Protest Greets Performance of Israel Philharmonic Orchestra at Carnegie

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Protest clogged the sidewalks surrounding Carnegie Hall Tuesday night as the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra performed its third concert on a current eight-concert tour of the United States. Similar protests, organized by a selection of pro-Palestinian groups, are scheduled to take place as the Orchestra continues to other American cities, including San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle. The protests have reportedly caused the Orchestra to increase security measures.

“I’ve been here for ten years and seen protests maybe twice, as far as I can remember,” commented Alex Beriguette, a doorman at the Briarcliffe, an apartment building across the street from Carnegie Hall. “They had a lot of signs and speakers,” Beriguette said. “It wasn’t very loud. Then they picked up their signs and music and they left just as calmly as they came in.” Beriguette noted that the protest lasted for approximately two hours and was attended by five to seven police officers.

A spokesperson from Kirshbaum Demler & Associates, which represents the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in the United States, told WQXR neither the Orchestra nor the American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra have a comment on the protests. Synneve Carlino, Director of Public Affairs at Carnegie Hall, described participants as "peaceful protesters" and added "The concert itself wasn’t affected."

In a report in Ynetnews, an Israel Philharmonic spokesperson said, "Despite the alerts, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra will not give up a single concert. The US tour has turned into a tradition, and we don't have any intentions of folding in the face of threats. All the concerts have been sold out for five months, and we will not disappoint the audience."

Protesters carried signs and distributed fliers and mock Playbills challenging Israeli government policies. The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, which has performed nearly 40 times at Carnegie Hall, was presented by American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.

Carnegie Hall has been the site of occasional past protests in connection to performing orchestras and musical groups. In 2008, the Catholic League staged protests at Carnegie Hall in opposition to performances of the Jerry Springer Opera. The Vienna Philharmonic, which performed at Carnegie Hall in 1997, bowed to pressure to admit women to its ranks following protests. In 1973, demonstrators briefly took over Carnegie Hall to protest the appearance of the Leningrad Philharmonic, demanding the release of imprisoned Soviet Jews and permission to emigrate to Israel.

The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, originally named the Palestine Orchestra, was founded in 1936 by Polish-born violinist Bronislaw Huberman. The Orchestra's opening concert was conducted by Arturo Toscanini at the Levant Fair Hall in Tel-Aviv. The Orchestra began to tour in the 1940s, with initial visits to Egypt and the Western Desert at the intersection of Egypt, Libya and Sudan.

The Israel Philharmonic maintains a blog that has to date not mentioned the protests. Of the Orchestra's time in New York, blog-writer and IPO bass Peter Marck writes only: "The trees of Central Park were still covered with snow from the last storm and the temperatures were -6."

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Comments [14]

Neil Schnall

Saddam Hussein's Iraq ?!

Feb. 25 2011 12:30 PM
ethan from brooklyn

Response to George Jochnowitz from New York:
There is not a single Arab member of the IPO, in all its 232 positions, musicians, administrators or managers.

Saddam Hussein's Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, etc. etc. are all countries where Arab women can become doctors, and where there are many female Arab doctors.

Feb. 24 2011 10:27 PM

How about bringing the West-Eastern Divan much more regularly to the Carnegie Hall? Musically they are definitely equal if not superior to the IPO and they carry a rather agreable political message.

Feb. 24 2011 07:37 PM
George Jochnowitz from New York

The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra is open to Arab musicians, including Arab women. Israel is also a country where Arab women can become doctors.

Feb. 24 2011 07:28 PM
Dirk from LES

It ultimately comes down to this: do you take into account the politics of a country where an orchestra hails from when buying concert tickets? Do you protest the Mariinsky Orchestra of St. Petersburg given that Russia doesn't uphold democratic principals? Or do you boycott the Shanghai Symphony, which also exists under a repressive regime?

To me, the real protests should be directed at the Vienna Philharmonic, whose very core is built on a foundation of sexual and racial discrimination. See:

Feb. 24 2011 05:46 PM
Aaron Levitt from Bronx

The assertion that an orchestra established in 1936 was "formed out of the ashes of the Holocaust" is patently absurd. The preponderance of senior citizens in the IPO audience argues for a smaller, rather than larger, police presence, given that the rare acts of violence at these protests are, without exception, perpetrated by "pro-Israel" passers-by. In the present case, the only incident of which I'm aware was a male, middle-aged concert-goer who struck me in the chest after reading a mock program critical of the IPO's role in white-washing Israel's deservedly tarnished image. I've come to expect this kind of poor self-control and casual violence from Israeli settlers, but it was still depressing to encounter it in front of Carnegie Hall.

Feb. 24 2011 05:35 PM
Neil Schnall

I would take issue with the contention that the IPO is a world class orchestra, if the one concert I heard them play, at Carnegie Hall, is representative. It was a program of standard works by Brahms (the violin concerto and second symphony), under Mehta. It was probably the sloppiest performance by a professional orchestra I've ever heard; inexcusable in this repertoire.

Then, the American Friends of the IPO, merely by virtue of the fact that I'd purchased a ticket, subscribed me to their newsletter under the assumption that I WAS one. I am not! Chutzpah!

Oh, and by the way, semitic is not a synonym for Jewish. Palestinians are, by and large, also semitic, last time I looked. (I could be wrong, but I will not be categorical.)

OK, in the spirit of not being categorical, I should allow for the possibility that the IPO is not not a world class orchestra. How's that!

Feb. 24 2011 03:57 PM
Ethan from brooklyn

Its great that this article mentions the Jewish boycott and protest of the Leningrad orchestra. Did Jews then hate Russian music or culture? No, but they rightly felt that the orchestra was a representative of an oppressive regime.

It sounds like the Jewish and Palestinian protestors out in front of Carnegie Hall for the IPOs visit were actually much more restrained than the Jews were back in 1973.

As the signs said: Justice-- Presto, not Lento!

Feb. 24 2011 03:22 PM
Dave Lippman from New York

There was never any threat of violence; there never is at these affairs, except occasionally by supporters of Israel's every activity, against the demonstrators. What the protest is actually about is not in the article: the orchestra is an active and important part of the "Brand Israel" program initiated in 2006 by the Israeli Foreign Ministry. The program tries to “show Israel’s prettier face" and distract attention from the illegal occupation of Palestine. A country that flouts international law and brags of impunity cannot then claim that its art is separate from its politics; the orchestra, like other Israeli institutions, has done nothing to stop its government's murderous suppression of the national rights of indigenous people.

Feb. 24 2011 03:19 PM
Andrew from West 57th Street

Let us bear witness to the Palestinian culture under attack every day since 1948. The Israel Philharmonic is not under attack for its cultural merit, but for it's complicity in the propaganda campaigns of Israel's apartheid government.

Feb. 24 2011 03:01 PM
David Spindel, M.D.

Thousands of Muslims are being slaughtered by their own brothers as we speak....and all they can protest is the presence of a world class symphony orchestra formed out of the ashes of the Holocaust in a country that has never had a day of peace in its 63 year existance?
Shame on them for their anti-Semitic double standard!

Feb. 24 2011 02:05 PM
Ardath Bey

Everyone has the right to protest, even if you don't agree with their point of view. And it takes a lot of courage for Palestinians to protest in a place like New York, a city with a large Jewish population.

2011 is becoming the Year of the Revolution and thank heavens for that. The creation of Israel in 1948, which dislodged 700,000 Palestinians, and the continuing theft of their land for more than 60 years now, which caused the death of countless others, are more than enough reasons to protest. Good for them and keep it peaceful.

Feb. 24 2011 01:08 PM
Michael Meltzer

It is fortunate that everything was peaceful.
Considering the unusually large share of senior citizens attending symphonic concerts, it would be hoped that more than 6 or 7 policemen would have been immediately available if violence broke out.

Feb. 24 2011 12:49 PM
Gabriela Nicolau

It's a shame that Palestinians are organizing such hateful protests. They want to destroy everything, including culture

Feb. 24 2011 07:38 AM

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