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Nigel Kennedy:his proteges, the Palestine Strings, were let doen by self-important activists at the Proms

Two summers ago, activists of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign scored a notable victory at the BBC Proms. By barracking the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in phased outbursts, forcing the BBC to take the concert off air, the agitators earned several weeks' worth of media attention as partisans argued the merits and otherwise of disrupting a cultural summit for political benefit. 

On the rest of the Israel Phil's tour of Europe attempted disruptions were nipped in the bud and went unreported. London, and the Proms in particular, was flagged as a soft target and the tunnel-visioned activists awaited their next opportunity. 

This summer, with its customary regard for "balance", the BBC leapt at an offer from the maverick violinist Nigel Kennedy to play late-night Vivaldi improvisations with the keffiya-clad Palestine Strings. Despite being told that any political message would be taken off air, Kennedy dropped an aside on stage about "apartheid", and the PSC rolled into action next morning, accusing the BBC of "censorship" for excising the offensive term from its TV relay. 

Kennedy declared through "a spokesperson" that he found the omission of his word "incredible and quite frightening"; the Israel-averse Roger Waters (of Pink Floyd) rallied to his cause; and a group of Jewish anti-Zionists wrote a letter to the Daily Telegraph deploring the suppression of free speech. So another triumph for political action? Hardly.

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September 30th, 2013
5:09 PM
When Nigel Kennedy speaks up for a cause he feels strongly about, it is "false note", "disrupting a cultural summit for political benefit" - and I only quote the quotable reactions of some. When gay rights/anti-Russian activists do the same in and around the Met then it is to be applauded and encouraged. Go figure. That is if you haven't understood it already.

Doug Patti
September 30th, 2013
4:09 PM
The Proms can claim that their vision extends beyond artistic merit and now includes the "correct" political stance.

David Paul
September 29th, 2013
6:09 AM
...but of course that's an utterly moronic point of view capped by sentence which at best makes you sound juvenile.

Elizabeth Morley
September 26th, 2013
5:09 PM
I would like to thank Mr Lebrecht for making the recording of Nigel Kennedy's "aside" available on his website. I don't think the window was closed on the Palestine Strings. After all, the BBC gave Nigel leave to bring the young Mustafa Saad back to London to join him in the performance of Melody in the Wind in Hyde Park on the Last Night of the Proms. Although Nigel upset his manager and no doubt many other people, in my opinion he did a service to the wider public by drawing our attention to Israel's ongoing violation of human rights in Palestine in the hope that more openness will in the end promote peace and justice worldwide.

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