Anti-Israel protesters disrupt BBC Proms

By Marcus Dysch, September 2, 2011
Protesters clash outside the Royal Albert Hall

Protesters clash outside the Royal Albert Hall

Anti-Israel protesters repeatedly disrupted the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra's performance at the Royal Albert Hall last night, causing the BBC to abandon its live broadcast of the prom.

A dozen people unfurled a banner reading "Free Palestine" and sang about "Israeli apartheid" as the IPO began the concert. They were removed by security guards as orchestra, conducted by Zubin Mehta, played on.

Soon after, as Gil Shaham prepared to play a violin solo, a smaller group began shouting and scuffled with audience members.

The audience chanted "out, out, out" and "shut your mouth" as one man resisted removal. Prom-goers on Twitter voiced their disapproval of the events. One tweeter, named Juliette, said: "Disappointed that there's clearly not enough security to deal with this."

Karen Myers wrote: "Sadly protesters have infiltrated and two lots thrown out during the Webern and Bruch."

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey tweeted: "Demonstrators seem to have turned [the] entire audience pro-Israel."

The BBC suspended its live Radio 3 broadcast during the disruption, but was later forced to abandon it completely after further protests.

Around 30 people were removed during the two hour concert, but police said they had made no arrests.

The BBC and Royal Albert Hall had pledged to take additional security measures before the performance in order to limit the protests, but audience members were subjected to only brief bag searches as they arrived.

A BBC spokeswoman said: "We regret that as a result of sustained audience disruption within the concert hall which affected the ability to hear the music, tonight’s Israel Philharmonic Orchestra Prom was taken off air.

“The invitation to the Orchestra was a purely musical one, offering the opportunity to hear this fine Orchestra in conductor Zubin Metha’s 75th year, so we are disappointed that BBC Radio 3 audiences were not able to enjoy the full performance."

The Royal Albert Hall refused to comment on the security measures taken.

At the conclusion of the performance, Pro-Palestinian protesters clashed with prommers outside.

An earlier demonstration by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and including Jews for Justice for Palestinians activists, saw the leafleting of people entering the concert. A counter-demo, organised by the Zionist Federation and British Israel Coalition, drew twice as many supporters.

Alan Aziz, ZF chief executive, said: “It is a disgrace that people who do not want to understand Israel’s challenges obsessively try to disrupt cultural and educational events in the UK. The ZF’s presence was to counter the ignorant and ill-conceived protest.

"We will always be there to counter Israel hate and we thank all our allies last night - especially our Christian friends - for supporting Israel."

Vivian Wineman, Board of Deputies president, said: “The PSC continues to undermine its own message by pursuing tactics such as last night’s disruption. The audience reaction clearly shows that the PSC’s actions have backfired and actually lost them support."

Radio 3 will broadcast the concert uninterrupted at 2.30pm on Wednesday, September 7.

More to follow...

Last updated: 1:11pm, September 2 2011