Friday, 2 September 2011

Philharmonic Protest: As I see it.

The BBC reported today that a concert by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO) was disrupted by protestors this evening. Performing at the Royal Albert Hall in London for the BBC proms, members of the audience began to shout and boo when the orchestra's soloist, Gil Shaham, began to play.

The IPO has been in existence for 75 years, beginning life in 1936 as the Palestine Philharmonic, before changing its name to the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in 1948 when the state of Israel was founded. Historically it was made up of Jewish musicians who were persecuted by Nazism and who were victims of anti-semitism in Europe. Today the orchestra is made by of musicians from France, Germany, Italy, Japan, as well as from Israel.

In the run up to the proms, the Palestine Solidarity Camapaign urged the BBC to cancel the event and called on people to boycott the performance. The call was, and is, part of a broader campaign organised by many radical groups popularly known as BDS- boycott, divestment and sanctions- against Israel. It urges people not to buy products from Israel and shop at "pro-Israel" companies, such as the Jewish owned Marks & Spencers chain of stores.

But, I wonder, do these actions really aid the struggle of Palestinians for self determination?

Many supporters of the boycott liken it to the boycott and disinvestment campaign that was carried out against the apartheid regime in South African a decade and a half ago. But, it was not the boycott campaign that ended apartheid. It was the determined mass struggle of the workers and youth in South Africa, led by Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress.

Campaigning on the basis of freedom and equality for all- irrespective of race and religion- they were able to forge a united mass movement powerful enough to bring down the despised apartheid regime. Today the organisations that claim leadership of the Palestinian struggle- such as Hamas and Fatah- provide no such perspective for achieving a just peace for the Jews, Muslims, Christians an others who live in Israel and the occupied territories.

Whilst Hamas refuses to recognise the Jewish workers as allies, Fatah seeks to make an accomodation with the Israeli ruling class and carve out a niche for itself and its own privileged interests via a bantustan style seperate state.

In response to the boycott campaign the Israeli government has sought to whip up fears of isolation amongst many Jewish workers, and has also fuelled the fire by passing legislation that would allow Israeli's to sue those who call for a boycott of Israeli goods.

The principal enemy of the Palestinian fight for justice is the minority capitalist class that rules Israel. That class is also the enemy of the working class of *all* nationalities and religions, both Jewish and Palestinian. The idea that an international BDS campaign can unite the workers and youth in Israel and Palestine in ending occupation and bringing justice is false. Only a united working class campaign, forged in mutual struggle and respect between both Jewish and Palestinians, can forge a leadership capable of winning a majority and solving the regions problems through a democratic socialist secular state as part of a broader socialist federation of the Middle East.

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