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Thursday, September 08, 2011

Anti-Zionism at the Proms: the Big Lie

Did you know that Max Bruch's Violin Concerto is a fiendishly cunning piece of Zionist propaganda? That anyone listening to it live is at severe risk of going home convinced that you can't do better than be beastly to Palestinians?

You'd better believe it, since to doubt this is to doubt that there was any justification whatsoever for the disruption of Thursday night's Prom by Palestine Solidarity Campaign protesters.

There are the usual objections to these people's perceptions and priorities to be made. One may strongly suspect, for example, that the Khartoum Philharmonic Orchestra, if such a thing exists, could have performed at the Albert Hall every summer for the past 30 years without moving them to take action. The state which has occupied Tibet since 1959 sends its circus on tour round Britain without fear of disruption.

But there is more. Let us allow, for the sake of argument, that Israel is indeed the Most Evil State On Earth. What is then to be said about disrupting a violin concerto as a means of protest?

It is asserted that the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra is a tool of the Zionist propaganda machine. that (in the PSC's words) it shows "complicity in whitewashing Israel's persistent violations of international law and human rights".

Now please follow me closely at this point. The PSC is right to this extent: having an orchestra good enough to play at the Proms does indeed make Israel look better than it otherwise would. but the reason why this is the case is that the existence of such an orchestra is in fact a good thing, and being a good thing makes the country it belongs to really a better country than it would otherwise be. It is therefore not propaganda.

The man who tells you that a beautiful piece of orchestral music is a lie has not only failed to understand what beauty is. He has failed to understand what truth is. He is a philistine and, being a philistine, a liar too. If he is not conscious of lying, that is because he has drunk so deeply from the well of politics that he no longer recognises the distinction between a lie and a politically unhelpful truth. He has decided that there are so many bad things about Israel that it must not be permitted for there to be any good things about it. The IPO is a bad thing because it is a good thing.

The principle applies without exception - to the Berlin Philharmonic under Hitler, to the Leningrad Philharmonic under Stalin. I need hardly say that propaganda was integral to Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. They shared a need to convince their citizens and the outside world of things which were not true. But the orchestras made music which was really and not just propagandistically beautiful and, I repeat, that was a good thing.

Of course I am not suggesting that the arts cannot be instrumentalised and manipulated by oppressive regimes (or indeed by comparatively benign ones). They can be given propagandist content - but come on... Bruch's Violin Concerto? They can also be used to try to establish "innocence by association". But the remedy for that is simply for the audience to decline to be manipulated. It really isn't difficult. In my time I've been to concerts given by Soviet, Iranian and Sudanese musicians. In each case I enjoyed the music, but did I come away with an enhanced regard for the regimes of those countries? What kind of fool do you take me for?

"The kind of fool who would go to the IPO Prom" must evidently be the PSC protesters' reply. So make that not just philistinism and dishonesty but arrogance as well. Ludicrous arrogance, given the demographic characteristics of your average Proms audience, and the audience's reaction on Thursday night suggests that the point was not lost on them. "We must control what music you are allowed hear because otherwise we cannot trust you to think the right thoughts about it": the thought is the one which invariably underlies totalitarinism, and anyone thinking it is unfit to be trusted with a seat on a Parish Council.

So much for the moral status of the protest. There remains the related but separate question of what crime protesters of this sort ought to be charged with. And specifically whether whatever it is should be considered as "racially aggravated". We have been here before, and the outcome was a depressing own goal.

I find Sheriff James Scott's remarks irritatingly bumptious in tone but he has surely judged rightly. I hope the doomed attempt at establishimg "racial aggravation" will not be played out again in a court in London and end up giving the PSC further cause for celebration.

The sustained campaign to portray the state created by Jews as uniquely oppressive and murderous is (since this portrayal is false) is racist in its effect and, whilst it is not necessarily racist in its motivation, almost inevitably leads to a blurring of the line between non-racist and racist motives and reasonings. But the attempt to pin a "racist" label on a single act of protest against the actions of a state is futile.

Imagine that there was a well-organised and vocal campaign to hold the People's Republic of China to account for its occupation of Tibet and oppression of the Tibetan people. Who knows, perhaps one day some members of the PSC will start one. Would we really want to see its supporters in the dock, facing charges of anti-Chinese racism on the grounds that they had unfairly singled the Chinese state out for criticism?

The "racial aggravation" charge here makes as much of an ass of the law as the proposition that, when a drunken oaf lurches towards a football manager with the alleged intention of assaulting him, the gravity of his offence should hinge on the question whether he called the target of his ire a "Fenian bastard" or merely a "f***ing w***er" (since apparently, in the eyes of Scotland's once highly regarded legal system, the latter lacks the potential to render the offence one "aggravated by religious prejudice").

I would respectfully urge Jews who believe good can come of recourse to such illiberal legislation to think it possible they may be mistaken. It forfeits the moral high ground and is pragmatically counter-productive to boot. It alienates those with a healthy distrust of restrictions on free speech. It closes down all possibility of dialogue with anti-Zionists who are genuinely innocent of racial motivation. As for the hope that some successful prosecutions will shame the hard Left into applying the canons of political correctness consistently, it is a vain one. When did they ever feel the need to be consistent? The clue is in the fisrt word of that phrase "political correctness".

No, let the Prom protesters' guilt be "aggravated" not by racism but by philistinism, barbarism, preening totalitarian arrogance and, last but not least, blasphemy against the God who has made beauty true and truth beautiful.