LPO urged to end suspension of Israel boycott musicians

By Marcus Dysch, September 22, 2011

Dozens of musicians, artists, playwrights and activists have urged the London Philharmonic Orchestra to reconsider its suspension of four members for expressing anti-Israel views.

In a letter published in the Daily Telegraph, 117 signatories attack the LPO's action earlier this month which came after the four players put their names –and that of the LPO – to a letter encouraging the BBC to cancel the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra's Proms appearance.

Among those to sign today's letter are film directors Ken Loach and Mike Leigh, playwright Caryl Churchill, comedians Alexei Sayle and Ivor Dembina, writer Michael Rosen, journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, and Professor Haim Bresheeth.

Palestine Solidarity Campaign patrons Benjamin Zephaniah and rapper Lowkey have also signed the letter.

It states: "One does not have to share the musicians' support for the campaign for boycotting Israeli institutions to feel a grave concern about the bigger issue at stake for artists and others.

"There is a clear link being forcibly created here between personal conscience and employment, which we must all resist. A healthy civil society is founded on the ability of all to express non-violent and non- prejudiced opinions, freely and openly, without fear of financial or professional retribution."

A fortnight ago, LPO chief executive Timothy Walker and chairman Martin Hohmann said the players' views were a "private matter" and that "music and politics do not mix".

But cellist Sue Sutherley and violinists Tom Eisner, Nancy Elan and Sarah Streatfield were each suspended for up to nine months.

The letter to the Telegraph commented: "The [LPO] decision to jeopardise the livelihoods of four talented musicians for expressing their sincerely held views is itself political.

"Why should it be so dangerous for artists to speak out on the issue of Israel/Palestine? We are dismayed at the precedent set by this harsh punishment, and we strongly urge the LPO to reconsider its decision."

Mr Walker has since said that if the four players had signed their names without including their LPO affiliation then "it would not have been an issue" for the orchestra.

Last updated: 10:05am, September 22 2011