Fight back against BBC's Kennedy censorship

August 22, 2013
Sarah Benton

Don’t censor the Palestine Prom

Petition at 38 degrees. Click headline above to sign.
938 of 1000 hoped-for signatures at time of posting

Kennedy and the Palestine Strings and his Orchestra of Life at Proms 2013. Photo by BBC/Chris Christodoulou

Nigel Kennedy silenced

Letter, Daily Telegraph
August 22, 2013

[The letter is 12th down on the online page]
SIR – Some of us were present at the exhilarating celebration of musical artistry of Nigel Kennedy’s Four Seasons Prom, with the Palestine Strings. We congratulate the BBC for giving young players from the Edward Said Conservatory an all-too-rare opportunity to demonstrate the vitality of Palestinian cultural life, despite all the obstacles they face.

It now appears that the BBC intends to censor tomorrow’s broadcast of the concert, redacting a statement by Kennedy in which he hinted at the harsh conditions under which Palestinian musicians live. He said the Prom performance showed that “given equality and getting rid of apartheid gives a beautiful chance for amazing things to happen”.

The BBC said these words do not “fall within the editorial remit of the Proms as a classical music festival”. Kennedy responded with a statement condemning an “imperial lack of impartiality”. We note the Jewish Chronicle’s report indicating that the BBC has been subjected to pressure from pro-Israel advocates.

As Jewish campaigners for equality, justice and freedom for all in Israel/Palestine, we urge the BBC to acknowledge his comments as an integral part of a performance which was warmly received by an enthusiastic Proms crowd. The BBC owes television viewers the right to see the event uncensored, in its entirety.

George Abendstern
Seymour Alexander
Craig Berman
Linda Clair
Mike Cushman
Nancy Elan
Pia Feig
Deborah Fink
Tony Greenstein
Abe Hayeem
Rosamine Hayeem
Riva Joffe
Leah Levane
Rachel Lever
Dr Les Levidow
Prof Moshé Machover
Beryl Maizels
Miriam Margolyes
Dr Simon Pirani
Renate Prince
Roland Rance
Prof Jonathan Rosenhead
Chair, British Committee for the Universities of Palestine
Leon Rosselson
Dr Joan Safran
Sabby Sagall
Alexei Sayle
Miriam Scharf
Stanley Walinets
Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi
Secretary, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods
Devra Wiseman
Naomi Woodspring
Terry Yason

Ruth Deech, now cross-bench peer Baroness Deech for her work chairing the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, is from a family of Jews who fled the Nazis in Vienna and Prague. She compared Kennedy’s remark abut life for Palestinians with a hypothetical protests by a Spaniard about the ‘island paradise’ of Gibraltar. (Guardian) Reality check? See 3rd item

BBC accused of ‘censorship’ after cutting Nigel Kennedy’s Israel statement from Proms

The BBC is embroiled in a bitter row over alleged “censorship” after editing remarks by the violinist Nigel Kennedy about the treatment of Palestinians out of footage of a Proms concert.

By John Bingham, Religious Affairs Editor, Daily Telegraph
August 21/22, 2013

Kennedy angered many members of the Jewish community earlier this month after using a performance of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons at the Royal Albert Hall to accuse Israel of practising “apartheid”.

His comments, at the end of a performance given by a group of young Palestinian musicians, were broadcast live on BBC Radio 3, which was carrying the concert.

But the corporation has since confirmed that the impromptu remarks, delivered by Kennedy from the platform before the encores, will be cut from the footage when the concert has its first television broadcast on BBC4 on Friday.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews applauded the decision but campaigners accused the BBC of “censoring” an “integral” part of the event.

The controversy comes two years after protesters disrupted a Proms performance given by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in London.

It prompted the BBC to interrupt the broadcast, the first time in the history of the Proms that it had been forced off air, and triggered a heated debate.

Now a group of Jewish academics and celebrities who oppose Israel’s policies toward the West Bank and Gaza have written to The Daily Telegraph accusing the BBC of censorship for cutting Kennedy’s remarks.

It is understood several of them were involved in the controversial protest two years ago.

They also include the actress Miriam Margolyes and the comedian Alexei Sayle.

In an off-the-cuff intervention during the concert on August 8, Kennedy praised the young musicians adding: “We all know from the experience of this night of music that giving equality and getting rid of apartheid gives a beautiful chance for things to happen.”

He made a similar comparison between Israel and South Africa during a separate appearance on BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Live programme.

Among those who publicly complained to the BBC was Baroness Deech who described the analogy as “offensive and untrue”.
A spokeswoman for the BBC said that Kennedy’s remarks would be cut from the television screening because they did not “fall within the editorial remit of the Proms as a classical music festival.” She added: “The Proms is not an appropriate place to foster political statements.”

But in the letter the campaigners applaud Kennedy’s remarks and describe the concert as an “all-too-rare opportunity to demonstrate the vitality of Palestinian cultural life, despite all the obstacles they face.”

They go on: “As Jewish campaigners for equality, justice and freedom for all in Israel/Palestine, we celebrate Nigel Kennedy’s willingness to share a platform with Palestinians and articulate his support for them.”

They claim his remarks were “an integral part of a performance”, adding: “The BBC owes television viewers the right to see the event uncensored, in its entirety.”

Among the signatories to the letter is Naomi Wimborne Idrissi, secretary of a campaign group called Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods.

But Vivian Wineman, president of the Board of Deputies, said Kennedy’s remarks were “skewed and provocative” as well as “irrelevant to the music”.

He told The Daily Telegraph: “The Proms is a wonderful event that celebrates music, and should never be politicised in this way.

“Moreover, politicisation of cultural events is increasingly being used as a way of sabotaging performances by Israeli artists, which serves no purpose other than to ruin events and demonise performers.”

Dermot Kehoe, chief executive of the British Israel Communications and Research Centre (Bicom) said: “The BBC is right to ensure that artists do not use their airwaves as a personal platform, whether for commercial or political purposes.

“The BBC must protect its editorial integrity and impartiality. In this instance Nigel Kennedy’s remarks were ill informed, untrue and inappropriate.”

Last night Kennedy’s manager, Terri Robson, signalled that she accepted the BBC’s decision to cut the comments – even though the violinist himself did not agree.

She said: “Everyone in the music industry is aware that the proms television broadcast is a politics free zone as far as statements from the podium are concerned.

“Nigel has these very strong views, as far as he is concerned he can voice them on any platform he wants.But as a manager I am aware of the editorial requirements.”

She added: “Nigel’s view of the matter is that whatever he said should have been left in – but he knows what the remit was himself.”

BBC to cut Kennedy slur from Proms broadcast

By Marcus Dysch, Jewish Chronicle
August 16, 2013

Anti-Israel statements made by renowned violinist Nigel Kennedy will be cut from a BBC Proms television broadcast later this month.

Mr Kennedy used a Royal Albert Hall performance of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons last week to launch a thinly-veiled attack on Israel, likening the country to apartheid South Africa.

To loud cheers and applause he told the audience: “It’s a bit facile to say it, but we all know from the experience of this night of music that giving equality and getting rid of apartheid gives a beautiful chance for things to happen.”
The remarks were broadcast live on BBC Radio 3. Earlier this month Mr Kennedy told BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Live programme: “These problems of apartheid in Israel at the moment are extreme… when it was South Africa people did something about it.”
At the Proms concert he was playing with the Palestine Strings, a group of young musicians, aged 12 to 23, from the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music.

But the BBC confirmed on Tuesday that his remarks would be edited out of the concert when it is shown on BBC Four on August 23.

Among those who complained to the Corporation about Mr Kennedy’s comments was former BBC governor Baroness Deech, who called for an apology.

She said: “The remark was offensive and untrue. There is no apartheid in Israel. Apartheid was a system based on racial classification and denial of franchise. This is not the case in Israel or Gaza or the West Bank.

“It is inappropriate to allow the Albert Hall to be used for inflammatory comments such as this. Imagine if a conductor with Spaniards in his orchestra used the Proms to attack UK ownership of Gibraltar.”

Baroness Deech said Mr Kennedy’s comments should be removed from the recording of the concert still available on the BBC’s iPlayer service.

A long-term supporter of the boycott of Israel, Mr Kennedy has refused to perform in the country. After a visit to Israel in 2007 he told the Haaretz newspaper how a Palestinian ex-girlfriend had helped him “understand the problem even before the [separation] wall and the other atrocities.

“I was really shocked when I saw the wall here. It’s a new type of apartheid, barbaric behaviour. How can you impose collective punishment and divide people from one another?

“I would think that the world learned something from South Africa. And the world should boycott a nation that didn’t learn. That’s why I won’t perform in your country.”

Two years ago anti-Israel protesters repeatedly interrupted a Proms performance by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, causing the BBC to abandon its live broadcast.

Notes and links
BBC Proms 2013.
Interview with Roger Wright, Proms director on the Reithian mission and trying to widen the audience while giving preference to British music. Purely musical considerations? Daily Telegraph, July 2013

‘Apartheid’ says Nigel Kennedy at Proms. Not in BBC’s recording.
The unique power of music-making for Palestinians

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