Jerusalem Quartet是不是因冠名聖城而略嫌敏感恐怕見仁見智，但音樂家是以色列籍這種事恐怕是沒得選擇的，而以色列成年男子都必須服役，因此四位男性成員的確曾入伍服役，在以國國防軍從事類似台灣國防部示範樂隊性質表演任務，跟戰鬥沒有任何關係，更不可能進行「壓迫」巴勒斯坦人的行動。終歸一句話，欲加之罪何患無辭，音樂會由BBC Radio 3進行同步現場實況轉播恐怕才是抗議者鎖定的主因，根據威格摩音樂廳管理單位指出，抗議者非常有組織的購買各個角落的位子，顯見係事先詳細規劃，而非臨時起意，BBC Radio 3迫不得已只好中斷轉播，改播Salomon Quartet錄音，事後再請耶路撒冷四重奏補錄，延後至週六下午播出。
Protesters silence Israeli musicians in London
Performers stop to debate Israel's policy in Occupied Territories with activists
A lunchtime concert in central London by a renowned classical quartet became a platform for protests against Israel in the latest manifestation of how culture has become enmeshed in the bitter politics of the Middle East.
Within the first 10 minutes of the performance by the Jerusalem Quartet at the Wigmore Hall a woman stood up to "sing out" her condemnation of Israeli policy, setting the pattern for interruptions by people strategically positioned among the audience.
The result was that BBC Radio 3's live recording of the concert had to be broken off under extraordinary scenes with the musicians engaged in a debate on stage with the protesters over the conduct of Israel in the Occupied Territories.
Campaigners against the perceived excesses of the Jewish state have been increasingly using education and the arts as means of exerting pressure, and calling for boycotts which have led to heated debates. The Jerusalem Quartet has been at the receiving end of this going back to 2008, when five members of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign faced charges for disrupting a performance in Edinburgh.
Bloggers described yesterday's protests. One wrote: "A woman rose to her feet and made a noise. For a split second, I was unsure what it was; then I realised that she was singing. 'Jerusalem' was the first word, followed by 'is occupied'. She proceeded to shout out denunciations of Israel, 'an apartheid state', the attack on Gaza, the use of phosphorous, and so forth, seeming to implicate the quartet".
Protesters claim the ensemble is tied with the Israeli state and point to the Jerusalem Music Centre's website which states: "The four members of the Quartet joined the Israeli Defence Forces in March 1997 and are serving as distinguished musicians."
Military service is compulsory for any Israeli citizen at the age of 18 and people such as the violin virtuoso Maxim Vengerov have served their time with the Israeli Defence Forces. However, as Jessica Duchen, the classical music writer, noted: "That means they're regarded wherever they go as representatives of the Israeli government, the IDF and their policies, such as the dropping of phosphorus on Gaza, the building of the 9-metre-high separation wall and the continued building/enlarging of settlements that, according to international law, are not legal. I'm afraid they do become fair game for the hecklers... It's a horrible dilemma if you love their playing but hate what their government is doing."
The Quartet pointed out that only one of their four is now a native Israeli, with one living in Portugal and another in Berlin. All four did serve in the army, but as musicians and not in combat. Two are also regular performers with Daniel Barenboim's West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, which brings Arab and Israeli musicians together for classical concerts.
The director of the Wigmore Hall, John Gilhooly, said: "The protesters completely take away the meaning of an artistic event, which is something which transcends politics."
The concert hall should be out of this world
Early on Monday afternoon, a neighbour came knocking at my door. "Did you hear?" he said, jittery with agitation. "Hear what?" "The lunchtime concert from the Wigmore Hall."
I shook my head. "It was disrupted," he continued. "Very well organised, they were. No sooner was one of the demonstrators taken away than another started up. They were barracking the Jerusalem Quartet, and in the end Radio 3 had to abandon the broadcast. Terrible business. Shocking."
My instant reaction was to reach for some perspective. That morning, 39 people had been killed in the Moscow Metro on their way to work. Beside such appalling images, the disruption of string quartets by Mozart and Ravel seemed trivial, too frivolous to accommodate in the same thought. Yet as the day merged into a week when two faiths sought the seasonal comforts of Passover and Easter, the attack on the Wigmore Hall assumed an awfulness all its own. True, no one was harmed, and the incident barely made the papers. Nevertheless, it amounted to an assault on an element of civilisation whose value we cannot see until we lose it – a sanctuary where people under pressure can find relief from the world and its woes.
For the past 110 years, the Wigmore has stood inconspicuously behind the heaving department stores of Oxford Street. All the great pianists and violinists have played beneath its Pre-Raphaelite cupola, along with many of the top-C divas. It is a prestigious stage with a pin-perfect acoustic and an audience that does not applaud between movements, a little gem of civilisation, as unique to London as the red double-decker and the Regent's Park flowerbeds, useful and decorative at once.
What the Wigmore does best is string quartets, and what the string quartet gives us is the chance to switch off our lives. There are no interruptions at the Wigmore, no street noise, no tweets. For an hour at lunchtime, two at night, you are (as Gustav Mahler put it) lost to the world. The Wigmore is a refuge where no one can reach you, where the right to privacy is rigorously safeguarded.
There are few such places left. I have heard mobiles go off in churches, synagogues, theatres and the House of Commons. I have seen men at the urinal jump when their Blackberry beeps and women abandon their facials at the hint of a ringtone. Only at havens like the Wigmore are we free from the demands of rapid response.
It was this precious freedom that the demonstrators set out to destroy. There are two versions of what actually happened on Monday. The hall's management said the protest was "extremely well planned", with tickets purchased months in advance and in different parts of the hall. The event had been chosen for disruption because it was broadcast live on radio and online; there had been no disturbance at the Jerusalem Quartet's previous recital on Saturday.
The demo's organiser, Tony Greenstein, gives a more shambolic account. His blog reports that he overslept due to British Summer Time, missed his train, couldn't find the hall, arrived 10 minutes after the recital began and was made to wait outside for the first-movement break. Greenstein represents the Brighton and Hove Palestine Solidarity Campaign, along with Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (J-BIG).
In his unscheduled absence, a music teacher, Deborah Fink, stood up to sing anti-Israel ditties. Greenstein was ushered to his seat while Fink was being evicted, saving his rant until some minutes after the music had resumed. Two or three others took up the cry once he was removed, hurling abuse at musicians who, they claimed, were members of the Israeli army and cultural ambassadors of "Apartheid Israel". No arrests were made, and the disrupters reconvened to celebrate their coup at a café nearby.
A veteran agitator, Greenstein's avowed aim is to attract attention. I am aware that by writing about his silly prank, I may be giving succour to his views. However, the facts should be set straight. The Jerusalem Quartet consists of three Russian immigrants and an Israeli-born viola player, who matured as an ensemble under the BBC's "New Generation" scheme. They are musicians, not soldiers. As part of their national service, they play Mozart in army camps. Two summers ago, at their Edinburgh Festival debut, they were abused as "war criminals". If that were the case, anyone who objected to the Iraq war would have to boycott Katherine Jenkins for having entertained the troops.
The attack on the Wigmore Hall was the work of an eccentric fringe, easily dismissed as the inevitable irritants of an open society. It was contained with immaculate civility. The BBC asked the Quartet to repeat the recital for later broadcast. Nobody got hurt. There are string quartets at play in the Wigmore Hall tonight, tomorrow and most days after. Life goes on. But it does not go on unchanged.
Members of the Jerusalem Quartet, who have worked with Arab musicians in Daniel Barenboim's East-West Divan Orchestra and done what they can to promote dialogue in the Middle East, would not be artists if they were unaffected by the incident. Next time they come out on stage – in Amsterdam, or Munich, or Zurich – they will scan the hall with anxious eyes and prepare to work twice as hard to stop the outside world from breaking their airtight concentration.
And the next time you or I go to the Wigmore Hall, we will be subtly aware that something has changed, no matter how discreet the extra security or how hushed the space sounds in that invaluable hiatus between the moment the musicians raise their bows and the instant the music flows. A seal has been broken. We will need to make an extra effort to shut out the world and its nagging concerns. We are no longer alone with ourselves.
Everyone needs a place of safety. As children, we find hidey-holes. As adults, we form nuclear relationships. And every society needs a sanctuary where it can escape the important issues of the day – the election, the economic bleakness, the state of Wayne Rooney's ankle. Places like the Wigmore Hall are where we recover that human right, just as in hospital we recover our health. A sanctuary must remain sacrosanct. There is no cause that can ever justify its desecration.