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 email@example.com.
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.