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August 13, 2013 8:47 am
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Musician Calls Israel ‘Apartheid State’ in BBC Broadcast at Royal Albert Hall

avatar by Steven Emerson

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BBC logo. Photo: BBC.

In the sentiment of Laura Ingraham’s famously penned “Shut up and Sing,” the injection of politics onto ill-prepared audiences who naively assume they will be entertained is both offensive and highly divisive. Music is music, and there is a largely misplaced assumption made by entertainers and musicians that their fans look to them for political guidance rather than simply enjoying their musical talents.

Violin virtuoso Nigel Kennedy and his quartet performed Vivaldi’s Four Seasons last Thursday at the Royal Albert Hall. They were joined by the Palestine Strings in a concert broadcast live as part of the BBC Proms series. The Palestine Strings are comprised of young students attending the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music.

There’s a statement implicit within the collaboration, but it must have been too subtle for Kennedy. “Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a bit facile to say it, but we all know from experience in this night of music tonight that, given equality, and getting rid of apartheid, gives beautiful chance for amazing things to happen.” Just a week earlier, Kennedy pontificated on a BBC Radio4 broadcast on the topic of “apartheid” in Israel, and how it should be dealt with similarly to South Africa.

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One could dissect the illogic of Kennedy’s argument, that if apartheid did actually exist in Israel, those Palestinian musicians would not have been present, but that would be asking a lot.

One could address the glaring fallacy of his comment, since Israeli law guarantees Arab citizens equal rights and they are well represented in higher offices and political parties; but the simpler point is that an evening of classical music is not the environment for political statements, fallacious or not.

Moreover, the BBC has aired the broadcast on BBC 3 with the comments intact, and plans to rebroadcast the concert in its entirety on August 23, thus exposing an even wider unsuspecting audience to Kennedy’s falsehoods.

Madonna famously received boos and jeers following a bizarre political rant during an election season concert, replete with curse words and admonitions. Her audience wanted to hear her sing, not rant. Perhaps in his next concert, Nigel Kennedy will choose to highlight a current event and just as sincerely address the massacres of innocents in Syria, the brutal treatment of the citizens of Sudan, Nigeria, or Mali, or perhaps even Egypt. Perhaps he will undertake a new political cause with every concert, and even donate his proceeds to such worthy causes.

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  • nachman

    I met several people from the South Africa during apartheid. They had passports and were given visas in the same way whites were. Apartheid can be simply understood as “kept apart”, which does occur in Israel in the same fashion as it was in So. Africa. You would think that a BBC blogger would have known that.. but that would be asking a lot… wouldn’t it?

    But that is hardly apartheid is it? Those same people you met were not able to become a judge of the country’s supreme court or a member of the country’s parliament – opportunities freely afforded to to Arab citizens of Israel – on the contrary it shows how uninformed your comment was.

  • tk

    If Israel is an apartheid state, then so are the majority of the world’s countries. Where a minority group is discriminated against. De facto and De jure. This includes the west, who routinely discriminate against First Nations, Aboriginal peoples, the mentally ill and women (who are woefully underrepresented institutionally), Roma, LGBT, etc…. And of course there is no such thing as equality in the Arab world… Not even close. So why the fixation on Israel? For me, that is the question.

  • tk

    If Israel is an apartheid state, then so are the majority of the world’s countries. Where a minority group is discriminated gains. De facto and De jure. This includes the west, who routinely discriminate against First Nations, Aboriginal peoples, the mentally ill and women (who are woefully underrepresented institutionally), Roma, LGBT, etc…. And of course there is no such thing as equality in the Arab world… Not even close. So why the fixation on Israel? For me, that is the question.

  • Joshua Stein

    The bastard should be boycotted for a blatant ignorant antisemitc rant.

    • FlaGuy954

      Right on!

  • Ira

    There must be a better way of dealing with the rants of idiotic public figures than writing editorials but I don’t know what it is. Perhaps a piece of apartheid pie in the face.

  • John Reagan

    ” Music is music, and there is a largely misplaced assumption made by entertainers and musicians that their fans look to them for political guidance rather than simply enjoying their musical talents.”

    It depends doesn’t it? I’d say that Green Day’s last album, “American Idiot” was not only an unusual divergence into politics for them, but received very well by normally non-political teens, who seemed to grasp the message. But even if you say that musicians should just be nothing more than a mindless juke box, then wouldn’t that also apply to bloggers like you? Shouldn’t you be relegated to articles about…Oh I don’t know..Pizza parlor openings, or local weddings? You know, inoffensive mindless things. Would you really want to live in a world without Woodie Guthrie or Bob Dylan? Artists of all types have a right to speak up about offensive situations that we are involved in. If you don’t like hearing it, then take a bathroom break. Nobody pins you to your seat.

    “One could dissect the illogic of Kennedy’s argument, that if apartheid did actually exist in Israel, those Palestinian musicians would not have been present, but that would be asking a lot.”

    That is a very uninformed statement. While living in England, I met several people from the South Africa during apartheid. They had passports and were given visas in the same way whites were. Apartheid can be simply understood as “kept apart”, which does occur in Israel in the same fashion as it was in So. Africa. You would think that a BBC blogger would have known that.. but that would be asking a lot… wouldn’t it?

    • Isser Coopersmith

      Have you even been to Israel? Walk thru downtown Jerusalem any time of the day or night. It’s teeming with Arabs and Jews shopping and dining. I think YOU’RE the one who is uninformed.

    • Laura

      John, Jews, Arabs, Christians, Druze, Ba’hai WITHIN Israel all go to the same schools, shop in the same supermarkets, markets, and malls, attend the same movie theaters, go the same restaurants, and sit next to each other in outdoor cafes.

      You repeat the false assumption Kennedy makes – that Israel has annexed Gaza and the West Bank.

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