Amid heckling, BBC pulls plug on ‘Jerusalem Quartet’

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Interesting piece in the Forward this week: "Jerusalem Quartet Draws Discordant Note in Britain." It is your by-now-standard harassing of an Israeli cultural presentation in London by BDS types, but with some great twists.

1) The lunch time presentation was being broadcast live by the BBC nationwide when the organized heckling broke out, forcing the Beeb to pull the plug, mid-broadcast; a real victory for the hecklers in terms of drawing attention to their issue, which, after all, is what it’s all about (as it was for Rabbi Kahane’s disruptions of Soviet cultural presentations in the U.S. back in the 1970’s re the Soviet Jewry issue).

2) Irony angle: that the group’s name and its members’ past national service as musicians in the IDF notwithstanding, only one of the four lives in Israel today. And two are members and section leaders of the West-Eastern Divan — the Seville-based Middle East Jewish-Muslim youth orchestra co-founded by Edward Said and Daniel Barenboim, the Argentine-Jewish pianist and conductor.

This is the same West-Eastern Divan whose petition to be allowed to give a concert in Gaza was just rejected by the Government of Israel, which was apparently more fearful of the publicity the concert would bring to the Gaza blockade than of the publicity generated by its refusal.

3) The protesters’ defense of the validity of their action, notwithstanding the musicians’ extra-curricular commitment to the Divan. This generated an interesting back-and-forth on the distinction between the external and the personal in politics. I’d note that the quartet hurt their argument by issuing a formal statement denying they had any connection to or patronage from the Gov’t of Israel—an assertion easily shown as false by the acknowledgement of such support in their own publicity.

The group’s 2009 Australian tour was supported, in part, by an $8,000 Israeli Foreign Ministry grant, according to The Age, an Australian daily.

At the same time, protester spokesman Tony Greenstein dismissed the Divan’s political import as a Jewish-Muslim initiative with a false charge that this orchestra excluded West Bank Palestinians. (Fisking’s part of the job.)

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