Israel is heckled at Edinburgh Festival

The Jerusalem Quartet has been invited to return to the Edinburgh International Festival next year in defiance of protesters who disrupted their debut concert last week.

Five members of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign were arrested and charged with breaches of the peace after shouting slogans during the ensemble's performance at Queen's Hall. The five were due to appear in court in Edinburgh yesterday (Thursday).

According to a report in an Edinburgh newspaper, the protesters shouted: "These men are Israeli army musicians" and: "End the siege of Gaza". The protesters stood up individually and were seated in the middle of rows, which made it difficult to eject them. Outside the hall, about 35 protesters handed out leaflets to people attending the concert.

In a statement after the concert, the quartet - Russian émigrés Alexander Pavlovsky, Sergei Bresler and Kyril Zklotnikov, and Israeli-born Amichai Grosz - said: "This was quite a difficult concert for us. It was sometimes hard to focus on the music. What kept us going was the support of the audience who were there simply to enjoy music- making."

A spokeswoman at Harrison Parrott, the quartet's British management company, said: "They have no wish to make any political statement. They are international musicians.

"They did their army basic training, as everyone does, about 10 years ago for just a few weeks. After that, they just got on with their concerts and have had no connection with the Israeli army. Immediately after the concert, they were invited back for next year. They have also been invited to the Bath and Brighton festivals and are due to appear six times at Wigmore Hall in London."

Two of the four, Amichai Grosz and Kyril Zlotnikov, are also members of Daniel Barenboim's West-Eastern Divan orchestra.

Ron Prosor, Israel's ambassador to the UK, said: "We must not give in to the attempts to sabotage the marketing of Israeli art and culture in Britain. The audience in Edinburgh insisted on getting the opportunity to listen to the concert and, with the determined help of the festival director, they got just that. The show must go on, and with the assistance of art-lovers in the UK, it will."

Mark Gardner, communications director of the Community Security Trust, said: "This is another very troubling example of Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign's determination to wreck anything remotely connected with Israel."

The SPSC tried in vain to persuade the festival to cancel the quartet's appearance. A festival spokesperson said: "This festival was founded in the belief that bringing artists and audiences together was an important way to promote cultural understanding between people. This remains a guiding principle."

    Last updated: 3:01pm, September 4 2008