Letter published 5 April 2010
As Jewish participants in the protest against the Jerusalem Quartet concert, we reject the suggestion by Elisa Bray and Kim Sengupta (1 April) that the JQ were targeted because their members had served in the Israeli army.
Although those brave Israeli high school students, the Shministim, do refuse to serve and suffer repeated imprisonment as a result, this was not the reason for our protest.
The Jerusalem Quartet has repeatedly gone out of its way to identify with Israel’s military. According to the Jerusalem Music Centre, which helped to found and support the JQ, and which is itself based in the illegal West Bank settlement of Mishkenot Sha’ananim, the JQ serve in the army as Distinguished Musicians.
Far from having no responsibility for the Israeli state, the Quartet’s foreign tours have been repeatedly sponsored by the Israeli Foreign Ministry, and each member of the JQ has been given generous support by the American Israel Cultural Foundation, whose purpose is “supporting the next generation of Israel’s cultural ambassadors”.
It is untrue that we campaign against the “excesses of the Jewish State”. Our disagreement is far more fundamental.
A Jewish state means a state where Jews receive privileges as against Arabs, for example access to state land in Israel, a segregated education system and a society where over 75 per cent believe that Arabs and Jews should not share apartment blocks, and 60 per cent would refuse to allow an Arab to visit their own apartment.
Despite their well-documented role with Israel’s army and as Israel’s cultural ambassadors, the Jerusalem Quartet has not once condemned discrimination or the repression of the Palestinians.
John Gilhooly, the director of the Wigmore Hall, states that music transcends politics. We disagree. This was the argument used in the days of the sporting boycotts against South African apartheid.
And, contrary to Elisa Bray’s article, Deborah Fink is a trained professional classical singer.
Tony Greenstein, Deborah Fink
Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, Brighton