mon 15/07/2024

BBC Proms: Shaham, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Mehta | reviews, news & interviews

BBC Proms: Shaham, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Mehta

BBC Proms: Shaham, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Mehta

A bad day for civilised society as protesters invade Prom

Zubin Mehta, Gil Shaham and non-protesting members of the Proms audience© Chris Christodoulou

Police. Placards. Protests. And bag checks. It meant only one thing. Jews were performing at the Proms. Here we were in the Royal Albert Hall in London in 2011 witnessing a stage of musicians being barracked and abused for having the gall to be Jewish. Last year, four more Jewish musicians, the Jerusalem Quartet, had the cheek to perform and broadcast a recital at the Wigmore Hall. They were again heckled and hounded off air.

No, not a portrait of Europe in the early 20th century, but Britain in the 21st. I wonder. In a few years, will Jews be able to make music publicly in Britain at all?

If it wasn't all so depressingly shameful, it might have been amusing, such was the pathetic absurdity of the protests. The evening certainly started with comedy. A small bedraggled bunch of Palestinian protesters (all white, middle class and bearded of course) were scowling by a side entrance of the Royal Albert Hall. Opposite them an Irish Zionist, sporting the tricolour of Eire and the star of David, was goading them with an Irish jig. That was where the whole farce that is the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign's (PSC) boycott of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra should have remained: in the realms of risibility.

But it didn't stop there. A few minutes into a fuzzily luxuriant performance (even the triangle was being vibbed) of Webern's Passacaglia, Op 1, a bunch of protesters in the choir stands got to their feet and began to barrack. To the strains of Beethoven's Ode to Joy, they sang their anti-Israeli chants. I imagine a few of the audience and orchestral members would have been familiar with this sort of public abuse, from when they were children in mainland Europe.

shahamThey made it difficult to concentrate on the Webern, though Mehta made sure some of their fortissimos sliced through the taunts. They returned to dog the start of the Bruch Violin Concerto in G minor. Zubin Mehta, the Israel Philharmonic and Gil Shaham (pictured right) stood still, silent and calm, while the ushers and security swept out the protest. Amid this maelstrom, Mehta and Shaham, their patience wearing thin, tore into the opening bars. The work achieved a level of meaning and fury that no one will ever witness the like of again.

But while it was all sparks and springs in the outer movements, in the slow, both soloist and orchestra bowed to the softest, gentlest, most tender sound imaginable, as if they were reaching down to plant a kiss on a baby's crown. Not even the Neanderthals dared break this spell. Nor dared they interrupt Shaham's elegantly sculpted performance of the Preludio from Bach's Third Partita.

The BBC had by now switched off their live Radio 3 broadcast after the audience began barracking the barrackers at the beginning of the Bruch. It was understandable - no point giving the protesters publicity - but disappointing, considering that, if the listeners had been given an opportunity to hear the whole Prom, they would have heard the Prommers shouting down the protests, and the Israeli Phil ploughing on valiantly through their programme, to repeated standing ovations. That is, they would have heard us win.

Two whiskery old men started to hound the orchestra from a box, while a lady next door hooked one of their necks with her walking stick

Was it because of the feeling that the BBC had deserted him and his orchestra that Mehta and his musicians came out on stage looking deflated? The continued protests must have demoralised them. It did me. They never quite recovered the responsive vim of the first half. There was another moment of comedy among the PSC disrupters - before the depressingly repetitive boredom of it all set in - as two whiskery old men started to hound the orchestra from a box and a lady next door hooked one of their necks with her walking stick.

In these circumstances, who can blame the orchestra for not delivering the top form that they are capable of? Albeniz's Iberia was neither brawny nor colourful enough to make headway in this hall. And though Rimsky-Korsakov's Capriccio Espagnol had its moments, particularly when the melody was lobbed from strings to winds, leaving the violins and percussion underwater-pedalling virtuosically, the lack of synchronisation between the sections meant there was no chance of anyone generating any threatening Spanish heat.

There was no bite either in the encore, the Death of Tybalt scene from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet. The wind had been taken out of their sails. The strength it took to sit silently and wait out the taunts was a big enough battle won. They had no fight left in them. Still, we cheered them to the rafters. They were guests in our country. And they had been rudely abused. It was the least we could do.

For some, something else had also been violated last night: the freedom of artistic expression. With qualifications, I am with them. I am not one of these people who thinks politics is above art. If people insist art and artists have the power to change lives for the better (and, boy, do music marketing people, with one eye on dwindling funds, keep insisting on this), they must also admit that they have the ability to change lives for the worse. Art, artists and musicians are, therefore, not sacrosanct. Break the law, rape a girl (yes, that's you I'm talking about, Polanski) and you should not be given a free ride simply because you are endowed with creative talent.

One thing, we do know: the Israel Phil won't be coming back to these shores in a hurry. And that's where things start becoming very troubling

Cultural boycotts have their place. One cannot have anything but sympathy with the Holocaust survivors who set up pickets outside concert halls in 1950s America, demonstrating against the visit of Herbert von Karajan, a man who had joined the Nazi party not once, but twice. I bow to the rights of the PSC to protest peacefully outside the Royal Albert Hall. I bow to their right to try to convince us that the Israeli Phil is evil. Of course, one could legitimately ask, why, if they felt so keenly about human rights and democracy, they have never protested to the frequent visits by the Venezuelan Youth Orchestra, who perform clothed in the symbols of an authoritarian state, or the East-Western Divan, whose Arab members proudly represent some of the most vile dictatorships on earth.

But that's by the by. They had a right to stand outside and propagate their views. And they were granted that right. But then they went beyond this right. They imposed their protest on us to the extent that we were restricted in our freedom to do what we wanted. This is exactly the form of authoritarianism that the PSC claim to be attempting to end.

What do we do now? What can we do now? The protesters have all now walked free to hound some more Jews. The recorded concert - what's left of it - will be salvaged and aired next week. One thing we do know: the Israel Phil won't be coming back to these shores in a hurry. And that's where things become troubling. When we get into a position where programmers and arts organisations are forced to think twice about giving a platform to certain nationalities and races lest they incur the wrath of hooligans, we are in real danger of no longer being able to call ourselves civilised. The protesters didn't win last night. But they certainly did raise the stakes.

The protesters didn't win last night. But they certainly did raise the stakes

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"I wonder. In a few years, will Jews be able to make music publically in Britain at all?" This ciomment, visible on the homepage, got me ready to launch a long diatribe, but fortunately the rest of the review is much more balanced and thoughtful. Many Jews perform at the Proms, whether as anonymous members of orchestras or as conductors and soloists and I do not imagine the Gil Shaham would have been heckled if he had been appearing with another orchestra. This was not about musicians being Jews per se, but about them being part of Israel's major cultural institution, which is closely identified with supporting the Israeli army and therefore with the policies of the Istraeli government. How different is this situation from the boycott of South African sports teams and their subsequent suspension in the 1970s and 1980s? Keeping politics out of sport or music is a noble, lofty ideal, but is doomed to failure if the other side sees our presence in their country or an invitation for sportspeople or musicians to visit our country as a vindication of their policies. And it is undeniable that the sports boycott played a part in the collapse of apartheid, so if a boycott of the IPO had a similar effect, would that be a bad thing? The point about the Simon Bolivar orchestra and the East-Western Divan Orchestra is valid, but two wrongs never make a right. also, it may be coinccidental that the above orchestras are ones which stand for something above the music itself, the value of music education even in very communities and Arab-Israeli peace respectively.

Demonstrating against ISRAELI involvement in the BBC Proms is not the same as demonstrating against JEWISH involvement in the proms. The cultural boycott against ISRAELI involvement in the BBC Proms is a valid boycott, Israelis cannot be able to act and interact normally with the International community, whilst denying the right of an entire people to exist

A few unanswered questions: what have the IPO and Mehta done that begins to compare with Barenboim and the East-Western Divaners in addressing the Palestinian problem? Afraid I agree too that there are valid issues being raised by the demonstrators here, though maybe there are other ways of going about it. Musical ambassadors are NOT above the ethical problems involved.

As Chris comments above, the protest is against the Israeli government, not the Jewish race. Igor T-L's ignorance, which he demonstrates throughout this piece, is proof of the necessity of protest. Perhaps someone at the Arts Desk could explain a few simple facts to him.

The IPO is no more a " closely identified supporter" of the Israeli army than the LPO is a "closely identified supporter" of the British Army. Yes, Israel has a conscript army, but its soldiers are made up of people of all political views who in Israel are free to express their views in democratic society, as are the Arab citizens of Israel, without the need to disrupt cultural events. As we have all seen recently, the same "luxury" of freedom of expression is not afforded to Arabs in the surrounding countries. The vast majority of the audience last night, myself included, paid hard earned money to listen to a concert which was interrupted by cultural vandals who were freely able to express their views OUTSIDE the venue without robbing us of our pleasure inside.

A pity that this article perpetuates the erroneous assertion about Karajan's membership of the Nazi party. The facts of the matter have long been in the public domain thanks to exhaustive research by Gisela Tamsen among others. Her findings are most readily available in Richard Osborne's biography of Karajan. The facts may be boringly bureaucratic but they are nonetheless facts rather than glib opinion.

Two points, Igor. You said: "One thing, we do know: the Israel Phil won't be coming back to these shores in a hurry." Well, had the Israel Philarmonica come out in support of the protesters, and declared themselves on their side, they would not only be welcome back, they would also have demonstrated that they are aware of the power of the artist and are willing to use it. Instead, silence. Like most other Israeli artists keeping quiet on this issue, their silence can only be seen as complicity. That's why artistic boycotts are so effective. You also seem to have trouble differentiating between Jewish and Israeli. As you are no fool, I am sure you're perfectly aware of the difference so your (repeated) accusations of anti-semitism to anti-Israeli protesters are offensive, cheap and beneath you. I hope you will edit this article to reflect your true beliefs, or otherwise readers will draw their own conclusions on your stance on this.

How comically 100 per cent wrong you could be, Dominic. I have Osborne's book right here. Page 742: "Karajan, 27, joined the Nazi party [NSDAP] in Aachen in April 1935 in response to a formal request from the head of Aachen's NS-controlled municipal authority under whose aegis musical life of the city was organised." Karajan also attempted to join two years earlier in Salzburg. Party activist Herbert "Klein received a joining fee of five Austrian Schillings from Karajan enabling Klein to prepare the paperwork for provisional membership."

The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra is intensely politically active, so their performances are a legitimate target for protest. They call themselves 'ambassadors of the Israeli State'. The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra has also declared itself to be in 'partnership' with the IDF. They claim they originate from a group who played in the Nazi Death Camps, called The Palestinian Orchestra, which is fine, yet the Palestinian name is being systematically eradicated by Israeli cultural and military colonialism. The IPO happily recruits from Eastern Europe & Russia, but has NOT ONE Palestinian member. And believe me, Palestinians do have the talent for this. The IPO has a stated expectation that they will begin actively considering Palestinian members in 5 to 8 yrs. Presumably only if Palestine has effectively rolled over and died. The IPO are very politically active. They should be made to feel as welcome as the Berlin Philharmonic would have been in 1940.

Read on Igor... or, better still, quote the entire appendix about the membership in Osborne's 'Conversations with Karajan' (OUP) and allow readers to draw their own conclusions rather than your selective, misleading quotations. Let the full facts speak for themselves.

“When people criticize Zionists they mean Jews, you are talking anti-Semitism.”

Before yesterday evening, I had no allegiance with either side in the geopolitcial dispute between Israel and Palestine. However, I do have an interest in music and I chose to (try to) listen to last night's Prom to hear the music on offer. Seeing as the (Palestinian) demonstrators in the Albert Hall prevented me enjoying the concert, I may have to take a less neutral stance to the geopolitical dispute in future. But I can assure you, I will not be supporting the Palestinians.

Your error Igor is about the facts of Karajan's apparent multiple membership of the party not whether he was ever a member, which is indisputably the case.

"The Palestinian Orchestra, which is fine, yet the Palestinian name is being systematically eradicated by Israeli cultural and military colonialism." Such ignorance and disingenuity - the only people who called themselves Palestinian before the creation of the modern State of Israel were Jews. Hence the Palestine Post now the Jerusalem Post, the Joint Palestine Appeal now the Joint Israel Appeal and the Anglo Palestine Bank now Bank Leumi to name but a few. The Arabs only started calling themselves Palestinian when Arafat in collusion with Nasser set up the PLO in 1964 hence no mention of a Palestinian Nation or People before 1964 in any UN Resolution which bearing in mind what are now called "Palestinian Inalienable Rights" one would have thought would have been mentioned somewhere.

@ andrewthompson: So, you never managed to make up your mind about one of the most horrible conflicts of the past and current century, despite the injustices perpetrated, the thousands of men, women and children that died and the many more thousands who lost their land and their homes, and the wider geopolitical consequences for the region. But now your comfy, middle-class entertainment is disrupted, you have decided you stand against the Palestinian cause. With that kind of political insight and understanding of the world, I'm sure the Palestinians will be grateful not to have your support!

Well Irene C, I can only assume you are a Palestinian sympathesiser, and probably also have a chip on your shoulder about your position in the class system in the Western world. Also I think you'll find I 'not having any allegiance to either side' is not actually the same thing as 'not managing to make up my mind.' Since I am neither Palestinian nor Israeli I didn't think it was my place to take sides intervene in a dispute which did not directly affect me. Unfortunately, we can't all be experts in the subject (like you obviously are.... or, more likely, are not!).

The fact that you are not Palestinian or Israeli should have not precluded you from taking a stance on such an important political and moral issue. But what's even more telling is that you could only be shaken out of your political torpor and intellectual lethargy by a small and pretty mild protest at a musical performance speaks volumes. Decades of people dying and unspeakable atrocities couldn't get you off that fence, but your favourite pastime being briefly disrupted did. "First they came for the communists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me" As I said, andrewthompson, both the Palestinians and the Israeli would be grateful not to have the support of someone as shallow-minded as you. Thankfully, we're not all as selfish and inward-looking as some.

For those of you complaining about Jewish vs Israeli, think of it this way: Do you think if an orchestra of Israeli Arabs from Haifa came to play in Britain the same thing would have happened? That's what I thought

It's too bad the Syrian National Symphony doesn't seem to travel much these days because it would quite a sight to see how the Israel-haters would treat that orchestra which acts as Syria's cultural ambassador.

What a ridiculous comment, Zach. It's precisely the fact that there are no Israeli Arabs in the IPO, and the segregation this proves, that is what the protesters are trying to highlight. On the other hand, there are plenty of Jewish artists from America, Eastern Europe, the UK, etc. touring the world with their music/art exhibitions/book tours and none of these have ever been disrupted. I wonder why?

Shawn, how do you know there are no Israeli-Arabs in the IPO? I think that there probably are. There are plenty of specifically joint projects around, both musical and otherwise (e.g. hand in hand schools) and most things are open to all citizens, be they Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Druze or anything else. There is not as much segregation in Israel as everyone in this country seems to believe.

Zach It's not the fact that the IPO is from Israel, it's the fact that they are closely connected with the policies of the Israeli government. I don't imagine that that would be the case with an Israeli-Arab orchestra. Again, no-one will object to Israeli musicians or groups, provided that they have not publicly supported these policies of the Israeli government and, if they have remained silent, it is best to give them the benefit of any doubt. Medea I'm sure that a protest would be organised protesting at the Syrian regime, if a Syrian orchestra came to the UK. Nic Go to the IPO website, or look in last night's programme. It should be fairly easy to distinguish between a Jewish and an Arab name. Please let us know if you find any of the latter.

Shawn, it’s not always that easy to tell which names are Jewish, Arab or from any other culture for that matter. I’ve looked at the IPO website and some names look as if they possibly could be Arab, but I wouldn’t like to speculate. Even if there are no Arab members in the orchestra, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the orchestra is not open to to them, just perhaps that not many auditioned or that if they did, they weren’t musically the best candidates.

Irene C wrote: "one of the most horrible conflicts of the past and current century"... Wow! Such ignorance is not something you see every day. In all the conflicts of the current and previous centuries, this is one of the smallest one, with a tiny fraction in term of victims - from both sides. Read, for real numbers and facts -

When someone accuses you of ignorance if they simply don't agree with you, that's a sure sign they are losing the argument. So in that, I'm heartened. However, I won't let Guy's comment go unchallenged because it is offensive, as well as wrong.T The horror of a conflict is not merely measured in terms of number of casualties. Maybe not as many people have died in the IP conflict as in WW1, but consider the nature of these deaths. Consider the high ratio of civilians, consider how many were helpless women and children not remotely involved in any fighting. Consider how long this conflict has gone on for, unresolved. Decades upon decades of misery for everyone involved - but mainly, of course, the Palestinians. Consider how many people have lost their homes and been displaced from the land of their fathers and ancestors, and are now living in a virtual prison, in what amounts to the ethnic cleansing of an entire nation. Consider the wider geopolitical consequences this conflict has had and continues to have in the region and in the rest of the world, being one of the main reasons of global terrorism. Finally, consider the role the rest of the world has taken in this, how we refuse to intervene, how we are all complicit in letting this go on for so long. I stand by my previous comment: the Israel Palestine conflict is one of the most disgraceful, horrific, appalling conflicts of the 20th and 21st century.

Irene, basic facts seem to allude. Whilst one death is to many, let's place death in context of conflict shall we. Number of Palestinian Arabs killed by non-Israelis since 1900 - 32000 Number of Arabs killed by other Arabs in the Arab Spring in 2011 - 24000 Number of Palestinian Arabs killed by Israel or Zionists since 1900 - 16000 By the way, did you also object when Syrian artists Hannan Hassan, Omar Abu Saasa and Osama Hilal, participated in the Edinburgh Festival for the British Contemporary Arts which was held between August 22nd and 28th. After all the Syrian regime has killed far more of it's citizens in the past six months than were killed in the Gaza war a few years back. Or is it only Jews you boycott. Just asking.

Please, David, have the decency to drop this obscene body-count game and just admit that the Israelis have been guilty of major human rights violations, as indeed have some of the Palestinian factions, in the longest-term ongoing mess, and the touchiest tinderbox, in the world today. And could we have some facts, please? What ARE the numbers of Israeli Arabs in the Israel Philharmonic (speculation is no use)? What IS the extent of the orchestra's status as mouthpiece of a state that constantly breaches international law in its landgrabs and denies Palestinians equal rights? And, above all, the musical question: how does the IPO stand among orchestras - a question Igor did at least try to answer on the evidence of Thursday's performance?

But the point is, David N, why does the Israel Philharmonic have to justify its relationship vis-a-vis the state, while the Venezuelan Youth Orchestra and the Mariinsky Theatre and Lang Lang (all of whom are appearing at the Proms) don't? All these musicians and ensembles have close links to regimes that are far less appealing than Israel - states that aren't democracies, don't have a free press, freedom of expression etc. It's this singling out of Israel over dozens of other countries with far worse human rights records that forces many of us to feel that the protests are not about human rights at all but are about anti-Semitism. How else could anyone explain the absurdly disproportionate focus on Israel? (And this is where the body count figures become all too pertinent). This is why I feel no need to apologise to those who feel I should make a distinction between race and nationality.

David N, it's easy to throw out simple terms like human rights violations and in breach of international law et all. But the bottom line s that these are just terms that have been used and abused by Israel haters like Irene have sprouted unchallenged. As for the IPO, I don't have the stats yor require, I'm sure you can find them yourself, but bottom line is my evening ruined by a bunch of anti-Semites the other night, and let's not kid ourselves that's what they were, for these so called activist remain silent when the Syrian regime shells Palestinian camps and only vent their vile against Israel.

Irene C, like many other "Pro-Palestine" supporters (read "anti-Israel), claims that Israel is guilty, without evidence or trial, of crimes against humanity and all manner of barbarism. For example she states, "Consider the high ratio of civilians, consider how many were helpless women and children not remotely involved in any fighting. " Well Irene, consider these real figures and ratios, please. The New York Times tucked a remarkable statistic into the tail-end of an article on WikiLeaks’s latest document dump, one with ramifications for the ongoing delegitimization campaign against Israel: for most of the last century, the normal civilian-to-combatant wartime fatality ratio has been 10:1. Civilians have borne the brunt of modern warfare, with 10 civilians dying for every soldier in wars fought since the mid-20th century, compared with 9 soldiers killed for every civilian in World War I, according to a 2001 study by the International Committee of the Red Cross. This elicits an obvious question: if civilians routinely account for 90 percent of all casualties in modern warfare, why is the world up in arms about the civilian casualty rate in last year’s Israel-Hamas war in Gaza — which, by even the most anti-Israel account, was markedly lower? Indeed, by the count that my team and I came up with of Gaza war casualties, nearly one half of the dead were either terrorists or members of the Hamas police which is effectively a paramilitary force, or (often) both. (The IDF claims closer to two-thirds killed were militants. The discrepancy is mostly in counting how many were killed in the war altogether.) By way of contrast, the latest numbers from Iraq indicate a 2-1 civilian to militant casualty ratio - at least double Israel's rate. Do please also see here for a fairly comprehensive list of named "civilians" killed in Operation Cast Lead: And please Irene, do stop simply repeating propaganda and look at the facts.

'My evening ruined by a bunch of anti-Semites' - that goes too far, Igor, as IMO does your basic tenet. The protest should have made through leaflets and peaceful lobbying outside, not disrupted the concert (a good creative example they might have followed was that of the anti-BP folk who put on their witty allegorical Swan Lake ballet before the Trafalgar Square screenings but told the audience to go ahead and enjoy the evening with awareness of the background). But you are objectively wrong to call them anti-Semites in the face of all the facts. And facts are all I'm trying to establish here. No-one has really clarified the IPO's position. It matters to me how implicated they are as ambassadors of the state or not. It could well be that the protests were against a wrong target. So, a bit of clarity in all this mudslinging, please, and back to the music. Which is not all that matters, but it should have been more central than it's become.

Amendment: the comment about 'my evening ruined by a bunch of anti-Semites' came from David, not Igor in his reply. But the stance is still there in his piece. Repeat: the attacks, right or wrong, were against Israelis, not Jews).

Well, if they're not anti-Semites, David N, I look forward to seeing them at the Last Night remonstrating against Lang Lang's presumably equally problematic appearance. LL is after all the Vice-President of the state-run Chinese Youth Federation (and, of course, officially the world's most annoying pianist but that's probably beside the point).

Such a non-argument. There are no doubt people who will want to protest against that, but this is the issue that concerns these people. Right or wrong, they're not expected to be Campaigners for Injustice Around the World. And they haven't chosen this cause because they hate Jews - that's what I find really offensive about these assertions, that you imply they've nothing to protest about, however it relates (or not) to the musical issue at hand And, yes, you can be sure that if a governmentally sponsored Syrian group were performing anywhere, there would be protests against that too. As there were against Gergiev when he backed Putin against Georgia and went so flagrantly far as to play the first movement of the Shostakovich Leningrad in a memorial concert for Ossetians. As there were against the USSR State Symphony Orchestra and Svetlanov at the time of the invasion of Czechoslovakia. And so on. It is the feeblest argument to say that Israel is the sole scapegoat of the world when it behaves atrociously. None of which answers the muddy question of what involvement, if any, the IPO actually has in all this. I remember banging my head against a brick wall trying to establish the facts about the Jerusalem Quartet when the same thing happened to them at the Wigmore. Worst of all, I agree with Irene, is the Prommer who made his mind up against the Palestinians on the strength of what a few protesters did to disrupt his music. That's far worse than any more impassioned pros and cons being discussed here.

David N, your point about peaceful protests I agree with. My question to you though is this, do we hold the RPO to the same standards as you are demanding from the IPO? If your answer is yes, then fair enough, if the answer is no, why not? When ever Israeli groups come over to this country they are being forced to take a stand on their governments actions - do we demand the same of other groups today?

Unfortunately David N, you are too charitable to the PSC and their ilk. You barely have to scratch the surface of their rhetoric to find the ubiquitous belief that all Jews are responsible for Israel's actions, excuse-making and support for the most vile rhetoric of Ahmadinejad and chums, and even holocaust denial and worse. Of course there are some well-meaning people with genuinely egalitarian views among their number, but they do not define the "anti-Zionist" movement, sadly; a genuine prejudice against Jewish people does.

What chance for peace when either 'side' is totally distrustful of the other's motives? Whatever you think of this organisation, protesters against the outrageous grabbing of Palestinian land, the abuse of peace flotillas etc - may they find other ways to make their point - have a point. Anti-semitism, underground though it often is, doesn't begin to figure here; the more Israelis who join the protests, the better. And Hamas are no angels. I'm more pessimistic than ever that Armageddon in Jerusalem can be averted. The comparison between Israeli and UK governments doesn't even begin to hold water, of course.

The review misses the point totally. The IPO is a state body of the Israeli state. It plays to Israeli soldiers camped illegally in Palestine. The BBC should never have invited it here. Let's hope it never comes back until the Palestinians have justice.

Here we go again. Ok. For the last time, in simple language... Lang Lang is a Chinese state official (a Vice-President of the state-run Chinese Youth Federation). The Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra play wearing the flag of the Chavez regime. Were the BBC wrong in inviting them to the Proms, Peter H?

My dear Igor, I totally fail to see what Lang Lang and the Simon Bolivar Orchestra have to do with the case. We are not discussing the merits or demerits of the PRC or of Mr Chavez' government. I am not aware that Mr Lang plays the piano to accompany Chinese troops on the rampage; Dudamel and his orchestra do not give concerts for Venezuelan torturers either. The point you avoid (and understandably so) is that the IPO give concerts for Israeli troops in illegally occupied Palestine. They therefore make themselves legitimate targets for political protest since they align themselves with oppression. One further point is that your review INTENTIONALLY confuses anti-Zionist/Israeli protest with anti-semitism. The protests were in no way anti-Jewish - there were many other concerts featuring Jewish artists which were not targeted, indeed many of the musicians in all Britain's orchestras are Jewish. Anti-Israeli is NOT anti-semitic; many Jewish people are ashamed of Israel's behaviour. It is only by protesting at any official Israeli-sponsored event that the state of Israel will learn of the world's revulsion at its actions.

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