Thursday, 22 September 2011
High time for clemency
I'm rather arbitrarily comparing big and small here, and in the case of the small, Israel may have been the starting point but is no longer the issue (snapped that White Rabbit in Jerusalem's Mane Yehuda district two years ago, by the way - is it a Banksy?)
Obama's UN veto on Palestine strikes me as the biggest disappointment yet, on a par with his inability to intervene in the greatest horror last night, the execution of a man who remained innocent until proven guilty (what's the saw? Better twenty guilty men go free than that an innocent man should hang).
Anyway, one shouldn't be surprised about the USA's intractable association with Israel: in came a telling statistic from Peter Phillips that the Israel Philharmonic indeed gets little funding from its own government but - surprise, surprise - has most of the shortfall met by America. And don't get me wrong: I do believe that in some respects Israel remains a beacon of democracy in the Middle East. But in the areas where it so flagrantly isn't, there must be room for self-examination and not just the kneejerk assertion that anyone who says there's a serious problem must be anti-semitic. We well know, though, that no rational argument is possible here, it's been too deep wired over thousands of years.
As it happens, the Israel Philharmonic doesn't really figure any more in the case of 'the LPO four', the orchestral musicians who put their signatures to a petition in the Independent seeking the boycott of the IPO's visit to the Proms. The grey area which remains is whether it was they or the organisers of the petition who appended 'London Philharmonic Orchestra' to their names and professions. If it was the players - and this should have been properly established by due process - than an emphatic public caution from an organisation which should not have been linked with the cause was totally justified.
What remains indefensible is the decision to bar the players from all activity with the orchestra, first for nine months, now for six. Big deal. As I wrote in an email to LPO chief executive Timothy Walker yesterday - you can send one, too, to email@example.com - 'a suspension, even if only for six months, is extreme, and reflects badly on nobody but the orchestral management'.
No reply as yet. Last night I was harangued by a person closely associated with the orchestra for trying to raise the issue as objectively as I could in the LPO's opening concert of the season, as if it had no place even in interval chit-chat. Anyway, I attended - some of my colleagues returned boycott for boycott - with the intention of giving the great Jurowski's latest piece of daredevil programming its due, but also of raising the peripheral issue, in my Arts Desk review, and have done just that. VJ, incidentally, did what he thought he could to plead for the players but doesn't feel beyond making his point that more is within his remit as principal conductor.
I was, of course, relieved that there were no protests in the hall, but deeply disappointed that no-one had the decency to support the players by issuing leaflets in the foyers. The gist should have been, 'enjoy the concert, but be aware of the issues' - the line taken by protesters at the BP-sponsored Trafalgar Square live screening of the Royal Opera Cendrillon. This eco-ballet, Swan Lake as parable of swans in oil, photo courtesy (I trust) of the Indymedia UK website, did not 'disrupt the event' as the site claims; it took place half an hour before curtain up.
I didn't catch the quarter-hour happening, as I arrived just before official 'curtain up'. I did, however, get a very witty and articulate leaflet. But on Wednesday there was nothing before or after the concert. That's sad.
23/9 Update: 117 signatories in a letter to the Telegraph, including Mike Leigh and Miriam Margolyes, have expressed their outrage. I don't think they've approached it from quite the right angle, but they've made their feelings known. And Timothy Walker - who still hasn't responded to my email - tells the Telegraph: 'This all became an issue when we started to receive emails and letters from supporters, a lot of whom are Jewish and felt that the players were taking an anti-Jewish position. Some said they weren't going to come to the concerts or give us any money.' Hmm - that says rather more than it should, doesn't it? And I believe two of the players in question are Jewish, so what does that make them - self-hating?