Protesters disrupt performance by the Jerusalem Quartet in London
Brighton and Hove Palestine Solidarity Campaign 29 March 2010
Protesters disrupted a lunchtime performance by the Jerusalem Quartet in London today.
The members of this Quartet are ‘cultural ambassadors’ for Israel and the Israeli army. The Israeli Press Service says: "For the three immigrants [3 of the Quartet came from Russia], carrying a rifle in one hand and a violin in the other is the ultimate Zionist statement"
The concert at the Wigmore Hall was being broadcast live by the BBC. They were protesting that the Quartet, who are cultural ambassadors for the State of Israel, are promoting the interests of Israel and all its policies against the Palestinians, to the British public. The protesters drew attention to the Quartet’s strong links to the Israeli Army, Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians, particularly its illegal occupation of Palestinian land, its ethnic cleansing of East Jerusalem, the apartheid nature of the Israeli state, and its attempt to starve the people of Gaza into submission. In the words of one protester who interrupted the players with a sung objection to the tune of the well-known Christian anthem "The Holy City": 'Jerusalem is occupied: Settlers destroy her peace. We'll sing out, until apartheid And ethnic cleansing cease.'"
There were no fewer than five interruptions: some were quite lengthy, and the live broadcast by the BBC had to be abandoned. Demonstrators outside the hall included members of Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods , and the audience were given leaflets explaining why the concert was being disrupted. No arrests were made, but the protesters were ejected from the hall, and the players made a statement attempting to distance themselves from the Israeli state and excuse their service with the IDF.
The Jerusalem Quartet enjoy the status of
Distinguished IDF, playing for troops thrice weekly
This protest was part of the 2nd Global Day of Action on Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Against Israel on 30th March 2010. A spokesperson for the group, said: ‘As long as the state of Israel maintains its illegal occupation of Palestinian land and commits crimes against civilians, it does not deserve to be invited to any kind of cultural event. Such events give support to Israel and approval of its brutal occupation.’
Mick Napier from Scottish PSC said: ‘Scottish PSC congratulates the protesters in London today, and would like to see all other supporters of Palestine do the same every time the Jerusalem Quartet appear as ambassadors of the apartheid state’ A Palestinian violinist is harassed by soldiers at an Israeli checkpoint
Notes for editors:
1. The members of this Quartet are ‘cultural ambassadors’ for Israel and the Israeli army. The Israeli Press Service says:
"For the three immigrants [3 of the Quartet came from Russia], carrying a rifle in one hand and a violin in the other is the ultimate Zionist statement".
Their record label hypes their status within the army:
"They now enjoy the status of Distinguished IDF, playing for troops thrice weekly when the JQ is in Israel."
2. For decades Israel has flouted international law, dozens of UN resolutions and the International Court by: stealing Palestinian land, building over 150 unlawful settlements (deemed illegal by the British and other governments) in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and building its illegal Apartheid Wall. The Israeli army keeps a military stranglehold over every aspect of life in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, with repeated attacks on the Palestinian population ‘ the latest in Gaza, with over 1400 deaths and terrible injuries to civilians including many children, and war crimes attested to by the UN and many human rights organizations. Its latest ethnic cleansing activities in East Jerusalem flout international law and evict Palestinians from their homes while importing settlers in their place.
3. The Palestinians are calling urgently for an international consumer and cultural boycott after decades of failed talks. As with Apartheid South Africa, we must respond ‘ until Israel meets its obligations under international law and a just solution is agreed.
4. Aharon Shabtai, Israel’s greatest living poet, wrote recently:
"I do not believe that a State that maintains an occupation, committing on a daily basis crimes against civilians, deserves to be invited to any kind of cultural event. That is, it is anti-cultural; it is a barbarian act masked as culture in the most cynical way. It manifests support for Israel, and that sustains the occupation."
Jerusalem Quartet Concert at London's Wigmore Hall is Disrupted & Radio 3's Live Broadcast is Terminated
Tony Greenstein 30 March 2010
I have a confession to make. I nearly didn’t make it. Yesterday I put my watch and car clock forward but forgot to do so for my mobile and radio alarm! Result was that I got up an hour later than intended! Fortunately I managed to get the next train to Victoria and despite further loss of time as I was (twice) misdirected, I got there only 10 minutes late.
The live broadcast by BBC Radio 3 was cut short and taken off air. Click the pay button above to listen to a clip of a sung interruption and the BBC announcer saying that the broadcast was halted “due to disruption”
There of course is London’s Wigmore Hall, home to the more discerning of nature’s liberals. Except that scratch a liberal and you will often find an angry conservative!
Jointly organised by members of Brighton PSC and J-Big (Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods) we ensured that the performance by the Jerusalem Quartet, the Israeli Army’s faithful musicians, didn’t go unchallenged.
Because in Scotland a similar protest in Edinburgh has resulted in 5 protestors being bizarrely charged with racism (it’s either anti-semitism or a non-existent Israeli nationality!) it was important that this protest included a Jewish contingent.
Along with an irate old lady who wanted to gain immediate entrance, despite being late, I was kept waiting for a pause in the proceedings. Fortunately our very own opera singer, Debbie Fink of J-Big, decided that she would try and enliven what was frankly a pretty dismal and boring performance by Israel’s finest. As her voice rose in harmony with the vultures on stage it seemed that at first people thought it was part of the show. However Debbie soon received a red card which quite fortunately enabled me to gain my entrance, apologising of course for my late arrival and any disruption that that might cause.
Having gained my seat, the Quartet quickly decided to resume playing. After rehearsing what I was going to say, I stood up after about 5 minutes later and proceeded to tell the JQ that they were the cultural ambassadors of Apartheid Israel and its Army whom they perform for.
Now I confess I don’t claim to understand those who pay to come and listen to musicians with blood on their hands. But then I don’t understand why Wagner was what he was. However I always thought that listening to classical music made you more not less peaceful. Instead as I began to contribute to the concert’s proceedings people began to get animated and started hitting me with their programmes! Not that I was hurt and nor did it distract me from the message I was getting across but it illustrates the Zionist mentality. Security however was quickly off the mark and I was, well not dragged but escorted off the premises, with one of the heavies shouting ‘fuck off’ at my back, to which I could but reply that that wasn’t very nice! The Police quickly entered but to my consternation and amazement did nothing. Given what had happened in Scotland I expected to be arrested. Instead I was merely thrown out into the street.
The next two to be evicted were members of Brighton PSC and the final evictee an activist in ISM. As we were gathering at a nearby café, a member of the audience came over to us to congratulate us on our protest which made us even more pleased. And when we learnt that the live broadcast by Radio 3 (which included Debbie’s initial operatic rendition) had been terminated we were even more over the moon.
Music & Politics? The old Apartheid Conjuring Trick
The point of our protest was not primarily to engage either the audience or the JQ itself. Rather we wanted to make a clear statement that those who aid and abet the murderous activities of the Israeli Occupation Forces cannot then claim some form of musical diplomatic immunity.
As I was being thrown out a number of members of the audience had (predictably) shouted at me that this was a musical not a political event. To which I shouted that maybe they would have taken the same stance in the 1930’s when the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra had also toured European cities displaying their somewhat greater talents.
This is the old argument we used to face in the campaign against Apartheid in South Africa. We argued then that you couldn’t separate the culture of Apartheid from Apartheid itself and likewise you cannot separate Zionist culture from Zionism. It is, of course, a different matter, when Israeli artists or musicians come out clearly against racism in Israel and against the Occupation.
But It's a Music Event - Nothing to Do with Politics
Tony Greenstein 31 March 2010
Well it's been quite a day with lots of messages to my inbox and increasing coverage across the web, including for the report I compiled yesterday [above].
The Guardian today has also reported what we did and our protest is described as very well planned. Well naturally! But at least, unlike in Dubai we didn't murder anyone.
As has the BBC's own music mag.
But the most pathetic whine of those who object to our attempt to interject a bit of context into the Jerusalem Quartet's performance came from those knee-jerk liberals who inhabit haunts like the Wigmore Hall. I say knee-jerk because, as I said in a previous post, scratch a liberal and you often find an angry Tory underneath.
So I went back to an article that a famous Israeli poet, Yitzhak Laor wrote in Ha'aretz of 31.7.2008. concerning the contracts that most Israeli artists, and there is little doubt that the JQ have also signed such a contract (though of course the Culture Ministry of Israel doesn't provide the names of those who contract with it)! And what does the contract say?
"The service provider is aware that the purpose of ordering services from him is to promote the policy interests of the State of Israel via culture and art, including contributing to creating a positive image for Israel."
Well that's pretty clear isn't it? The "purpose of ordering services from him is to promote the policy interests of the Israeli state via culture and art." So the actions of those like the JQ are considered a service with which to promote the policy interests of the state via culture and art." A Marxist couldn't have put it better!
And as SHELLEY KLEIMAN of the World Zionist Press Service reported "The Quartet now serves as Distinguished Musicians, performing for troops three times a week." That was their national service, providing a morale booster for those who had to go out and smash a few heads or break a few bones.
And the Jerusalem Independent in 2003 reported that "the bulk of their IDF service was as a quartet, performing for soldiers all over Israel. When their military service ended three years ago, they changed status to Distinguished IDF Musicians and continue to play for troops three times a week when they're in Israel. "
Note they don't play for the IDF's victims, they don't refuse military service, quite the contrary. They have no criticisms whatsoever of the role of the Israeli Occupation Forces. Their role is not dissimilar to that of Leni Riefenstahl, Ezra Pound and many other distinguished people of culture who lent a willing hand to repressive regimes.
They are supported by the Jerusalem Foundation, set up by the late Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek. As Ruth Cheshin, Jerusalem Foundation president explained "Supporting the quartet until they are financially independent will help the city as well as the players." Quite. And what kind of Jerusalem will that be? One which is ethnically cleansed of its Arab inhabitants who are slowly being dispossessed by Jewish settlers. But according to Cheshin 'The quartet will be a magnet in Jerusalem, promoting music education and love of music in schools and community centres citywide." And what better way to pretend that the indigenous people don't exist than to retreat into violin and string sonatas and the like?
And if there is any doubt about their stance, then as Zlotnikov explained:
"We feel good... We love to play, whether it's in an international contest or a renowned concert hall, at an IDF base somewhere in Israel or in the city that's our home."
Quite. And that's why we are putting you bastards in the front line of the Boycott campaign.
Israeli musicians also have military strings attached
SHELLEY KLEIMAN, World Zionist Press Service 19 June 1998
Jerusalem Quartet members serving in nation's army
Three Russian immigrants and one native-born
Israeli make up the Jerusalem Quartet, Israel's
only professional string quartet. All were
inducted into the Israel Defense Forces last year.
The quartet is composed of (left to right)
Alexander Pavlovsky, Sergei Bressler, Kyril
Zlotnikov and Amichai Gross.
They're young, winsome and talented, and they play classical music. What more could a mother want?
It's not only that Amichai Gross (18), Alexander Pavlovsky (20), Sergei Bressler (19) and Kyril Zlotnikov (19) are award-winning musicians in their own right, but together they make up the Jerusalem Quartet, Israel's only professional string quartet. In 1995, they were awarded a special prize as guests of the Forum Musical de Normandie, won first prize in the Jerusalem Academy Music Competition in 1996, and in 1997 came in first - a real coup - at the Franz Schubert and the Music of the 20th Century Competition in Graz, Austria.
Sitting around in T-shirts and jeans, they appear so easy-going and carefree, it's hard to imagine they have all been playing since they were in kindergarten, submitting willingly to the intense rigors their art demands. While their friends were playing soccer, they were heading for rehearsals. But though childhood passed them by, none of them feel they have given up something irretrievable.
"I can't imagine being without music," says Zlotnikov, the group's cellist. "And I hope I'll never have to," adds Pavlovsky (who plays first violin).
At an age when many of their peers are just beginning to find themselves, these four have a very focused agenda. "We want to be the best in the world," says violist Gross, with quiet aplomb. "We want to be 'superstars' "adds Zlotnikov, using a very exaggerated American inflection.
Practicing together often three to four hours a day, they also all take private lessons, each honing their skills as soloist musicians. Each has won numerous musical awards, and all have worked with top-class musicians and ensembles, such as Isaac Stern, Gyorgy Kurtag, Richard Stolzman and the Amadeus Quartet.
Free time for discos, MTV, soccer and books plays second fiddle to their music. Always on the move, frequently living out of suitcases and in the homes of foreign hosts or in hotels ("We've run out of gifts to buy when we're abroad," quips one), it is in Jerusalem where the group feels most at ease. "It's home," says Gross simply.
Gross is the only native-born Israeli in the group. Pavlovsky, Bressler and Zlotnikov immigrated from Russia in 1991 with their families, forming the Quartet in 1993 under the auspices of the Jerusalem Music Center. While they all consider themselves Israeli, they frequently lapse into Russian during rehearsals. In fact, Gross seems to have become rather fluent in Russian profanities, his mentors proudly assert.
Joining the troops
If one minute they're in T-shirts and the next in ties and jackets, these days they can just as frequently be seen in army fatigues. Last year they were inducted into the Israeli Defense Forces and endured a month of basic training. Bressler (second violin) says his only fear then was that something would happen to his hands.
The Quartet now serves as Distinguished Musicians, performing for troops three times a week. Recitals are laced with explanations. Not intending to produce subscribers to the Philharmonic, Gross says they simply want their fellow troops to appreciate classical music. And to a large extent they have been successful.
For the three immigrants, carrying a rifle in one hand and a violin in the other is the ultimate Zionist statement. "It's something our parents could hardly have imagined ten years ago," says Zlotnikov.
Their European tours have included London, Oslo, Vienna and Rome, and they have performed in South Africa, Amman and New York. Booked a year in advance, their most prestigious concert will take place this summer at the new Baden-Baden Festival in Germany. The subject of a recent Israeli television documentary, the Jerusalem Quartet released its first disc in February.
Although the four obviously like each other, how does their one-for-all-and-all-for-four camaraderie translate professionally? Do they ever argue? Are they ever at loggerheads?
"Frequently," they readily concur. "Imagine an artist's temperament multiplied by four," Zlotnikov playfully suggests. No one personality dominates, Gross insists: each musician has his own style and personality to contribute. When they clash on questions of interpretation, they try out all variations. In the end, after a bit of blood, sweat and tears, they always reach a compromise. For the sake of producing good music, they say, personal considerations have to be shelved.
This is proof enough that these talented youngsters are not only going through a professional process, they say, but a maturing process as well.
Jerusalem Quartet concert disrupted by anti-Israeli protests - Radio 3 live broadcast taken off air
BBC Music Magazine 30 March 2010
A lunchtime recital by the Jerusalem Quartet, broadcast live on Radio 3, was disrupted by anti-Israeli protestors and taken off air. During the first half of the performance at London’s Wigmore Hall yesterday, a group of demonstrators in the audience stood up and began to shout and chant. They were removed from the venue, and the concert continued; the Radio 3 broadcast was replaced by a performance by the Salomon Quartet.
‘Today’s demonstration was evidently extremely well planned,’ says John Gilhooly, director of the Wigmore Hall, in Classical Music Magazine. ‘The protesters must have bought their tickets for the concert a long time ago, because they were all sitting in individual seats in different parts of the hall.’
One protester, Tony Greenstein, claimed on his blog that the Brighton and Hove Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (BHPSC) and the organisation Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, were behind the disruptions. ‘The Quartet, who are cultural ambassadors for the State of Israel, are promoting the interests of Israel and all its policies against the Palestinians to the British public,' says the BHPSC.
Anti-Israeli protests have taken place in previous performances by the Jerusalem Quartet, including their Edinburgh Festival debut in 2008. Their Wigmore Hall recital of Mozart's String Quartet in D, K575 and Ravel's String Quartet in F will be broadcast on Radio 3 this Saturday, at 2pm, after the Quartet re-recorded the disrupted sections of the programme.
During the holy month of Ramadan, as we move towards the Eid, I was going around Muslim shops in Tower Hamlets and elsewhere telling them that although they had collection boxes for the Mosque, although they had religious imagery in their shops, although they were selling dates to the faithful people to break their fast - the dates were made in Israel! They were stained with the blood of the Palestinian people! And Muslim shop keepers were selling them!