BBC to cut Kennedy slur from Proms broadcast

Nigel Kennedy referred to apartheid in Israel during a Proms concert

Nigel Kennedy referred to apartheid in Israel during a Proms concert

Anti-Israel statements made by renowned violinist Nigel Kennedy will be cut from a BBC Proms television broadcast later this month.

Mr Kennedy used a Royal Albert Hall performance of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons last week to launch a thinly-veiled attack on Israel, likening the country to apartheid South Africa.

To loud cheers and applause he told the audience: “It’s a bit facile to say it, but we all know from the experience of this night of music that giving equality and getting rid of apartheid gives a beautiful chance for things to happen.”

The remarks were broadcast live on BBC Radio 3. Earlier this month Mr Kennedy told BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Live programme: “These problems of apartheid in Israel at the moment are extreme… when it was South Africa people did something about it.”

At the Proms concert he was playing with the Palestine Strings, a group of young musicians, aged 12 to 23, from the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music.

But the BBC confirmed on Tuesday that his remarks would be edited out of the concert when it is shown on BBC Four on August 23.

Among those who complained to the Corporation about Mr Kennedy’s comments was former BBC governor Baroness Deech, who called for an apology.

She said: “The remark was offensive and untrue. There is no apartheid in Israel. Apartheid was a system based on racial classification and denial of franchise. This is not the case in Israel or Gaza or the West Bank.

“It is inappropriate to allow the Albert Hall to be used for inflammatory comments such as this. Imagine if a conductor with Spaniards in his orchestra used the Proms to attack UK ownership of Gibraltar.”

Baroness Deech said Mr Kennedy’s comments should be removed from the recording of the concert still available on the BBC’s iPlayer service.

A long-term supporter of the boycott of Israel, Mr Kennedy has refused to perform in the country. After a visit to Israel in 2007 he told the Haaretz newspaper how a Palestinian ex-girlfriend had helped him “understand the problem even before the [separation] wall and the other atrocities.

“I was really shocked when I saw the wall here. It’s a new type of apartheid, barbaric behaviour. How can you impose collective punishment and divide people from one another?

“I would think that the world learned something from South Africa. And the world should boycott a nation that didn’t learn. That’s why I won’t perform in your country.”

Two years ago anti-Israel protesters repeatedly interrupted a Proms performance by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, causing the BBC to abandon its live broadcast.

Last updated: 9:11am, August 16 2013