Thursday, July 13, 2006


Deeply distressed this morning by the news from the Middle East. I recently turned down the opportunity to go to Jerusalem to do an article about the Israel Philharmonic and its conductors. Had I gone, I'd have been there at the moment. I'm afraid I said 'no' mainly because I'd have had to miss the Wimbledon final, but there were other factors too and the incident has sparked some knife-edge discussions at home. As an objective journalist, I wasn't totally against the idea (though I don't deny being a scardycat).

I can't pretend to have any answers, but I'd like to ask some questions.

Music can rise above politics. Should it do so on every occasion?

Should a flagship artistic organisation necessarily be tarred with the brush of its government in the eyes of the world?

If someone is upset by Israel's actions and decides to boycott its national orchestra, but that person is equally upset by the actions of America in Iraq, should they not also boycott orchestras from, eg, Washington DC? And if they don't approve of Tony Blair's support for George W, shouldn't they extend their stance to avoiding Britain's state-funded orchestras too? Once you start down that path, where do you stop?

Would it have been wrong to present the perspective of ordinary musicians, trying to get on with life and work, caught up amid surrounding issues so complicated and combustible? Shouldn't they be allowed to tell us what life is really like for them at the moment? And whatever stance they take, shouldn't they have the chance to say why they take it?

I didn't go and I'm not going. Personal safety and tennis aside, was that the right decision?