Activists fail in bid to cancel IPO London concert

BBC Proms organizer: Invitation was purely musical; protest outside London venue expected.

September 1, 2011 05:09
3 minute read.
Israel Philharmonic Orchestra

Israel Philharmonic Orchestra 311. (photo credit: Reuters)


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LONDON - Anti-Israel activists have failed to persuade organizers of the BBC Proms, one of the most revered and wellknown classical music festivals that takes place annually in London, to cancel a concert by the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra.

The IPO concert will take place on Thursday at the prestigious Albert Hall in west London.

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Since July, activists have been pressuring organizers to cancel the concert. They told organizers that the IPO is, according to one activist, “a pillar of the Israeli state system and of its cultural propaganda campaign” and “complicit in whitewashing Israel’s persistent violations of international law and human rights.”

Leading the campaign is London School of Economics Prof. Jonathan Rosenhead, chairman of British Committee for Universities for Palestine, a group leading the call for a blanket boycott of Israel. He wrote to Roger Wright, director of the Proms, on July 31 telling him to cancel the concert.

“By inviting the IPO, a pillar of the Israeli state system and of its cultural propaganda campaign, you provide the Israeli government, perpetrator of the Cast Lead invasion of Gaza and of so many other violations of international law and of human rights, with the support that they crave. Cancel the concert!” he said.

“For years now the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been promoting ‘Brand Israel,’ a deliberate PR campaign to divert people’s gaze from what they are doing to Palestinians.

The idea is to craft a new image by focusing on Israel’s cultural and scientific achievements,” the LSE Emeritus Professor of Operational Research added.


It followed a campaign led by PACBI (Palestinian Campaign for Academic-Cultural Boycott of Israel) who wrote to the Proms’ director on July 18 calling on him to withdraw the invitation to the IPO. In the letter they stated that “its services to the Israeli army dates back to the ethnic cleansing of the Nakba in 1948 and the occupations of 1967, and continuing up to the present day.”

The calls have been firmly rejected by the Proms organizers.

Wright refused to cancel the IPO concert saying that the invitation was “purely musical” and merit-based.

“The invitation to the Orchestra is a purely musical one, giving the audience the opportunity to hear this fine orchestra during this year’s Proms, not least during the 75th birthday year of its conductor Zubin Mehta,” Wright said.

This has led to a letter in Wednesday’s Independent newspaper signed by 24 musicians and activists castigating the decision to host the IPO claiming that Israel “impedes in every way it can the development of Palestinian culture.”

Most of the signatories are seasoned campaigners of the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel.

“As musicians we are dismayed that the BBC has invited the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra to play at the Proms on 1 September. The IPO has a deep involvement with the Israeli state – not least its selfproclaimed ‘partnership’ with the Israeli Defense Forces. This is the same state and army that impedes in every way it can the development of Palestinian culture, including the prevention of Palestinian musicians from travelling abroad to perform.

“Our main concern is that Israel deliberately uses the arts as propaganda to promote a misleading image of Israel.

Through this campaign, officially called ‘Brand Israel,’ denials of human rights and violations of international law are hidden behind a cultural smokescreen. The IPO is perhaps Israel’s prime asset in this campaign.

Israel’s policy towards the Palestinians fits the UN definition of apartheid. We call on the BBC to cancel this concert,” the letter concluded.

Anti-Israel activists are now organizing to protest outside the Albert Hall during the concert on Thursday.

The Zionist Federation of the UK has organized a counter demonstration calling for people to shun the boycott calls of Israel, and support peace.

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