Protesters silence Israeli musicians in London

Performers stop to debate Israel's policy in Occupied Territories with activists

A lunchtime concert in central London by a renowned classical quartet became a platform for protests against Israel in the latest manifestation of how culture has become enmeshed in the bitter politics of the Middle East.

Within the first 10 minutes of the performance by the Jerusalem Quartet at the Wigmore Hall a woman stood up to "sing out" her condemnation of Israeli policy, setting the pattern for interruptions by people strategically positioned among the audience.

The result was that BBC Radio 3's live recording of the concert had to be broken off under extraordinary scenes with the musicians engaged in a debate on stage with the protesters over the conduct of Israel in the Occupied Territories.

Campaigners against the perceived excesses of the Jewish state have been increasingly using education and the arts as means of exerting pressure, and calling for boycotts which have led to heated debates. The Jerusalem Quartet has been at the receiving end of this going back to 2008, when five members of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign faced charges for disrupting a performance in Edinburgh.

Bloggers described yesterday's protests. One wrote: "A woman rose to her feet and made a noise. For a split second, I was unsure what it was; then I realised that she was singing. 'Jerusalem' was the first word, followed by 'is occupied'. She proceeded to shout out denunciations of Israel, 'an apartheid state', the attack on Gaza, the use of phosphorous, and so forth, seeming to implicate the quartet".

Protesters claim the ensemble is tied with the Israeli state and point to the Jerusalem Music Centre's website which states: "The four members of the Quartet joined the Israeli Defence Forces in March 1997 and are serving as distinguished musicians."

Military service is compulsory for any Israeli citizen at the age of 18 and people such as the violin virtuoso Maxim Vengerov have served their time with the Israeli Defence Forces. However, as Jessica Duchen, the classical music writer, noted: "That means they're regarded wherever they go as representatives of the Israeli government, the IDF and their policies, such as the dropping of phosphorus on Gaza, the building of the 9-metre-high separation wall and the continued building/enlarging of settlements that, according to international law, are not legal. I'm afraid they do become fair game for the hecklers... It's a horrible dilemma if you love their playing but hate what their government is doing."

The Quartet pointed out that only one of their four is now a native Israeli, with one living in Portugal and another in Berlin. All four did serve in the army, but as musicians and not in combat. Two are also regular performers with Daniel Barenboim's West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, which brings Arab and Israeli musicians together for classical concerts.

The director of the Wigmore Hall, John Gilhooly, said: "The protesters completely take away the meaning of an artistic event, which is something which transcends politics."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....

Recruitment Genius: SAGE Bookkeeper & PA to Directors

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map