Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I suppose as Bruch means "break" they picked an appropriate piece to interrupt

I've just realised that while I referred to it on Facebook, I have never done an EKN post on the recent protest by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign at the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra's appearance at the Proms.

I have a number of problems with this protest, and the least of them is my natural disinclination, as a performing (amateur) musician myself, to disrupt performances. When the Jerusalem Quartet played in Edinburgh in 2008, there was a similar protest at the Queens Hall. The difference there was that the Jerusalem Quartet were appearing as "cultural ambassadors" of the IDF, who were (in their leader's words) proud to play "with a violin in one hand and a Galil in the other"). In their case I supported the boycott and did my best to get the concert cancelled. Having failed in that, though, I would have thought the last thing you would wish to do would be to buy tickets to the concert, thus subsidising what you wish to boycott. Yet that is what the Scottish Palestine Solidarity group did. In my opinion it would have been far better to get a few people outside in tails with stringed instruments in one hand and replica assault rifles in the other. It would have caught attention and press coverage, probably got the protestors arrested, and contributed nothing to the IDF. Ah well.

In London the situation was different. The Israel Philharmonic are nobody's "cultural ambassadors". They get death threats for playing Wagner's music in Israel (a story in itself, but let's not go there). Its members are drawn from all walks of Israeli (and very likely non-Israeli) life. Insofar as they are Israelis, it would be a fair guess that IPO members, as "artistic intellectual" types, would be less in favour of the occupation and the illegal settlements than the average Israeli. Not, then, a sensible target for a protest against those things. A protest such as this can really easily be spun as simple prejudice against either Jews or Israelis: I have no connection to the English PSC so I don't know its position on the legitimacy of Israel within its 1967 borders. I know my own, though, which is that Israel is legal and there to stay, provided it remains within its internationally-recognised borders and forgoes the Lebensraum it has stolen over the past 44 years.

The concert protest got in the way of normal, decent, Israelis trying to earn their salaries. Still, they will have been paid, disruption or no, while the protestors bought tickets and subsidised them. Duh.

However wrong-headed the PSC may have been to target the IPO in the first place, they had a perfect right to try to get their invitation rescinded by the BBC. Failing that, I have no problem with their leafletting concertgoers and picketing the Royal Albert Hall. I still reckon some kind of musical protest outside would have been effective. Even without the Jerusalem Quartet's direct reference to playing with a rifle in one hand, something similar could have worked at the Prom: perhaps a group of people playing music outside in bloodstained evening dress. Or a version of Haydn's "Farewell" Symphony with musicians in Arab costume disappearing one by one to leave just ones in tails. See the PSC: no imagination.

I'm not sure whether the BBC use outside broadcast trucks at the RAH as they do in Edinburgh, or whether they're permanently hard-wired in these days, but if they still use trucks then PSC could REALLY have caused a stir (and guaranteed arrests) by simply attacking one. Nothing disrupts a broadcast like having the power interrupted by a protestor with a chainsaw (and good insulation). No need to buy tickets to do THAT.

Anyway, the protestors did what they did, and got a lot of people's backs up: though presumably not the IPO's who will have heaved a sigh and pocketed their money anyway.

Some commenters on the affair, like Uncle Jimmy, managed to miss the point pretty spectacularly. I wonder where Jimmy copied his post from. Wherever it is, they can spell neither "Haydn" nor "concerto". If Jimmy really is a Warwick School alumnus as he claims then it says little for the standards of the oldest boys' school in the country: he doesn't even read the stuff he steals. (Probably he plagiarised it from here.) No, I still reckon he's an American fraud.

Jimmy's irrelevant wittering about Hamas and the UN (inaccurate where it isn't downright lies) doesn't read as though Jimmy penned it either. ("The UN has been silent to...." ?) See here, here and here. The "Hamas Mickey Mouse" last aired in 2007.

And if he's going to wax eloquent about the Schindler's List theme surely the least he could do is mention John Williams who wrote it?

Jimmy doesn't seem to have much to say about the protest itself; not who was protesting, or why (however wrongly in my opinion). He doesn't even seem to have noticed that the disruption started during the Webern Passacaglia, or that (surprisingly) the protestors don't appear to have been arrested.

And who is Anton Lorien, whose jingoistic pap Jimmy is promoting on his blog? Mmmm, nice. Funny, I didn't think Jimmy approved of people imposing un-British religions on British folk by threats of violence.

Still, he gets the Niemoller quotation right.


At 21 September, 2011 19:37, Anonymous Phil said...

This page makes some arguments for protesting against/boycotting the IPO on the grounds of its closeness to the Israeli state. I've also seen it said that the orchestra has no non-Jewish members, either by happenstance or by design, which would lend some support to the 'orchestra of an apartheid state' argument.

Disrupting the performance does seem a bit crass, but within the bounds of legitimate protest.

At 27 September, 2011 00:19, Blogger Rob said...

Hmmm. You could be right. I dug out an interview with Zubin Mehta which certainly implies there are no non-Jews in the orchestra, and in which Mehta reckons Israeli Arabs might be ready to join the IPO in between five and eight years because "there is still not a strong body of Arabic musicians versed in Western classical music that the IPO can call on". Funny then how the Barenboim/Said Eastern-Western Divan Orchestra seems to find them without difficulty. And what does that say for inequalities in Israel's education system?

I don't think the IPO is as deeply embedded into the IDF as the Jerusalem Quartet: to be honest I'm less bothered by their playing concerts for the troops than I would be if they played for the settlers, though maybe they have done that too.

Couldn't open your second link (I seem to need an invitation). But even if the IPO are a valid target, and if one feels that disrupting the concert is the best tactic, for heaven's sake don't buy tickets, thereby funding what you are trying to boycott. I can think of a dozen ways of stopping the concert without paying to do so, at least if you don't mind getting arrested. The RAH has a smoke detection system. There will be detectors in the lobby. You don't have to pay to enter the lobby. Need I say more?

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