Israel’s 60th Birthday

Five arrested at protest against IDF musicians by Dave

Kudos to my friends at the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign working to deny Israel good publicity at the Edinburgh fringe festival, a festival which also hosted Jane Frere’s impressive exhibition highlighting the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948 (in Beirut September and Jordan in November).

Five protestors were arrested at Edinburgh’s Queen’s Hall today and charged with disrupting the performance of the Israeli Jerusalem Quartet, musicians, who enjoy a double status as ‘Cultural Ambassadors of Israel’ as well as ‘Distinguished IDF Musicians’.

While the siege of Gaza continues, Israel should not be allowed to conduct ‘business as normal’  and musicians associated with the murderous Israeli Army, its state, or its illegal occupation should be denied any platform.

About a dozen music-lovers returned their tickets at the gates after realizing the concert was a means for Israel to legitimise its ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.  Gratifyingly, a further small but significant number of the audience left and expressed their support, one couple thanking the demonstrators inside and out ‘for awakening our consciences’.  One music-lover who had complained about the harsh ejection of a demonstrator from the hall was told to leave as well!

Earlier this week, local Jewish writer and journalist, Marion Woolfson had written to festival organisers asking that they rescind their invitation to “the representatives of a country that practices ethnic cleansing and a form of apartheid which even those who have lived in South Africa have said is worse than anything thought up by the former rulers of their country.”

Police prevented protesters outside the venue from setting up a simulated checkpoint. Graham McVitie, spokesman for the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign that organised the protest said that the checkpoint was designed to mimic one of around 600 Israeli controls scattered throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories: “These checkpoints are designed to restrict movement within Palestine and strangle its economy.”

Mick Napier, Chair of the Scottish PSC, said: ‘Everyone loves music, but Israel’s mountain of crimes against the Palestinians weighs more in the scales than some Scots enjoying a piece of music, or a cricket game, or a film, indifferent to the crimes their government supports.  People stopped games by the old South Africa’s apartheid sports teams; we can do no less with the cultural ambassadors of Israel’s apartheid and ethnic cleansing.’

Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign

In 2006, during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, Edinburgh International Film Festival organisers returned sponsorship money provided by the Israeli embassy.

Israel is also under increasing pressure from Trade Union boycotts. Last year, Britain’s University and Colleges Union (UCU) caused unrest in Israel when its conference voted to discuss a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

Former US president Jimmy Carter also faced heavy criticism last year on publication of his book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, in which he compares Israeli policies with those of Apartheid South Africa.


15 Comments so far
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I was at the concert. I don’t know what the musicians feel about the actions of their government. As young Israeli people I gather they had to join the army. They would have been young boys at the time and may well have been manipulated by the army. They appear to me likely to be young people who want to communicate their love of music. One of the group said that there are good things and bad things going on in Israel and he wanted to bring one of the good things to us. I am against what Israel has done in Palestine but think the protesters should have limited themselves to handing out leaflets outside–doing what they did merely served to alienate them from the audience. The quartet is supported by Daniel Barenboim who has recently accepted honorary Palestinian citizenship see —-
On January 12, 2008, after a concert in Ramallah, he declared that he had accepted honourary Palestian citizenship, in what he hopes will serve as a public gesture of peace

He said ‘I hope that my new status will be an example of Israeli-Palestinian co-existence, I believe that the destinies of the Israeli people and the Palestinian people are inextricably linked’
Will today’s episode serve to bring about peace and understanding–I think not.

Comment by Isla Browning

After 60 years of oppression there’s massive urgency to demand justice for Palestinians from the Israeli Government. Especially as Gaza is still under a BRUTAL blockade. I’m sorry if these boys had their day ruined (boo-fucking-hoo: it’s just a music concert) and sorry if they didn’t really want to oppress Palestinians by being in the IDF (they still did it, the Nazis at Nuremberg weren’t allowed the excuse of ‘just following orders’ so I’m not sure why anyone else should either).

We should give no-one the chance to promote a good side of Apartheid Israel until there’s some measure of justice Palestinians are satisfied with.

If you really cared about the violence in the Middle East you’d agree that this action was correct.

Activists should do everything they can to educate about the injustice. Such as Daniel Barenboim becoming a Palestinian citizen. Does he have a problem with activists trying to stop the positive promotion of Apartheid Israel in the UK? Again I applaud the work of the SPSC.

Comment by Dave

I went to the concert. Now, I saw the protestors handing out leaflets outside; as my interest in politics is frankly somewhat lacking I shrugged that off and went inside, expecting an enjoyable musical performance. One might say I half got what I was looking for – the players were indeed fantastic, and the choice of music was very tasteful. But then, during 5 of the movements of music, the hidden activists in the crowd proceeded to shout out all sorts of nonsense, interrupting as best they could. I usually like to keep an open mind about these things, but the way those people acted was completely unacceptable; there is a time and place for protests, and a concert hall is not it. Haydn deserves better treatment; from mine, as a musician’s point of view, nothing excused those ridiculous outbursts. Regardless of their reasons, I am disgusted by the efforts of the SPSC, and all they did with this little demonstration was give me -and the majority of the audience- a highly negative impression of them. The music however, as I say, was truly beautiful. It’s little wonder the quartet has been together for 15 years and are applauded as world class. The viola player even stood up and talked about how they were trying to show that good things can come from Jerusalem. Of course, that was shortly before their playing was interrupted…again. Honestly, if the quartet comes back here, I will see them again. But, I wouldn’t blame them if they don’t.

Comment by Steven

You confess that you know nothing about the politics yet still believe you’re in a good position to comment – showing little sympathy having ‘shrugged off’ the protest outside.

That seems remarkably ignorant.

For over 60 years the Palestinians have suffered and being denied justice as Israel ethnicly cleanses them, denies them their rights, ignores international law and UN resolutions.

If you’re too callous to care about, what Ilan Pappe calls, creeping GENOCIDE against a people, then you’ll forgive me for being so callous as not to care about your little concert getting mildly disrupted.

If you fancy learning something and then getting back to me, try these:

“The apartheid regime viewed the blacks as inferior; I do not think the Israelis see the Palestinians as human beings at all.” editor-in-chief of the Sunday Times of South Africa, Mondli Makhanya

Documentary Occupation 101

Ilan Pappe – State of Denial

Comment by Dave

Oh, I just have a different set of values; while politics – organised chaos that comes and goes and never really gets anywhere, generally being used as an excuse for people to harm each other – is little of my concern, music, that timeless, ageless beauty, lives on. Because it is worth holding on to. And as I say, it was not an appropriate time or place for the protest. I understand you’re less than happy with my point of view, but to me music really is all. And I think what those people did was largely irritate the audience.

Comment by Steven

I don’t disrespect your love for music we can all appreciate that. I just disrespect the fact you claim to know nothing on the situation yet somehow feel your an authority on what’s right and wrong behaviour. In that case the only value your championing is ignorance.

So if it were Nazi German musicians touring promoting their country, saying good and bad things happen there, you’d be complaining about the protests too? After all ‘organised chaos … comes and goes’, why care?

Comment by Dave

I just have no reason to think the quartet was, as they said, politically involved. They didn’t give me that impression, and when I read up on them I found nothing about them promoting war or any such thing. The only time I have seen anything to do with Zionism in relation to the players is what the protestors handed out – and even that seemed to contradict itself; at one point claiming ‘musicians forced to play music for sneering military members’ and at another stating they were proud representatives of the army. I’m sorry if I’ve given you the impression that I’m some kind of heartless bastard, but I just can’t agree with the activist’s tactics – they dragged me and the rest of the disapproving audience into their feud. And I would be interested if there was tangible proof that the Jerusalem Quartet are any sort of negative force.

Comment by Steven

What those that were annoyed never saw were the dozens of people that left the concert and gave the protestors outside their tickets saying thanks for awakening their consciences – we are appealing to a minority with conscience that will grow as the boycott movement grows (as with Apartheid South Africa)

Those who just wanted to hear music and to not be bothered with politics, I guess they are/were also against the boycott of Apartheid South Africa. Hard news for them though: Israel is doing the killing but our silence kills too… To the dozens who left the concert and stood up for human rights my sincere admiration.

An appropriate time or place for the protest…? Well there is not appropriate time or place for killings, house demolitions, humiliation, administrative detention, denial of medicines, water, etc, etc, but still Israel carries out those crimes against Palestinians every day!

The quartet is supported by Daniel Barenboim who said ‘I hope that my new status will be an example of Israeli-Palestinian co-existence’… it is seems obvious to me that if you occupy my house and then invite me for tea on my living room in other to promote co-existence, I have the right to decline. If we are really serious about co-existence lets demand that Israels stops occupaying Palestine (occupaying with infraestructure such as settlements, check points, etc. as in the West Bank or occupaying by closing bothers as in Gaza).

Palestinians are calling for boycott of Israel
Only when Israel becomes a pariah state in the international community, they will start to respect human rights for everyone.


Comment by Nes-Edinburgh

Dave, how were the quartet ‘promoting’ Israel? They are Israeli, period. Do British musicians represent the invasion of Iraq?

“I’m sorry if these boys had their day ruined (boo-fucking-hoo: it’s just a music concert)”. And that’s why people in the hall hated these protests – they clearly said, ‘Fuck you all, we don’t care what you think.” Do you honestly think that’s a good way to convince people of your point of view?

Comment by Steven

And, by the way, I’m afraid their day wasn’t ruined – they got a standing ovation, a very rare occurence, partly because they kept playing despite all the interruptions. They gained a great deal of respect from this.

Comment by Steven

‘I just have no reason to think the quartet was, as they said, politically involved.’ Yes but as you said you know nothing about the politics or the nuances of Israeli/activist PR and lobbying. The point was to make it clear to them and supporters of Israel in the audiance that we are aware of the crimes, those crimes are unacceptable and their activities will be disrupted until those crimes stop. The action also got coverage in a number of papers.

It obviously had some effect on you or you wouldn’t be here either. Whereas had they not done it, there would be no effect at least there is a chance you might be interested to find their motivation.

You give me the impression of being a heartless because the suffering of both Palestinians and Israelis is very real, yet you’d rather avoid the issue – or just have it where you can ignore it – at the front door (for your own self gratification and entertainment I might add). Well I’m sorry but other people care very much about 60 years of injustice (and for people who care about real issues a little disruption at a gig isn’t that important, no one was saying fuck you to anyone, I personally used the phrase boo-fucking-hoo to highlight that it’s a music concert, what we’re talking about here is murder and dispossession continuing on a grand scale) and I’m sure these protestors didn’t enjoy getting up infront of everyone and making a scene. They just feel very strongly that they should do what ever they can to raise the issue. Because they do care. We should be glad there are people who care enough to put themselves out there. But you don’t understand the situation cause you ain’t, self confessed, looked into it and have shrugged it off.

If British musicians are abroad promoting the UK them I’d be happy for them to be protested, esp. if it got media coverage and woke the band up to the million people we’ve killed in our illegal war of aggression.

You still haven’t said if you’d support protesting a band of former SS soldiers who were promoting nazi germany? Or would you argue the German Berlin Quartet weren’t in anyway ‘promoting’ nazi germany? Why can’t we just leave them alone? I’d not leave them alone as the crimes are to heinous to be ignored and should be raised at every opportunity – would you not agree?

Comment by Dave

Confusion – 2 Stevens here. I didn’t write the first comment. My bad for not noticing the name. The point I’m making is purely practical – the protest did not create support for the Palestinian support group. Exactly the opposite. I talked to many people who were there, some of whom were sympathetic to the cause, but all of whom thought it was completely out of order. Try to take the moral high-ground if you want, but then accept that you are turning people against your cause in the process. If that’s what you want, it’s your right. You may not feel you are saying ‘Fuck you’, but that’s the message you convey when you treat people with such disrespect. Again, it’s your right, but at least be honest that you don’t care that you are ruining an event for hundreds of couple. Also, you don’t explain how the quartet is promoting Israel. What would it mean for British musicians to promote Britain? Presumably making public statements in support of the Iraq war or other British policy. Have the Jerusalem quartet made public statements in support of Israeli policy? If not, please explain how they are ‘promoting Israel’, and not simply being Israeli. Saying they were in the army, given that the country has conscription, is not a serious argument. You know, it is possible to profoundly disagree with people and still treat them with dignity; look how the Dalai Lama treats the Chinese, for example. When your actions convey disdain for people, why should they take your views seriously?

Comment by Steven O

Hmm. I usually like to be tactful, and rarely am so frankly honest as I was in my initial post. My apologies for offending anyone. You’re right – I don’t much value life. But that’s not because it is lives that are far away; I do not discriminate with that fact. I would have no reason to be here myself if it were not for music. I don’t watch the news, because people being killed left right and center is just something I’ve become so…desensitised to by the media. I don’t think that that will change. People kill and hurt each other regardless. They never learn. To me, that is what politics and wordly affairs is about.
Again, as I say, I’m sorry. It was simply one of the best concerts I’ve seen in a while and I was particularly angry when I wrote the post.

Comment by Steven

For info here’s the letter written by Scottish PSC to the Edinburgh International Festival. It explains why the Jerusalem Quartet concert was protested. It was not simply because the JQ are Israelis, it is because they perform around the world sponsored by the state of Israel, ie have contracts with the Israeli state. They also took part in Israel 60 celebrations this year. See the letter below:

Dear Ms Westbrook
Thank you for your email. Scottish PSC applauds the idea of presenting work under the theme of ‘Artists without Borders’. The inclusion of self-proclaimed ‘cultural ambassadors’ of the state of Israel, however, is naive and ill-informed at best and glosses over the crimes committed by the state of Israel in its continued dispossession of Palestinians from their land. Israel is unique in not having declared borders but instead builds illegal settlements and the apartheid wall to appropriate the land and resources belonging to another people. Whilst the Palestinian National Theatre was indeed a welcome addition to the Festival programme, for most Palestinians Israeli restrictions on their movement mean that participation in such a group becomes practically impossible. The reality in Israel/ Palestine is not the kind of ‘open borders’ you are hoping to promote.
Scottish PSC campaigns for human rights for all the people of Israel/Palestine. Our opposition to this visit has nothing to do with the culture of a people, whether they be Jewish, Christian or Islamic; your email does not address the fact that the Jerusalem Quartet and the Betsheva Dance Company are both ‘proud ambassadors for the state of Israel’ and perform around the world with the sponsorship and support of the Israeli state.
Your invitation to the Jerusalem Quartet, and the Betsheva Dance Company, should be withdrawn in response to the call from over 200 Palestinian civil society organisations for a boycott of Israel. Their call comes after 60 years of dispossession and murderous crimes by the state of Israel. Scottish PSC’s protest tomorrow is endorsed by PACBI, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. (See below.)
We support any genuine attempt to bring communities together on the basis of recognition of the human rights of all. However, despite the participation of two members of the Jerusalem Quartet in the Divan Orchestra, they retain their status as ‘Distinguished IDF musicians’, function as cultural ambassadors for the state of Israel, and celebrate the founding of the state of Israel in 1948, a state founded on the mass ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.
We again call on the Edinburgh International Festival to rescind the invitations.
Yours sincerely
Sofiah MacLeod
Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign
00 44 (0) 131 620 0052
00 44 (0) 7931200361 (mobile)

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) fully endorses the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s call on the Edinburgh Festival to withdraw its invitation to the Jerusalem Quartet. Members of this Israeli Quartet began their career with active service in the Israeli army, where they served as “Distinguished Musicians,” enjoying the sponsorship of mainstream Israeli cultural institutions such as the Jerusalem Foundation, which regards them as “prestigious cultural ambassadors, representing Israel and Jerusalem.”
From the beginning, the Quartet’s international tours have been actively promoted by the Israeli government. As such, and since the Quartet has not taken any clear position on the various forms of oppression of the Palestinian people, PACBI supports the Scottish PSC’s call to boycott the Jerusalem Quartet as an institution that is complicit in maintaining Israel’s occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people.

Comment by SM

A brand is often promoted by association – they are promoting, like they say, a good side of Israel and there visit is funded by the Israeli Government. Obviously the Israeli Government has an interest in promoting its good side. Indeed the new Israeli ambassador has announced a renewed PR campign in the UK to change public opinion.

The British ministry of Information set up similar propaganda campaigns when it launched the British Council. It was to educate about the good side of Britian globally. Still to this day it brings scientists and musicians and things to other countries to help create a favourable image of the UK abraod. Funded by the state.

Comment by Dave

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