Protest at the Proms, what will the public think?

September 9, 2011
Sarah Benton

PSC Turns Proms Audience pro-Israel
By Jonathan Hoffman
September 2, 2011

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign – which consorts with homophobes, misogynists, supremacists and antisemites – managed to turn an entire audience pro-Israel at the Royal Albert Hall last night. I was there. So was Ed Vaizey, Culture Minister, who tweeted “Demonstrators seem to have turned entire audience pro-Israel”.

The PSC cultural terrorists included all the usual suspects who picket Ahava in Monmouth Street every fortnight. Deborah Fink was there in disguise, presumably because she thought she is so infamous that security would spot her – she had her hair swept back and dyed grey. Bruce Levy – who has been banned by the police from Monmouth Street where Ahava is located, for his loutish behaviour – also attempted to disguise himself, by growing a beard. (Finkler Jew Levy famously said that Gilad Shalit should be dug up and then reburied). The PSC Jew haters tried to stop me doing an interview with the BBC outside the Hall after the concert, by yelling and screaming. If you can’t win an argument try censorship – that’s the way these Stalinists operate.

The applause at the end of the Bruch Violin Concerto – before the interval – was tumultuous and soloist Gil Shaham even played an encore. I was told that the applause at the end of the concert was every bit as enthusiastic.

What a shame that the audience’s enthusiasm for the IPO could not include the waving of Israeli flags – which had been banned by the Hall, along with all leaflets and other flags. (I waved a flag at the cultural bigots of the PSC but was asked to leave).

Presumably this ban applies to all flags including Union Jacks at the Last Night – it cannot just be Israel which is being singled out for a flag ban ….
Well done to all who stood up for Israel outside the Hall, most especially our much loved Christian supporters

Addendum 1: Here is arch renegade Jew Bruce Levy harrassing me when the BBC wanted to do an interview with me. I was walking away from their demo to a quiet part of the perimeter of the Hall because the harassment was so great next to their demo. But he chased after me and harassed me. See 1:18-1:19 of this BBC clip (I am told it was on BBC TV UK news this morning).…

At last …. A politician condemns the PSC’s Prom Disruption
By Jonathan Hoffman
September 5, 2011

Coleman: “Disgraceful Proms protesters behaving like 1930s black shirts”

Brian Coleman, Barnet and Camden’s London Assembly member has condemned the disruption of last night’s Proms performance by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign describing their actions as “like that of 1930s black shirts”.

Commenting after the PSC interrupted conductor Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra with chants, shouting and singing, Mr Coleman said:
“This is profoundly ignorant behaviour from a group of people behaving in the same way as 1930s black shirts. Anyone who knows anything about Israeli cultural life knows that classical music plays an important part in helping to bridge divides. But these people wouldn’t care about that. All they are interested in is promoting their narrow-minded, warped opinions and shouting down anyone else. I hope Mr Mehta, the orchestra and Israel take heart from the fact that the vast majority of people are the Royal Albert Hall last night condemned the Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s stupidity.”

Brian Coleman will raise this issue with the Mayor of London.

Anti-Israel protest disrupts Philharmonic show in UK

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators interrupt Israeli orchestra’s London performance. BBC Radio forced to suspend broadcast. UK minister tweets: Demonstrators turned entire audience pro-Israel.

2 September, 2011, IOA Editor: Indeed, the minister might be right. Unlike the disruption of speeches by Israeli officials, where irritating the audience may well be part of the objective, interrupting a concert is likely to generate total resentment by audience members who paid (often dearly) for tickets and whose attendance may have more to do with music and less to do with support of Israel. On the other hand, direct action outside the box office or music hall offers at least a chance of causing a few people to reconsider their attendance. Not that every action need result in immediate sympathy, but turning the audiences against one’s cause is hardly an effective BDS tactic.

Tony Greenstein 3 September
I’m sorry that the otherwise excellent Israeli Occupation Archive should echo a Tory Minister’s criticism of the disruption of the BBC Proms and the performance of the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra.

The protest was not aimed at the audience. We did indeed have a picket of the Royal Albert Hall, as the video of my blog shows and 2 audience members were dissuaded from going in, however we fully expected the audience to be hostile, consisting as it did of either Zionists or upper-middle class types for whom their own enjoyment was far more important than the sufferings of the Palestinians.

We forced live coverage of the Proms off the air and we reached a far wider audience who asked why we disrupted the concert in the first place.

I first became politically active 40 years ago at the time of the Springbok rugby tours when we went on the fields and disrupted the matches. The audiences then were hostile and violent but the impact was far wider and the message got through to the apartheid regime.

Likewise we are concerned with sending a message to Israel that its occupation and its treatment of its own Arab citizens is unacceptable and that cultural isolation is a price that they will and are having to pay. The temporary inconvenience of concert goers and Zionists is a small price to pay given the international impact of what happened.

I’m sorry that the Editor of the IOA chooses to be so negative.

IOA Editor 3 September
Dear Tony,
Thank you for your kind words about the IOA – very much appreciated!

That the objectives and intentions of the protesters are honourable is, no doubt, the case. And that the IOA doesn’t generally share the views of ministers of HM’s Government should be equally obvious.

However, as is the case in all political actions, the ultimate test to determine the wisdom and effectiveness of BDS actions is the likely result of the given action. Admittedly, the likely result is not always clear cut.

However, to read that “the protest was not aimed at the audience” is a great puzzlement, indeed, and sounds rather disconnected from reality: the audience is most immediately affected by the disruption inside the music hall. Whether Zionist or not, audience members are most likely to be completely and totally turned off by such action.

It is obvious that people who do not care about the suffering of the Palestinians would rather focus on their own enjoyment of the concert — whether “upper-middle class types” or otherwise. But these are the very people whose minds you’re trying to change. Turning them against you is not a gain and dismissing them — for any reason, class included — is equally counterproductive. We, those who do care about the suffering of the Palestinians, already know. It’s the others we ought to be focusing on — and by focusing I don’t mean turn-off or dismiss.

Irritating the audience should be done only when there’s nothing to lose, say, when it is made up of invitees of the Israeli embassy. This example of direct action is hardly such case.

One could think of other ways to get the attention of an Israeli musical event to express the same exact — very valid — positions while not generating a negative reaction from the entire audience. These could include actions outside the theater, outside or inside the BBC, and other creative ways that work for a given event.

Look at what other campaigns have done: Ahava, Caterpillar, others. There are various ways directed at the same objectives without turning the very public you wish to influence against you.

Because, when you do turn the audience against you, you’ve stepped backwards; now you need to do even more to come back to where you were. Not terribly effective, not terribly wise, in terms of helping the Palestinian cause or educating the general public about the true nature of Israel and the Occupation. At least not in the view of this writer.

Isolating Israel, economically, politically, and culturally is the right thing to do — but it must be done effectively or else it ends up hurting the very people you’re trying to help.

Patricia McCarty 3 September
Actually Mr. Editor,
Such protests do work. Certainly it interferes with the enjoyment and ‘rights’ of an audience to view a performance, but it isolates Israel in a very public way. I too was involved in the demonstrations against the 1980′s NZ Spingbok tour Rugby supporters and the NZ government would have agreed with you. Supporters had bought their tickets and therefore had the “right” to their entertainment/enjoyment. Many anti-apartheid Protesters invaded the pitch during one game, standing with linked arms in the centre while the police tried to forcibly remove them. A small air-craft flew swooping low over the rugby field ended the game. NZ and South Africa are both passionate about rugby. Consequently, the Protesters knew there would be a great deal of anger, hence many wore motorcycle helmets for protection against the rugby fans and even the police, who wielded sticks and were dressed in riot gear. Most importantly, the world was watching. The valuable publicity far outweighed the ‘right’ to watch a game of rugby. It hit South Africa where it hurt…their ability to play sport internationally was curtailed, increasing pressure on the regime overseas and at home. Soon after, apartheid was dismantled.

Mhara Costello, 4 September
Reading this article early Sunday morning, I had to look twice before I could take in; the editor of a ‘supposedly’ pro Palestinian website would express such a bizarre view of a totally justifiable protest, by brave, dedicated people. Are we to assume it’s only ok to protest if and when it doesn’t upset or inconvenience anyone? Isn’t that the point? Because other less confrontational methods DON’T WORK! If the editor is right in his assumption (and that’s all it is) – that more people were Pro Israel than before the protest- (if that’s all it takes, god help them) then that ‘theory’ flys out the window fast with the man who chose to JOIN the demonstration rather then listen to the very performance he’d bought a ticket for. “likely to generate total resentment by audience members” Irritating the audience “- God forbid anyone should DARE such a thing. 1.6 million people penned up like animals generates quite a bit of ‘resentment’ too; especially from those who put others needs before their own. I love music. I go to the theatre. If a performance I was about to enjoy was disrupted in this way, yes, I’d be disappointed, but I’d also want to know why. Don’t these people ever read the news, know or care what is going on in the world- and the fact it doesn’t always revolve around them. The BBC (with its usual arrogance) chose to ignore the request to cancel the performance and were well aware of the consequences if they didn’t. When the people of Gaza are free to attend such an event I might scrape up a scrap of sympathy for the poor dears deprived of their glittering night of culture. Until then – get over it. There’s nothing cultural about Apartheid.

IOA Editor, 4 September
Please read carefully the reply to Tony Greenstein’s clearly stated and factual comment.
No suggestion that protest was “OK” only if it does not upset or inconvenience others was made. And there was absolutely no questioning of the right to protest, the justifiable cause for the protest, or the dedication and commitment of the protesters. None of that.

Rather, the only question raised was whether this specific BDS action was wise and effective – based on its outcomes. Period.

Mhara Costello 4 September
I did read your reply to Tony Greenstein. Several times. Period.

Moving on; “audience members whose attendance may have more to do with music and less to do with support of Israel”

Sorry, I’m missing something here. Isn’t that rather stating the obvious? Am I allowed to make a reasonably intelligent guess at the implication of such an incomplete remark without being shot down in flames for daring to do so? my interpretation; members of PSC and like minded people should take said remark into consideration and ‘next time’ – do what? A handful of people should gather outside the venue to wave a flag or banner in one hand, whilst handing out leaflets with the other, preferably chanting & singing at the same time until their throats are sore; Wow!!! Does anyone really believe that will make ONE iota of difference to either the audience OR performers in recognising they are both complicit in supporting an illegal, brutal, apartheid state? Answers on a postcard, please….

Moshé Machover, 4 September
The audience, who had paid for their tickets, may have been irritated. But the protest achieved a very great echo because the concert was broadcast live, and the broadcast had to be interrupted. In this way the message got to many thousands of people who may not have been previously aware of the BDS campaign. I think on balance it was a successful propaganda coup for BDS.

Nigel Spaven, 4 September
While we wait for the masses to ‘understand the issues’, Palestinians suffer injustice and unimaginable brutality day and night at the hands of an illegal occupying force, while illegal settlements expand and our political ‘leaders’ do nothing. These musicians will take this protest back to Israel with them, and hopefully those who are blind will begin to see what is being done in their name. Actions like this are very necessary and should continue. Our humanity demands that we speak out at every opportunity against this brutal occupation and criminal disregard for human rights and justice. Everyone must know the truth – even those who can afford seats at the Albert Hall.

IOA Editor, 5 September
It is obvious that the Editor has failed to convince the several commentators on the fine points (or “bla bla”) directed at one part of this specific BDS action, and not at anything else associated with BDS – which quickly became the focus of most of the comments. (Not Tony Greenstein’s factual and pointed description of what took place, and Moshé Machover’s reasonable summary of the outcomes.)
Machover, while downplaying the effect on the audience (that “may have been irritated” — a gross underestimation, in my view), tacitly acknowledged the downside of irritating the audience by referring to the totality of the event as “on balance it was a successful propaganda coup” (emphasis added).

This can be neither proven nor refuted. Indeed, that the outcomes may be hard to gauge or predict was stated in my reply to Tony Greenstein’s comment, early on (“the likely result is not always clear cut”).

Yet, this was at the very core of my original comment: not an objection to BDS as such; or to cultural boycott of Israel; or to boycotting “upper class” events. In fact, no objection to anything in general. Rather, I made a narrow, specific point on the likely outcomes of the inside-part of this particular event, and on the importance of assessing outcomes before engaging in a political action so that, on balance, they end up supporting the intended causes. Machover thinks that, on balance, this was accomplished here; I have serious doubts about it.

This is the extent of the disagreement. No more. (Perhaps to the disappointment of some of the commentators, below.)

It is probably time now we all moved on to more productive endeavours. I thank you all for your criticism.

zvi a. zvi 5 September
Dear Editor,
You comments fall in the face of reality. The strongest argument for taking the above mentioned action is this:

In an article in YNET (,7340,L-4117063,00.html) Yoel Abadi, a member of the orchestra and a member of its managing team says thus:

“כשאנחנו מופיעים בחו”ל באיזה שהוא מקום אנחנו תמיד זוכרים שהתזמורת מייצגת את המדינה ושאנחנו שגריריה”.

Translation: “When we perform abroad [outside of Israel] we always remember that we represent Israel and that we are her ambassadors”.

Is there a better reason POSSIBLE to demonstrate against this performance?

By the way, how many Palestinians belong to this orchestra and how do they feel about this demo?

Unintended consequences count, too.

IOA Editor, 5 September
Agree, wholeheartedly! As usual, though, the devil is in the details.

Before engaging in any political action — in this case, specifically, the indoor portion of the event — it is crucial to make a clear distinction between the enemy and the target audience of such action, and understand the impacts on both. Confusing the two is likely to alienate the very people we should be influencing. When that happens, we may well be losing the audience and helping the very enemy we hope to defeat.

zvi a. zvi 5 September
Bla bla. Spending so much time making these great distinctions is tantamount to inaction. In any case, the audience was a proper target. Just like the individual shopper at a supermarket that sells Israeli produce is a proper target of boycott action.

You could have said exactly the same for the entire boycott of SA. Assume this were an Israeli football (soccer) team, and further assume that some of the players were Palestinians and that the audience, of course, were a bunch of British football hooligans. Would you have said the same?

Of course the civilized audience would have liked to be able to listen to the concert. But the bottom line is: Should we boycott (inside the venue, not just outside) Israeli cultural, academic, industrial and sporting organizations?

If the answer is yes, then no matter how the members of this specific audience feel about the show they missed, it was the right thing to do.

In fact, it will teach British audiences that paying for concerts with Israeli orchestras is risky, and that will do a large part of the boycott work all by itself.

Terry Gallogly 5 September
Heard it all before.
When Peter Hain and others tore up the pitch at Lords the night before a match with apartheid South Africa, apoplectic members of the lords committee told us to “keep politics out of sport” and warned that we were damaging support for South Africa. The press backed this line and even some on the left fell for it. Substitute “Proms” for “Cricket” and its the same thing again. Even the arguments are identical “but Cricket/Concerts keeps the door open for dialogue” and “we will achieve more by working together than by boycotting” In fact the collaborators achieved absolutely zilch. It was the boycott abroad and the ANC struggle at home that won the day.

Israel wants to normalize itself by projecting the image of a cultured nation. People who oppose a 100% boycott help them in that objective.

If Ed Vaizey of Conservative Friends of Palestine, and J Hoffman of the Zionist Fed. REALLY believed that the protests are helping Israel, they would be encouraging us to do it rather than opposing.

One final thought. Do I detect a touch of forelock-tugging in the reluctance to impose a boycott on elitist events? Is it OK to boycott pop concerts, or does IOA Editor oppose the whole Cultural boycott?

What about strikes. Train strikes can be inconvenience and anger people who have bought tickets? Do we deny workers the right to strike. Ed Vaizey says Yes.

Heard it all before.

IOA Editor, 5 September 2011
Beautiful rant. However, bearing no relation to what was actually said. The IOA Editor favors *any* boycott action that is likely to advance the intended purposes. You may have ‘heard’ it all before, but did you listen?

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