Trending Topics:

‘NYT’ music piece strikes false note on Mehta and Israeli politics

Israel/Palestine
on 54 Comments
Mehta receiving honory doctorate

Zubin Mehta (second from left) receiving an honorary doctorate in Tel Aviv, 2013.
Photo credit: Aurael Cohen, YNet

The New York Times ran a column in its music section the other day admiring the liberal anti-occupation politics of the legendary conductor Zubin Mehta and the openness of Israeli society for permitting such political expression. 

In “Political Views Test the Harmony:  Zubin Mehta, of the Israel Philharmonic, on That Nation’s Affairs” the writer Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim compares Mehta with the purportedly less-politically-outspoken conductors, the Venezuelan Gustavo Dudamel, and the Russian Valery Gergiev, comparing their respective nation’s intolerance for political criticism unfavorably to the Israeli reality.

But the reality is that in his over 50 years conducting the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO), Mehta has had very little to say about Israeli politics despite his protestations to the contrary to Fonseca-Wollheim.

‘I speak openly about a country that I see, from my private musician’s perspective, as going in the wrong direction, as far as the settlements, as far as internal economic policies. But they know I’m a friend. And being in a democracy, I express my opinions freely.’

The NY Times report concludes by highlighting the 77-year-old conductor’s laudable dream to integrate the IPO which has never had a Palestinian member since its founding in 1936.  However, the fact that Mehta has spent a lifetime as the leader of a segregated orchestra, apparently unable in 50 years to find one Palestinian musician to further his dream, hardly makes him an appropriate subject for such praise.

Zubin Mehta was born in India into a Zoroastrian ethnic background. He has Indian citizenship and permanent residence status in the United States. The conductor has never lived in Israel. He does not speak Hebrew, but has an Israeli 23-year-old  son from an extra-marital relationship, whom he publicly acknowledged in 1999.  Mehta has spent a significant part of his performing career in Europe, where he is currently the main conductor for the Valencia Opera House.

The question is:  do columns like “Political Views Test the Harmony” which inaccurately extol Israeli political openness and the progressive values of someone like Mehta happen because of the Jewish and Israeli formidable promotional machine that feeds media outlets like the NY Times?  Also, how much are the NY Times writers, because of their newspaper’s editorial policies, knowingly complicit in this deception?

Ira Glunts
About Ira Glunts

Ira Glunts is a retired college librarian who lives in Madison, NY. His twitter handle is @abushalom

Other posts by .


Posted In:

54 Responses

  1. hophmi
    hophmi
    March 21, 2014, 2:24 pm

    ” However, the fact that Mehta has spent a lifetime as the leader of a segregated orchestra, apparently unable in 50 years to find one Palestinian musician to further his dream, hardly makes him an appropriate subject for such praise.”

    Come on. How many Palestinians in Israel have studied Western classical music? It’s clear that the orchestra is not formally segregated. The orchestra’s a Western vestige in Israel. Is it really surprising that there haven’t been Arab-Israelis in it? I’m sure you’ll see one before long.

    “The question is: do columns like “Political Views Test the Harmony” which inaccurately extol Israeli political openness and the progressive values of someone like Mehta happen because of the Jewish and Israeli formidable promotional machine that feeds media outlets like the NY Times?”

    Gosh, you know, I wonder if we read the same article. Mehta criticizes the settlements and occupation. He talks about going to Ramallah and speaking with Palestinian intellectuals there. What exactly do you want?

    “‘NYT’ music piece strikes false note on Mehta and Israeli politics
    Ira Glunts on March 21, 2014
    Facebook
    Twitter
    Reddit
    Google
    Mehta receiving honory doctorate
    Zubin Mehta (second from left) receiving an honorary doctorate in Tel Aviv, 2013.
    Photo credit: Aurael Cohen, YNet

    The New York Times ran a column in its music section the other day admiring the liberal anti-occupation politics of the legendary conductor Zubin Mehta and the openness of Israeli society for permitting such political expression.

    In “Political Views Test the Harmony: Zubin Mehta, of the Israel Philharmonic, on That Nation’s Affairs” the writer Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim compares Mehta with the purportedly less-politically-outspoken conductors, the Venezuelan Gustavo Dudamel, and the Russian Valery Gergiev, comparing their respective nation’s intolerance for political criticism unfavorably to the Israeli reality.

    “But the reality is that in his over 50 years conducting the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO), Mehta has had very little to say about Israeli politics despite his protestations to the contrary to Fonseca-Wollheim.”

    Maybe he doesn’t like to grandstand in the press. Not everyone who expresses an opinion needs to do so to a reporter.

    • Ecru
      Ecru
      March 21, 2014, 3:12 pm

      @ Hoppy

      How many Palestinians in Israel have studied Western classical music?

      I would imagine more than those from the West Bank. You know the place that provided a Youth Orchestra for the Proms? The Youth Orchestra that accompanied world class violinist Nigel Kennedy? The Youth Orchestra that performed Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons?” A piece of music widely considered to be of the Western Classical music tradition? It’s also the place where Wissam Tayem was forced by members of the WaffenIDF to play violin for their amusement. Echoes of Majdanek there. Or is your ignoring their existence just, as I strongly suspect, down to your view that Palestinians just aren’t “good enough” to play Classical? A prejudice that would fit well with your obvious ethno-supremacist bigotries.

      And since you’re obviously as ignorant about music as you are about Europe (hmm considering Classical music originated in Europe isn’t it an anti-semitic musical form?) let me clue you in:-

      If you can play a suitable instrument and read music you can play Classical. In fact musicians from an Arab music background might find the limitations of the chromatic scale more of a constraint than anything else since they come from a more tonal musical tradition (basically one without pianos or accordions).

      • traintosiberia
        traintosiberia
        March 22, 2014, 8:25 am

        It is pure drivel and is part of the same historical Zionist tendency to distort,suppress and ignore realities then claim that Arabs lack certain experiences that the West and Israel are immersed with and born with

      • traintosiberia
        traintosiberia
        March 22, 2014, 8:51 am

        There was vigorous and vibrant cultural and intellectual activities in Palestine Jerusalem in 1913 .Those were slowly and calculatedly stymied,stifled,and eventually destroyed by the Zionist onslaught.Not only that ,the Zionist also excluded by design and pre planned mapped out set of behaviors and actions later turned into policies any Palestine participation into the Zionist school,college,vocational centers,banking s,political and military outfit and media. Despite these, Palestinians continued to dream and try. Zionist also continued to prevent any Palestinian and European contact at educational and economic level.
        Jerusalem 1913 The origins of Arab Israel conflict by Amy Dockser Marcus is a wonderful resource that document some of these developments.

      • hophmi
        hophmi
        March 25, 2014, 12:26 pm

        “And since you’re obviously as ignorant about music as you are about Europe (hmm considering Classical music originated in Europe isn’t it an anti-semitic musical form?) let me clue you in:-

        If you can play a suitable instrument and read music you can play Classical. In fact musicians from an Arab music background might find the limitations of the chromatic scale more of a constraint than anything else since they come from a more tonal musical tradition (basically one without pianos or accordions).”

        I’m a pianist and an avid classical music fan who was a performance major, so once again, you look like an damned ass.

        I’m quite familiar with what is required to make it into a major orchestra, and it takes a lot more than reading music and playing suitable instruments. I NEVER SAID ANYWHERE that Palestinians are not good enough to play classical music. I said exactly the opposite below.

        What I said that there may not be many who desire to play in the Israel Philharmonic, and that culturally, they would be more likely to play other instruments and other forms of music. That’s certainly not to say that there are no Palestinian classical musicians, or, as I’ve said several times now, also not to say that there will never be one in the IPO.

        If you think that cultural attitudes and socioeconomics have little influence on the ethnic makeup of classical music ensembles, please report back to me on the percentage of African-American musicians in the Big Five (Cleveland, Chicago, Boston, NY, Philly). Lots and lots of African-Americans in the Jazz world, not so many in the classical music world, even in cities with large African-American populations. In the piano world, Andre Watts and Awadagin Pratt are about the only two African-American classical pianists I can think of with major careers, and unless you are really a pianophile like me, or you very closely follow who gets to play at the White House, you probably have no clue who Pratt is. Keith Jarrett is a hybrid who plays mostly jazz, but sometimes classical music. No one would say that African-Americans collectively have any deficiency in musical talent.

    • Woody Tanaka
      Woody Tanaka
      March 21, 2014, 3:31 pm

      “How many Palestinians in Israel have studied Western classical music? It’s clear that the orchestra is not formally segregated. The orchestra’s a Western vestige in Israel. Is it really surprising that there haven’t been Arab-Israelis in it? I’m sure you’ll see one before long. ”

      I was wondering how MW’s one-trick pony was going to defend this bigotry–because of course if there’s a criticism of a Jew or of Israel, it won’t be long until our defender of all Jews, regardless of merit, hops on by to spout some horsecrap. But I admit, blaming the victims of the brutal and viscous racism inherent in zionism for their own oppression is a new low, even for a worm like you, hoppy.

    • Ira Glunts
      Ira Glunts
      March 22, 2014, 1:14 pm

      Let me make a couple short points in response to the comments here. Firstly, the main point of the post is that Zubin Mehta has spent a lifetime conducting the Israel Philharmonic and has assiduously avoided political debate. For a NYT article to inaccurately (egregiously so) name Mehta as an example of a conductor’s willingness to criticize and to hold Israel aloft as a model of openness to political debate is only possible because of the power of Zionists to influence the US media, especially the NYTimes. This article is not an isolated instance but a common occurrence especially at the NYTimes. Plan to see posts on other articles like the Mehta column in the future.

      The second point is a corollary to the first. That is that this type of hasbara goes under the radar even among those who are honestly critical of Israel and the lobby, although it is highly pernicious. It is one of the main hasbara messages and it is expressed in the Mehta article in a fashion that does not call attention to itself as hasbara. The message is that segments in Israeli society are making a good faith effort to correct the injustices and will be successful in the end. So it is patently unjust, this reasoning continues, for critics to “single out” Israel when it is an open society with the ingrained culture to mend its faults.

      The Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra was founded as the Palestinian Philharmonic Orchestra in 1936 as an exclusively Jewish institution specifically created to exclude indigenous Palestinians. It is part of the standard Zionist historiography that these segregated Jewish institutions, such as labor unions and the educational system, were instrumental in the founding of a Jewish State. Racial segregation, which is the very essence of the orchestra, is part of the Zionist separatist policy which is one of the important elements of the Zionist campaign to evict the indigenous Palestinian population. Thus any comparison between the segregation in the IPO with discrimmination of other orchestras in Western cultures, I find to be off the mark.

      Thirdly, the introduction of Western music to the Arab world happened a long time before the Jewish settlement project. It probably started at the end of the 18th century with Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt and the cultural cross fertilization among elites, and continued in the mid-1800s, with Christian missionaries in Palestine. If the IPO wanted to integrate it would probably be more successful seeking candidates among elites rather than developing talent from the poorest segments of society. Also, they could seek Palestinians from the Western world just as they recruit Jews from the United States.

      Finally, look at yesterday’s music review of the IPO concert. The lead makes it plain that a major purpose of the tour is to promote and celebrate Israel’s image (along with the playing of HaTikvah.) Also note that the review repeats the earlier NY Times false claim that Mehta has been a critic of the Israeli government and provides a link to the article! Just a coincidence?

      http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/22/arts/music/israel-philharmonic-orchestra-visits-carnegie-hall.html?emc=edit_tnt_20140321&nlid=10286544&tntemail0=y&_r=0

      • Walid
        Walid
        March 22, 2014, 1:50 pm

        “The Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra was founded as the Palestinian Philharmonic Orchestra in 1936 as an exclusively Jewish institution specifically created to exclude indigenous Palestinians. ”

        The IPO’s site begins with this intro that describes the orchestra at a time before “Palestine” became a dirty word:

        “On December 26, 1936, The Palestine Orchestra was born. The great Polish born violinist and musician, Bronislaw Huberman, who foresaw the Holocaust persuaded 75 Jewish musicians from major European orchestras to immigrate to Palestine, creating on the sand dunes of Tel-Aviv what he called the “materialization of the Zionist culture in the fatherland”.

      • LeaNder
        LeaNder
        March 22, 2014, 2:30 pm

        Ira, there was something else that I found slightly disgusting. Basically the juxtaposition of Mehta (an Americanized Israel versus the two ideological “inferiors”). With Mehta, ultimatly Israel automatically functioning as the “shining example on the hill”. I wouldn’t be surprised if the conductors “misused” in this narrative to make the point could easily sense the set up behind some of the questions. Look, whatever I answer, you already have your story ready. Haven’t you?

        Nethanyahu is very, very aware of the larger phenomenon, if you need a multitude of standing ovations all you must offer the people is a chance to basically celebrate themselves first. And then you can add your own little points into the larger US-Israel love story.

      • hophmi
        hophmi
        March 23, 2014, 11:36 pm

        “For a NYT article to inaccurately (egregiously so) name Mehta as an example of a conductor’s willingness to criticize and to hold Israel aloft as a model of openness to political debate is only possible because of the power of Zionists to influence the US media, especially the NYTimes. ”

        Just pure nonsense. You can’t accept that not everybody makes a public show of their criticism, and the notion that this article would only appear in the NYTimes because of “Zionist influence” is stupid. It could easily have appeared in the Guardian.

        “The message is that segments in Israeli society are making a good faith effort to correct the injustices and will be successful in the end. ”

        No, that the message YOU’RE READING INTO IT. The only message here is that Mehta disagrees with the government and settlement project, but still loves the country. If anything, the article strikes a pessimistic tone.

        Moreover, given affirmative action policies for Arab Israelis that have been in place for years now, there is no reason to believe that there will not one day be Arabs in the IPO.

        “The Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra was founded as the Palestinian Philharmonic Orchestra in 1936 as an exclusively Jewish institution specifically created to exclude indigenous Palestinians.”

        It was founded by Jewish refugee musicians, and the first concert was conducted by Toscanini. You disingenuously leave out what led to its founding. You cannot speak about how the IPO was founded and omit this history, and then complain about how Zionists give short shrift to the Palestinian Exodus/Expulsion of 1948. Every time one of you does this, and it’s extraordinarily glaring here given the history of the IPO, I will call you out on it.

        “Finally, look at yesterday’s music review of the IPO concert. The lead makes it plain that a major purpose of the tour is to promote and celebrate Israel’s image (along with the playing of HaTikvah.)”

        I don’t believe the IPO plays Hatikvah at every concert. (They also played the Star-Spangled Banner.) The Carnegie Hall concert is different from the rest of the IPO’s tour. It’s a benefit for the American Friends of the IPO organization. The concert is not the same one as the one they’ve been playing for the last couple of weeks. There’s a reason they did Tchaikovsky 4 and brought along Pinchas Zuckerman to play in the Brahms Double even though he’s way past his prime.

        The IPO’s tour is no different than the tours of other national orchestras, whether it’s the Concertegbouw of Amsterdam, the Berlin Philharmonic, the Orchestre de Paris, the Budapest Festival Orchestra, or the Mariinsky. All are seen as cultural ambassadors of their home countries. All, particularly the Russian orchestras, tend to bring out large ex-pat communities when they visit. Their visits are all coordinated with diplomatic staff.

      • hophmi
        hophmi
        March 24, 2014, 11:17 am

        I might add that it’s the same with the soloists. Lang Lang definitely acts as an ambassador for China, just to take one example. And frankly, I’ve never seen him taken to task about it, especially given that he went to Curtis, in Philadelphia.

        Every major consulate has someone who acts as a cultural attache to bring their artists before the American public.

  2. DaveS
    DaveS
    March 21, 2014, 2:39 pm

    I read that article with great irritation, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Thanks, Ira, for doing so. I didn’t quite recognize the subtle praise of Israel’s open political climate. Mehta’s “activism” or “outspokenness,” at least as portrayed in the article, is quite lame; he vaguely believes that settlements and economic policies are the “wrong direction.” It’s a far cry from his old buddy Daniel Barenboim, who enjoyed a warm friendship with Edward Said, endured death threats from Israeli lunatics when he performed in Ramallah, and accepted honorary Palestinian citizenship. I’m sure I would not agree on everything with Barenboim, but he is a guy who really sticks his neck out.

    • Walid
      Walid
      March 21, 2014, 4:22 pm

      David, a couple of years or so back, a few misplaced words about Palestinian youths put him in the Palestinians’ doghouse, especially with the widow of Edward Said. I don’t remember his exact words but they were something to the effect that every minute a Palestinian youth is spending on music training is that much time less he is spending at being a terrorist, or something very close to that. This resulted in the Divan Orchestra being prevented from performing on the West Bank, which resulted in punishing the kids more than the loud-mouthed Barenboim.

      • LeaNder
        LeaNder
        March 22, 2014, 2:02 pm

        Walid, your point would only work if you also remembered the context.

  3. CitizenC
    CitizenC
    March 21, 2014, 2:51 pm

    Come on. How many Palestinians in Israel have studied Western classical music?

    Those Ay-rabs. They’re all watching Mohammed Assaf on Arab Idol, never heard of Mendelssohn Abbado.

    Here are a few Palestinian music students.

    http://ncm.birzeit.edu/en

    But somehow they don’t make it into the Israeli orchestra.

    It’s also notable that JVP had a big “standout” in Harvard Square the week before the IPO played in Boston. They posted about it on FB, congratulating themselves. Likewise they posted pix of their heroic role in the demo for SJP at Northeastern. The IPO got a pass

    • hophmi
      hophmi
      March 21, 2014, 3:09 pm

      “Here are a few Palestinian music students.

      link to ncm.birzeit.edu

      But somehow they don’t make it into the Israeli orchestra.”

      They have a Palestine National Orchestra. Did you miss that? How many Jews are in it?

      • a blah chick
        a blah chick
        March 21, 2014, 5:02 pm

        You know perfectly well that those settler types do not want to even live next door to Arabs, much less play music with them. Anyway playing music would cut into their olive-tree burning time. One has to prioritize.

      • Donald
        Donald
        March 21, 2014, 7:12 pm

        “But somehow they don’t make it into the Israeli orchestra.”

        They have a Palestine National Orchestra. Did you miss that? How many Jews are in it?”

        How many apply? Presumably this massive cohort of Jewish musicians clamoring to join the Palestinian National Orchestra would all be supporters of a 1SS with equal rights for everyone.

      • hophmi
        hophmi
        March 24, 2014, 11:22 am

        “How many apply? ”

        That’s not really the point, Donald. The point is that they have a national orchestra. When Palestine becomes a state, that’ll be their national orchestra. There won’t be many, if any, Jews in it. Ira’s really criticizing the concept of a national orchestra here. Most of his critique focuses around the orchestra as a instrument of the Zionist project. He hasn’t made out any case that Arab musicians are excluded from it.

        The Palestine National Orchestra is an instrument of the Palestinian nationalist project. It’s not about a 1ss or about a kumbaya future where Israelis and Palestinians share a state.

      • Woody Tanaka
        Woody Tanaka
        March 21, 2014, 7:44 pm

        “They have a Palestine National Orchestra. Did you miss that? ”

        I’m sure he didn’t. But I’m also sure the link was rebutting your racist excuse that all the Arabs are studying Arab music and not Western classical music. Unless you think that maybe in 1947-48 all the Western Classical music loving Palestinians got ethnically cleansed by the Jewish terror forces but they left the Arab music lovers didn’t.

      • traintosiberia
        traintosiberia
        March 22, 2014, 11:28 am

        Again read the book Jerusalem 1913 . You will come across the mindset of Ruppin,filmmaker Sokolovsky,scholar Menachem Ussishkin,Victor Jacobson,Wolffsohn ,and Jacobus Kann . There was never any shred of evidence that the leading,vocal,assertive,successful elements within the Zionism ever wanted any compromise ,any contact,any collaboration,and mutual effort or non militaristic solution.
        Back in those days the most ruthless ethnic cleansers colonialist fanatics succeeded . That trend never lost it ‘s momentum or singular role. Menachem Begin, Sharon,or Nanahoo or Benneett or Lieberman were / are the periodic predictable reincarnations of these earlier figures.

    • Walid
      Walid
      March 21, 2014, 4:43 pm

      You mentioned Palestinian students, Citizen, , but not to break Hophmi’s black Zionsit heart, in Lebanon, the Lebanese National Higher Conservatory of Music has about 5,000 enrolled students with 10,000 being turned away each year simply because there is no room for them. There’s a section for Western music and another for Oriental classical.

  4. puppies
    puppies
    March 21, 2014, 2:52 pm

    “they know I’m a friend”
    Duh. Fifty years fiddling over the ruins and killing fields.

  5. Daniel Rich
    Daniel Rich
    March 21, 2014, 3:04 pm

    @ David Samel,

    Daniel Barenboim is a real mensch. Besides being a gifted performer, his staunch siding with justice has urned him a front row seat @ my fav top rated classical musicians list. Right next to Anna Sophie Mutter performing Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D Major Op. 61.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D3zsetUus98

  6. tree
    tree
    March 21, 2014, 3:07 pm

    Come on. How many Palestinians in Israel have studied Western classical music? It’s clear that the orchestra is not formally segregated. The orchestra’s a Western vestige in Israel. Is it really surprising that there haven’t been Arab-Israelis in it? I’m sure you’ll see one before long.

    Well, hophmi, if you ever bothered to read some of the articles here you’d know what a totally ignorant and bigoted statement that is. Of course, I’d expect nothing less from you.

    http://mondoweiss.net/2012/03/the-palestine-national-orchestra-a-view-from-the-violin-section.html

    http://mondoweiss.net/2013/12/violist-conscientious-objector.html

    http://mondoweiss.net/2013/08/bbc-festival-features-palestine-strings-and-condemnation-of-apartheid-to-jubilant-applause.html

    http://mondoweiss.net/2013/04/allenby-jakartas-symphony.html

    • just
      just
      March 21, 2014, 3:13 pm

      Always a dullard, our hophmi.

      Sometimes I just wonder if it’s deliberate racism and ignorance, or just dumb luck.

      (what’s with “western vestige”???)

      • hophmi
        hophmi
        March 21, 2014, 3:22 pm

        “Sometimes I just wonder if it’s deliberate racism and ignorance, or just dumb luck.

        (what’s with “western vestige”???)”

        No, it’s just basic logic. You’ve not proven that the IPO is segregated, and you’ve not shown that the same exact reality exists in the territories. The difference is that while the IPO will one day have Arab musicians, I cannot say I’m confident that the PNO will have Jewish musicians.

      • puppies
        puppies
        March 21, 2014, 4:44 pm

        @huphme – You aren’t in court, stupid, where you can buy judgments.

      • hophmi
        hophmi
        March 24, 2014, 11:23 am

        “You aren’t in court, stupid, where you can buy judgments.”

        Eh? First, I’m not that kind of lawyer. Second, logical argumentation is a technique one can use outside of a courtroom.

    • hophmi
      hophmi
      March 21, 2014, 3:19 pm

      I said Palestinians in Israel. These are people in Palestine. How many of them have tried out for the Israel Philharmonic? How many of them would want to be in the Israel Philharmonic?

      Stop making an issue where one does not exist, and answer my question: How many Jews are in the Palestine National Orchestra?

      • Donald
        Donald
        March 21, 2014, 7:22 pm

        “Stop making an issue where one does not exist, and answer my question: How many Jews are in the Palestine National Orchestra?”

        This reminds me of the white southerners I used to hear back in the 70’s (Jim Crow was still a fairly recent memory) claiming that it was the blacks who were the real racists.

        Jodi Rudoren had an interesting article the other day LINK that was about a Palestinian generational divide. The younger generation favors a 1SS with equal rights for all. A tenth grade Palestinian girl was quoted as saying that everyone should just get along.

        So based on that, hophmi, if you want to see a region where Jews and Palestinians all play together on all the orchestras, you should be cheering for this younger generation of Palestinians, rather than worrying about the plight of the poor Jewish musicians, of whom there are no doubt vast numbers, who try to get on the Palestinian National Orchestra.

      • hophmi
        hophmi
        March 22, 2014, 12:33 pm

        It seems again, Donald, like nationalism is ok for everyone but the Israelis.

      • American
        American
        March 22, 2014, 1:24 pm

        hophmi says:

        March 22, 2014 at 12:33 pm

        ”It seems again, Donald, like nationalism is ok for everyone but the Israelis.””>>>>

        Funny. Considering that Jewish leadership of your world wide nation of Jews condemns and actively works against any kind of ‘nationalism’ in all other countries of the world because they perceive any kind of national ‘solidarity’ or united population to be a threat to Jewish interest.

        How about if we practice Israel style nationality here in the US?….remember you are a minority here……we could treat you just as Israel does non Jews in Israel. Sound fair to you?

      • tree
        tree
        March 22, 2014, 1:43 pm

        It seems again, Donald, like nationalism is ok for everyone but the Israelis.

        In the real world, it seems like bigoted attitudes are bad except when they are held by Israeli Jews and their American supporters and then they are a wonderful thing and a beauty to behold. Israeli nationalism doesn’t exist, because Israel doesn’t acknowledge an Israeli nationality. Its Jewish “nationalism”, rather like white “nationalism” in the US. Bigoted, and exclusive rather than inclusive. And you are just fine with it, hophmi, because you are just as bigoted. Which is why you couldn’t imagine that any Palestinian would be familiar with Western classical music, despite the fact that you practically live at this website and had the opportunity to read numerous articles here about Palestinian classical musicians.

      • Daniel Rich
        Daniel Rich
        March 21, 2014, 7:59 pm

        @ hophmi,

        Q: …and answer my question: How many Jews are in the Palestine National Orchestra?

        R: My mom taught me to be polite and respectful and keep my demands to myself, as long as I wasn’t sitting face to face with a/the person who had to listen to my wishes. There are as many Jews in the Palestinian Orchestra as there are Jews traveling to Malaysia and Indonesia: 0

        An Israeli passport isn’t a handy asset in some countries. Heck, they even chopped off a Japanese guy’s head in Iraq, simply for having traveled through the promised land. But yeah, you live with those ‘savages‘ and I don’t, so what do I know?

      • traintosiberia
        traintosiberia
        March 22, 2014, 1:00 pm

        How many checkpoints and how many cavity searches do they have to endure before getting to Israeli Concert or music school? Their own schools have been set on fire by Israel a few times , a few have been deported,and a few murdered ,and some not allowed to travel to outside to start education. All of them also have someone they know closely is in prison or is killed or disappeared.
        It is difficult to play on any instrument other than on those rocket or pebbles that never fail to make a sound in the US media echo chamber.

    • Walid
      Walid
      March 21, 2014, 4:01 pm

      Great links, tree, you know how to silence the voice of ignorance.

      In addition to those and the Seville-based Barenboim-Ed Said West-Eastern Divan mixed orchestra that includes Palestinians, Zubin Mehta has something started with teaching young Palestinians of Nazareth and Shwaram with local teachers and members of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. Once given an equal opportunity, Palestinians can run with the very best, anytime, anywhere.

      • hophmi
        hophmi
        March 21, 2014, 4:16 pm

        “In addition to those and the Seville-based Barenboim-Ed Said West-Eastern Divan mixed orchestra that includes Palestinians”

        But you’re against that because it’s an example of normalization, right?

        “Palestinians can run with the very best, anytime, anywhere.”

        No disagreement here.

      • Walid
        Walid
        March 21, 2014, 5:35 pm

        “But you’re against that because it’s an example of normalization, right?”

        Right. Normalization is the biggest obstacle to Palestinian freedom from oppression. I can understand Israel breaking its back at pushing normalization but I can’t understand Arabs going along with it.

      • hophmi
        hophmi
        March 24, 2014, 11:25 am

        ” Normalization is the biggest obstacle to Palestinian freedom from oppression.”

        That’s quite an argument. What’s your proof?

        “I can understand Israel breaking its back at pushing normalization but I can’t understand Arabs going along with it.”

        Why? Israeli right-wingers aren’t pushing normalization. They tend to believe as you do – that it’s an obstacle. That’s why you deserve one another.

        I can well understand why Arabs might want to get to know the other people who live in their region, especially since they have no chance of annihilating them militarily.

      • just
        just
        March 21, 2014, 4:21 pm

        Many of them have done it despite the Occupation and no ‘rights’ to speak of…

        They may just outshine/outrun the rest and best of us, ‘given an equal opportunity’.

  7. Walid
    Walid
    March 21, 2014, 3:43 pm

    Ira, the NYT I-love-Israel piece makes it sound as if Mehta has been doing nothing other than conduct the Israel Philharmonic for 50 years, which of course is not true. He’s been on and off during certain intervals with the Israel Philharmonic starting back 50 years ago, but he held permanent positions all over before spending more time in Israel. He first cut his teeth at being permanent director of the Montreal Symphony from 1961 until 1967. It was in Montreal that he conducted his first opera. He then guested all over the world including Israel. In 1969 he was appointed adviser to the Israel Philharmonic while he continued being guest conductor all over the world and became its director from 1977 to 1981, when Israel appointed him Director of the Israel Philharmonic “for life”.

    In 1978, he became the permanent director of the New York Philharmonic where he stayed for 13 years. It was in 1991 at age 55, which was 23 years ago that he gave up his other permanent jobs elsewhere to concentrate full time on the Israel Philharmonic. Nonetheless, between 1998 and 2006, he became Music Director of the Bavarian State Opera.

    Mehta has been on and off in Israel since 50 years, but he hasn’t been its conductor since 50 years as the article is implying.

    He remains one of the world’s great maestros.

    http://www.zubinmehta.net/5.0.html

  8. Philip Munger
    Philip Munger
    March 21, 2014, 3:48 pm

    First and second tier orchestras worldwide have some things in common. In the USA, they survive largely by corporate support. In most cases, these corporate supporters expect the ensembles to reflect the comfort zone of the corporations and what their products represent, and the ideals and aspirations of their typical subscription audience.

    In Europe, Israel, Japan, Singapore, China, Latin America, along with Canada, Australia and New Zealand, there is more government funding involved in ensemble support and activity. Like American orchestras, the ensembles’ repertoire is expected to reflect the cultures from which their audiences’ perceptions of the fine arts, particularly serious music, have developed. The subscription audiences are mostly drawn from all these nations’ elites and 1%ers.

    Orchestras tend to be somewhat conservative in their approach to presenting a narrative of where Western music comes from, where it is at, and where it might be going.

    The Israel Philharmonic may be segregated, but so are Japanese, Korean and Chinese orchestras. It is only over the past 15 years or so that one sees Asian performers integrating into British, French or other northwest European orchestras. It is only since the 1990s that women have made it into most German and Austrian ensembles, and it was a hard battle for them to get entry, including many court battles.

    In the 1950s, the only women seen onstage in any first tier orchestra on the planet was – you guessed it – harpist.

    Mehta, along with the late Leonard Bernstein, can be credited with raising the technical level of the IPO to the top of the second tier. In the NYT article, the author cites the wave of post-Soviet emigres to Israel as important in the orchestra’s maturity. She also notes that Mehta has been affiliated with the Bavarian State Opera Orchestra even longer than with the IPO. When Mehta started conducting there, it was all-white, all-male. Just as with the IPO, times have changed, if very slowly.

    Many orchestras have turned to auditioning new prospects who play from behind a screen, so that their gender, race and physical appearance is unknown. IPO does not.

    In regard to nurturing instrumentalists to perform global classical repertoire, East Asian countries have developed excellent music education programs in their schools. Not so much in south and west Asia. The best music education programs directed toward Muslim populations were those of the USSR. In the 1970s and 1980s, cities like Alma-Ata, Samarkand, Tashkent, Ashkabad or Baku had orchestras as good as the IPO then was. Currently, the best music education program directed nationally is that of Venezuela.

    Replying obliquely to hophmi, I suspect that in Israel the best music education resources are not directed toward Israeli Arabs.

    I don’t feel the article is as evasive or incomplete as Ira Glunts suggests, or the headline indicates. However, I would not hesitate to picket or possibly get in and disrupt the IPO if it were performing in a town where I was at. Same goes with the Mariinsky Orchestra.

  9. paabrhm
    paabrhm
    March 21, 2014, 4:01 pm

    All Mehta had to do was pick up the phone and call Daniel Barenboim!! Does he really not know of the East-West Divan orchestra, cofounded by Barenboim and Edawrd Said? Can he be that blind? The orchestra made its NYC Carnegie Hall debut last January.

    • Philip Munger
      Philip Munger
      March 21, 2014, 4:59 pm

      Last year, I commented here about comparing the small amount of work UK violinist and ensemble director Nigel Kennedy has done with Palestinian or Palestinian-Israeli young musicians to that being done by Barenboim.

      Kennedy seems to be challenging cultural norms in the iconoclastic events he is producing. Barenboim seems to be molding young minds to meld into the borg of globalization trends in presenting the narrative of so-called Western culture.

  10. hophmi
    hophmi
    March 21, 2014, 4:21 pm

    “Replying obliquely to hophmi, I suspect that in Israel the best music education resources are not directed toward Israeli Arabs.”

    I have no idea. I guess you’d have to look at the conservatories to see the makeup there. All I was trying to say is that Arab-Israelis are little more likely to study Arab music than they are Western classical music, and that this should be taken into account. It’s obviously not a universal rule. But I’m really quite certain that you will see Arab instrumentalists in the IPO in the future. I’m wondering whether you’re all OK with that, since some here would call it normalization.

    I was at Carnegie Hall to hear the IPO last night. It’s a top tier orchestra, in my view. Their performance of Tchaikovsky 4 was top-notch.

    • a blah chick
      a blah chick
      March 21, 2014, 4:58 pm

      The July 20, 2013 edition of Ha aretz states that Upper Nazareth high school (Jewish) gets NIS 26,000 per year per student while the funding for Nazareth High School (Arab) is just NIS 19,000 on average. This gap in funding is typical throughout the country. I suspect that the best educational resources are not being directed towards Israeli Palestinians.

    • Philip Munger
      Philip Munger
      March 21, 2014, 5:07 pm

      Arab Israelis tend to view the IPO as an arm of the Israeli government, which it certainly is. I suspect that will continue to be the case.

      If in the Mariinsky Orchestra, the several gay members aren’t feeling able to comfortably be public about their sexuality these repressive days, for instance, it would be impossible for one of the Saad brothers (who are or will be of the caliber of musicians who perform with the IPO), for instance, to play in the latter ensemble and hide their ethnicity, or to support an ensemble that is meant to personify the so-called ideals that have led to the imprisonment of their brother, Omar.

      http://mondoweiss.net/2013/12/violist-conscientious-objector.html

    • Philip Munger
      Philip Munger
      March 21, 2014, 5:09 pm

      All I was trying to say is that Arab-Israelis are little more likely to study Arab music than they are Western classical music, and that this should be taken into account.

      What you wrote here does not make sense. Did you mean “a little more likely…”?

    • Woody Tanaka
      Woody Tanaka
      March 21, 2014, 5:56 pm

      “All I was trying to say is that Arab-Israelis are little more likely to study Arab music than they are Western classical music, and that this should be taken into account. ”

      Oh, bullshit. You were spouting your normal anti-Arab racism, got caught, and then spouting whatabouttery and distractions about the Palestinian National Orchestra.

    • Bumblebye
      Bumblebye
      March 22, 2014, 1:20 pm

      But of course, it’s at least 100x more challenging for a child in Gaza to get a musical education, eastern or western:

      “Gaza’s Only Music School
      It was founded in 2008, to teach young Gazans to read music, sing and play eastern and western instruments. The school currently has 185 students and is struggling on despite being pushed to the financial brink. Shahdi Alkashif from BBC Arabic reports from his a visit to the school. ”

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01v2hl9

      from approx min 10 to 20

      The school is *in* Gaza City’s ambulance center, so the youngsters are competing with the frequent sounds of the sirens. It has teachers from Ukraine, Romania and Russia among its mix (people who married Gaza residents and moved there with their spouses). One child walks 6 miles a day just to attend, there are not enough instruments for the children to take home for practice,
      It was started as a church project, but has become part of the Edward Said Center in the West Bank, but has severe funding problems as well as trying to change attitudes of some Hamas officials who are anti music (east or west!).

  11. March 21, 2014, 5:50 pm

    The NYTimes article describes the “admiring the liberal anti-occupation politics of the legendary conductor Zubin Mehta and the openness of Israeli society for permitting such political expression”. This is as usual a deliberate distortion of reality designed to make Israel appear more admirable and wholesome. The NYT writers who produce this sort of rot are mostly partisans/Zionists who have a significant conflict of interest which flavors their impressions in the Israeli direction. However, the rest of world sees their fantasy for what it is.

  12. hophmi
    hophmi
    March 25, 2014, 12:30 pm

    By the way, totally absent from this discussion so far is the fact that the IPO funds an ensemble called SheshBesh, also known as the Arab-Jewish Ensemble of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. SheshBesh pairs IPO players with Arab players from Christian and Muslim neighborhoods in Israel, and the ensemble tours in Israel and around the world. The ensemble plays both Western and Arab music, using a mixture of Western and Arabic instruments.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israel_Philharmonic_Orchestra_Foundation#KeyNote

Leave a Reply