Anti-Israel Protest Disrupts BBC Proms Concert in London

Thursday, September 01, 2011 - 06:29 PM

Protesters disrupted a performance on Thursday by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra as part of the BBC Proms, one of Britain’s most venerable concert series.

Pro-Palestinian group Palestine Solidarity Campaign had called for the BBC to cancel the concert and urged people to boycott it in protest. It claimed that the Israeli orchestra showed "complicity in whitewashing Israel's persistent violations of international law and human rights."

The concert took place at London’s Royal Albert Hall, where the annual summer Proms series dates back to 1941.

The protests began halfway into Webern's Passacaglia when a group rose to its feet in the hall's upper balcony, waving banners and singing protests to the tune of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy." Later, as the Israeli-American soloist, Gil Shaham, was about to play Bruch's violin concerto, some people in the audience began booing and shouting. 

BBC Radio 3 interrupted its live broadcast twice before returning later. The BBC Proms apologized on Twitter, saying that the concert’s live radio broadcast was taken off the air "as a result of sustained audience disturbance." It also reported that about 30 people were removed from the hall by security.

Some audience members tweeted that the protesters were shouted at to stop.

In February, the orchestra's U.S. tour was also met with protests, including demonstrations outside Carnegie Hall.

More in:

Comments [9]

Joel from Outland

The protesters paid for their tickets, supported the show, and made some noise for a few minutes. No one was hurt. Big deal.

Sep. 21 2011 08:06 PM
SusanW from NYC

The same sort of benighted protestors formed picket lines outside of the Joyce Theatre last Fall, when the brilliant Batsheva Dance Company was performing. I am neither Jewish nor Middle Eastern...I see both sides of the story...but it is just this sort of mindless hatred that causes me to turn off in a huge way.

Sep. 05 2011 05:17 PM
Silversalty from Brooklyn

I certainly don't have a "la vie en rose" attitude toward the Palestinians but I can say the same about the Israelis. I've just read a piece about some proposal from a Palestinian group that leads with the supposedly innocuous "right of return," which of course is code for the destruction of the state of Israel, 'democratically.' As I've pointed out in the past at the same site where that post was made, not ironically, the Palestinians absolutely refuse to consider "right of return" for Jews that lived outside the "Green Line" before the 1948 war.

But you're the one living in a dream world if you think the Palestinians aren't in a prison, 'the size of New Jersey.'

Much as in America today, both the Palestinians and Israelis are being lead by radical minority groups that don't have the will or concern of the majority in consideration.

Did anyone ever question the nature of the money that's paying for the Koch (not pronounced like "koch") building at Lincoln Center? Check on original members of the John Birch Society in America. How anyone concerned about the greater good of America can think about performing in a building with that name is .. not pretty.

Sep. 03 2011 04:10 AM
uzi silber from nyc

hey silversalty, comparing the Soviet Union -- functionally a jail that citizens were forbidden to leave, to a beleaguered, NJ-sized wide-open liberal democracy surrounded by a uniform sea of primitive Jew hatred is plain ignorant at best and willfully ignorant at worst.

Sep. 02 2011 09:57 PM
Silversalty from Brooklyn

Somewhere in my archive (8x10 print boxes) I've got a picture of a group of upper middle class Montreal Jewish women leaving a performance in Place des Arts given by some Soviet classical group. I wasn't inside the concert hall and I don't remember the particulars. The women were dressed in striped prison jump suits and had just made a public protest against the Soviet company and performance based on the then continuing imprisonment of one Anatoly Sharansky.

People are heroes or boors depending on one's point of view (or who gets to write the history).

A different image from that era -

Frankly some uncouth protests are long overdue in America.

Sep. 02 2011 09:03 PM
Bill from nj

It never ceases to amaze me how people who think they have a cause can do things to screw themselves up. All these protestors look like is a bunch of angry idiots, nothing more and nothing less, and all it will do is turn people away from them.

The Israeli Philharmonic is an orchestra, no more and no less, and doesn't represent the Israeli government or its policies, right or wrong. As a group the Philharmonic has tried to be a force for peace, they don't shoot bullets, they don't launch rockets, they play music and last I checked, they don't play for Jew only, Gentile only, Arab only, they play for anyone who wishes to listen.

What makes this worse I suspect is that those protesting like this are feeding into the perceptions, some based in reality, that Arabs and Muslims in particular won't be happy until there is a world that reflects their values, among which is the idiotic notion that somehow music is against God's will (yeah, we had the Puritans in the west, and they were put in their place a long, long time ago). There is a place and time to voice protest, this makes about as much sense as a Jewish group boycotting the present day Berlin Philharmonic because of the Holocaust.

Sep. 02 2011 08:23 PM

Of course, the only conceivable answer to the rhetorical question of "What crime could an internationally renowned orchestra possibly be complicit in?" is simply - the "crime" of the very existence of the country it represents!

Anti-Israeli sentiment has exerted such a grip on British society, that authorities there are rendered powerless to prevent these protest actions from disrupting profoundly peaceful and civilized activities - in this case, a classical music concert!! Even if this angry mob knows of Maestro Mehta's dedicated efforts in the cause of Arab-Jewish cooperation through his music, could they care any less? Or have they given any thought to the brutal response that ANY public protest would be met with if it were conducted in Syria, Iran or Saudi Arabia? Most certainly (and ironically), they would be dealt with far more humanely if this disruption were taking place in Israel itself! AND THEY PROBABLY DO KNOW THAT!

Sep. 02 2011 11:39 AM

The people that did this are shameful. Everyone knows that music crosses all boundaries both political and cultural. Are you that obsessed with Israel? At a freaking concert? Are you kidding me?

Sep. 02 2011 11:29 AM

Isn't it amazing? Syria's Assad guns down 2000+ demonstrators in the streets in the past 6 months, but it's the Israel Philharmonic that gets shouted down for "complicity in whitewashing Israel's persistent violations of international law and human rights." What possible "complicity" could an orchestra have? And it's *Israel's* persistent violations of international law and human rights?

Where are the Palestinian protesters shouting about the violation of the human rights of their Muslim brothers in Syria? I don't notice them in front of the Syrian embassy in London, trying to draw attention to Syria's atrocities...

Sep. 01 2011 09:00 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

The WQXR e-newsletter. Show highlights, links to music news, on-demand concerts, events from The Greene Space and more.

Follow WQXR 







About WQXR Blog

Read WQXR's coverage of classical music news, trends, commentary and more here at the WQXR Blog.