Their suspension, my disbelief
Further to my previous post on the campaign to have the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra's appearance at the Proms cancelled, it would seem that a group of musicians wrote to the Independent before the IPO's visit calling for its invitation to be withdrawn. (The letter is on this page.)
Proms exploited for arts propaganda campaign
As musicians we are dismayed that the BBC has invited the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra to play at the Proms on 1 September. The IPO has a deep involvement with the Israeli state – not least its self-proclaimed "partnership" with the Israeli Defence Forces. This is the same state and army that impedes in every way it can the development of Palestinian culture, including the prevention of Palestinian musicians from travelling abroad to perform.
Our main concern is that Israel deliberately uses the arts as propaganda to promote a misleading image of Israel. Through this campaign, officially called "Brand Israel", denials of human rights and violations of international law are hidden behind a cultural smokescreen. The IPO is perhaps Israel 's prime asset in this campaign.
The Director of the Proms, Roger Wright, was asked to cancel the concert in accordance with the call from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott (PACBI). He rejected this call, saying that the invitation is "purely musical".
Israel's policy towards the Palestinians fits the UN definition of apartheid. We call on the BBC to cancel this concert.
Derek Ball (composer)
Frances Bernstein (community choir leader)
Steve Bingham (violinist)
John Claydon (saxophonist)
Malcolm Crowthers (music photographer)
Raymond Deane (composer)
Tom Eisner (violinist LPO)
Nancy Elan (violinist LPO)
Deborah Fink (soprano)
Catherine Ford (violinist, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment)
Reem Kelani (Palestinian singer, musician and broadcaster)
Les Levidow (violinist)
Susie Meszaros (violinist, Chilingirian Quartet)
Roy Mowatt (violinist, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment)
Ian Pace (pianist)
Leon Rosselson (singer-songwriter)
Dominic Saunders (pianist)
Chris Somes-Charlton (artist manager)
Leni Solinger (violinist)
Sarah Streatfeild (violinist LPO)
Sue Sutherley (cellist, LPO)
Tom Suarez (violinist, New York)
Kareem Taylor (Oud Player/Guitarist and Composer)
Miriam Walton (pianist, organist and French horn player)
Well, it seems that four of the signatories admitted to being members of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, and as a direct result they have been suspended from their jobs. This has led to another letter, this time to the Daily Telegraph, with more signatories and more famous names among them.
Musicians’ Israel protest
SIR – We are shocked to hear of the suspension of four members of the London Philharmonic Orchestra for adding their signatures to a letter calling for the BBC to cancel a concert by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.
According to a statement from LPO managers, quoted in the Jewish Chronicle, the action was taken because the musicians included their affiliation to the orchestra with their signatures – a convention that is common practice within the academic world, for example.
One does not have to share the musicians’ support for the campaign for boycotting Israeli institutions to feel grave concern about the bigger issue at stake for artists and others. There is a link being created here between personal conscience and employment, which we must all resist.
A healthy civil society is founded on the ability of all to express non-violent and non-prejudiced opinions, freely and openly, without fear of financial or professional retribution.
The LPO management states that, for it, “music and politics don’t mix” – yet its decision to jeopardise the livelihoods of four talented musicians for expressing their sincerely held views is itself political.
Why should it be so dangerous for artists to speak out on the issue of Israel/Palestine? We are dismayed at the precedent set by this harsh punishment, and we strongly urge the LPO to reconsider its decision.
Sir Geoffrey Bindman QC
Prof. Jacqueline Rose
Dame Harriet Walter
Prof. Haim Bresheeth
Prof. Michael Chanan
Dr Kay Dickinson
Dr Hugh Dunkerley
Dr Naomi Foyle
Dr Wallace Heimwriter
Prof. Susan Himmelweit
Dr Fergus Johnston
Dr Adam Kossoff
Malcolm Le Grice
Prof. Yosefa Loshitzky
Dr Carole McKenzie
Jeremy Peyton Jones
Lynne Reid Banks
Dr Khadiga Safwat
Prof. John Smith
Prof. David Turner
Dr Paul Goodey
Professor John Miller
I think it's despicable behaviour by the LPO management. (I note that no such action has been taken by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, or for that matter the Chilingirian String Quartet, though in the latter case their violist Susie Meszaros appears to have been cleverly disguised by the Independent as a violinist.) As Norman Geras points out on his blog, academics are able to identify their employers when writing without anyone suggesting that this is at all reprehensible. I could understand it if the LPO members had been involved in the concert disruption, but they were not.
Of course, there are some who gloat happily that the musicians have been put in their place and when eventually allowed back into their jobs will sit quietly like good little apparatchiks. Personally I hope they will milk the bad publicity this will gain for the LPO for all that it's worth, then take their talents to a real orchestra.
This isn't the first time that the four musicians have published their names and employer in connection with the boycott campaign. As a Jerusalem Post blogger helpfully informs us, they were signatories to a letter which appears to have convinced the Jewish Music Institute not to accept Israeli government funding for a conference.
Perhaps there is an orchestra closer to home than Israel that might benefit from a boycott campaign.