfect storm of outrage, taking the issue to a far wider audience than usual.

None of the four players, two of whom are Jewish, played any role in the concert disruption.

Facebook users can now show their support for the LPO4 and it’s not too late to write to the orchestra’s CEO Tim Walker, c.c. chairman Martin Hohmann, at tim.walker@lpo.org.uk.

Guardian music commentators Tom Service and Charlotte Higgins ridiculed the LPO’s assertion that “music and politics don’t mix”.

A letter to the Daily Telegraph was signed by 117 prominent cultural figures appalled at the LPO action. “Why should it be so dangerous for artists to speak out on the issue of Israel/Palestine?” they asked.

The Telegraph’s own story about the matter hinted at the answer, quoting LPO chief executive Tim Walker: “This all became an issue when we started to receive emails and letters from supporters, a lot of whom are Jewish and felt that the players were taking an anti-Jewish position. Some said they weren’t going to come to the concerts or give us any money.”

Interestingly this paragraph, which appears in the Telegraph online, was omitted from the printed edition.

Mysterious things also happened when Ben White, a writer specialising in Israel-Palestine, wrote about the LPO4 in his New Statesman blog (see also the previous post here). The Jewish Chronicle suggested all sorts of sinister shenanigans when it noticed that a line had disappeared from White’s piece querying the reasons behind the LPO’s disciplinary action.

This raises some serious and sensitive questions. How do we, as anti-racists campaigning against Zionism and its apartheid-style treatment of Palestinians, deal with the fact that many Jews put loyalty to Israel above principles such as human rights and freedom of speech? To pretend that this is not the case risks playing into the hands of those who see Jewish conspiracies at work everywhere – the flipside of the coin from those who see antisemitic conspiracies everywhere.

The best policy must be to come clean – Jews who have bought into the Zionist ideology can be guilty of some shameful behaviour. But they are not alone in that.

Michael Gove (front) with Lord Janner of the United Jewish Israel Appeal (Picture: JC)

Pro-Israel censorship reared its head in a different setting when the proud-to-be-Zionist (but Christian) Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove (above), acting at the behest of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, forced schools in the north London boroughs of Islington and Haringey to pull out of a children’s writing competition because the organisers included members of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Islington MP Jeremy Corbyn and former children’s laureate Michael Rosen, who was to have judged the children’s competition, are both protesting about Gove’s intervention and the local authority’s connivance.

Jewish News published their take on the story while the Jewish Chronicle was actively involved in spreading allegations of Holocaust denial and antisemitism.

See below for a statement from HARINGEY JUSTICE FOR PALESTINIANS who organised the Tottenham Palestinian Literary Festival and will be campaigning to call to account Gove and the others responsible for wrecking the festival schools programme.

22nd September, 2011
HUMAN RIGHTS TOO MUCH FOR SOME
Two weeks ago the first ever Tottenham Palestine Literature Festival could boast a superb line up of acclaimed writers, poets and performers, set to run writing workshops schools in Islington and Haringey and encourage students to enter a writing competition about human rights for children. The competition was to be judged by ex-children’s laureate Michael Rosen and Anna Perera, author of ‘Guantano Boy’. All the celebrated authors, poets, story tellers and actors were happy to waive their fees.
Thanks to a malicious campaign of slurs and intimidation from the Jewish Chronicle, some of the workshops had to be cancelled; the writing competition has been wrecked; and children have been denied the chance to write their stories.  Rather than learning about human rights, developing empathy and reflection they got a lesson in censorship and the power of intimidation.
A journalist from the Jewish Chronicle attacked the festival as anti-semitic and sought to intimidate the schools involved through the Departments of Children and Families in both Haringey and Islington. There was no serious attempt by Education leaders to contact the organisers and find out more about the aims and content of workshops. Weeks of careful preparation and discussion with the schools were ignored. The paper raised  ‘serious concerns’ about some of the participants in the festival, many of whom are of Jewish origin, but what these concerns actually are has still not been specified. Instead, Heads and Chairs of Governors were put under intense pressure to cancel workshops, with Islington even threatening one school with legal action.
Several schools courageously resisted this bullying and were richly rewarded. One teacher contacted this week said, ‘The children  were hugely stimulated by Anna Parera’s workshop and have not stopped talking about it ever since – and it’s over a week ago.’
One of the festival organisers continued,
‘ This has been a gross attack on education in both Haringey and Islington by a powerful lobby.  It makes us wonder not only what exactly is the Jewish Chronicle so afraid of, but also why institutions committed to children’s education in a democratic society  fail to show courage to tackle difficult issues and stand up to them, instead of falling back on lazy censorship.’
Reem Kilani  a leading  Middle Eastern and internationally recognised singer  is seeking an apology, Michael Rosen will be making a statement shortly and we have had many messages of support.
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Musicians suspended over Israel Proms row

New Statesman 15 ‎September ‎2011

By Ben White

The London Philharmonic Orchestra management has some serious questions to answer.

The London Philharmonic Orchestra has suspended four of its musicians for up to nine months for putting their names to a letter, published in the Independent, that called for the BBC to cancel a concert by the Israel Philharmonic.

For expressing support for the Palestinian boycott call, these individuals have received what has been called “the most severe penalty inflicted on London orchestral musicians in memory”.

Plenty of people have been disturbed by the LPO management’s response, including those who disagree with the views expressed by the four musicians. Classical music journalist Gavin Dixon, for example, has written that “the efforts by the LPO management to distance themselves from the views of these players has clearly been an over-reaction”.

Norman Geras, someone who thinks that boycotting Israel is “contemptible”, has written of his concern about “whether a nine-month suspension from one’s job for writing a letter to a newspaper isn’t rather excessive”. Geras also raises the legitimate questions about LPO internal disciplinary policy, and asks:

“Why should members of an orchestra not be free to signal their professional affiliation when publicly expressing their views? Academics do it as a matter of course, and no one assumes that the University of Edinburgh, or Oxford, or Birmingham, or wherever, is implicated in the views that their members have publicly espoused.”

There are many unanswered questions here.

First: the letter appeared in the Independent on 30 August. On 2 September, in what seems like the first official public response to enquiries, LPO chief executive Timothy Walker told the Jerusalem Post:

“The views expressed by four members of the LPO concerning the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and the Proms are the views of the individuals and not the company.”

A reasonable (and rather obvious) clarification statement – but no indication that the musicians were liable to face internal disciplinary action, let alone the severity of a 9-month suspension. What happened between 2 September and the decision to mete out the punishment?

Second: On 8 September, the Jewish Chronicle reported that an LPO violinist had been suspended for launching “an anti-Israel tirade at a question and answer session”. The article said that “LPO chief executive Timothy Walker confirmed she had been suspended indefinitely” and that “the LPO board will decide on what disciplinary action to take”. But the recent confirmation of four suspensions by LPO is reported as because of signing the letter — not for “an anti-Israel tirade”. Which is it?

Third: On announcing the suspension, the official LPO management statement said “the board’s decision in this matter will send a strong and clear message”. This indicates that the severity of the punishment is motivated by deterrence, rather than being an appropriate response guided by established practice or policy.

Finally, it was Gavin Dixon who pointedly noted that the LPO is “obviously trying to appease somebody. It would be indiscreet to speculate as to who and why”.

www.newstatesman.com – Musicians suspended over Israel Proms row

What you can do:

Write a politely worded post on the LPO Facebook page expressing your opposition to the decision to suspend four musicians for signing a letter supporting justice, human rights and the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions. Thank you!