Israel and apartheid: The asinine Nigel Kennedy should stick to fiddling

Friday, 9 August, 2013

“Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a bit facile to say it, but we all know from experience in this night of music tonight that, given equality, and getting rid of apartheid, gives beautiful chance for amazing things to happen.” So spoke the British violin virtuoso Nigel Kennedy at the Royal Albert Hall last night, following a performance of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons by the Palestine Strings, the Nigel Kennedy Quintet and Kennedy’s Orchestra of Life. The most repellent thing about Kennedy’s use of the word “apartheid” is that it was amplified and blessed by the BBC in its broadcast of this Proms concert. It would be too much, perhaps, to expect Kennedy to understand that unlike the racist South African apartheid laws, Israeli law guarantees Arab citizens the same rights as other Israelis.

Although vocal on Israel and its failings, Nigel Kennedy, like most “artists”, has been silent on Syria and its savagery. Apparently, no amount of butchery there can provoke a comment or a concert from those devoted to enhancing our cultural life. Still, it would be nice if Kennedy and his ilk were to comment on today’s Independent news story, headlined: “‘I lost consciousness in the blast. When I woke up I was in a hospital in Israel’: Casualties of Syria’s war find salvation in an unlikely place.” But because this does not fit the facetious “apartheid” narrative, an artistic response cannot be expected any time soon.


Comments (12)

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  1. john landaw says:

    This article is faultless in its reasoning. But you cannot expect a man like Kennedy, ignorant and illiterate as he is, to understand it, or, of course, be able even to read it. But objection is rightly taken to his ignorant use of the word ‘apartheid. As a violinist, he distinguishes himself by his absurd appearance and appalling English. That he has some tslent is a fact, but there are many better players around. He will be forgotten in time.

  2. Eamonn, the word “apartheid” has passed into the English language with the following meanings:
    a·part·heid (-pärtht, -ht)
    1. An official policy of racial segregation formerly practiced in the Republic of South Africa, involving political, legal, and economic discrimination against nonwhites.
    2. A policy or practice of separating or segregating groups.
    3. The condition of being separated from others; segregation.

    Nigel’s use of the word is therefore quite permissible. It’s true that he didn’t mention Syria but no one single person can speak on all the evils in the modern world. If every one of us were to speak out as bravely and sincerely as Nigel does about the evil we personally find repellent, there might be more hope of ending some of them. A wall is a wall, no matter where we find it !

  3. john landaw says:

    Every word has a context, and simply to quote every definition of it ignores context. The use of the word in the context of Israel is clearly meant to invite comparison with South Africa. Israel is called an ‘apartheid state’for that reason.
    Furthermore, if we look at the second and third definitions Elsie cites, we could include singel sex schools within either 2 or 3, nunneries, or Switzerland for that matter, where the country is divided into cantons along national lines.
    No,context is everything.
    Furthermore, while Elsie is right to say that no single person ‘can speak on all the evils of the modern world’ it remains a remarkable fact that little seems ot be said, eg about Malaysia, which boasts a racist constitution, or any number of abuses in other countries. Israel is subject to a scale of attack quite out of proportion to the wrongs it commits, especially as it is the only democracy in the benighted Middle East, where the persecution of Christians in Arab countries, and of all dissidents is standard practice, and the rule of law non-existent.

  4. Thanks for the reply, John. I quoted the dictionary definitions of the word, but I do grant you that they would be better definitions if they included the word “involuntary” along with “segregation” and “separation.” Your examples aren’t germane, since they are all the result of voluntary choices made by the people affected by them. You must also see that the context in which Nigel used the term was clearly defined by the circumstances in which he used it. The presence of the young Palestine Strings members provided all the context needed. Clearly, the audience in the Royal Albert Hall understood it. The thunderous applause with which they greeted it shows us that. Finally, you clearly don’t know Nigel ! He is neither ignorant nor illiterate; he is, in fact, remarkably well read and well informed. As for his musical ability……………as long as people have ears to hear with, they will be listening to Nigel’s recording of the Elgar Violin Concerto with Simon Rattle. That will never be forgotten !

  5. john landaw says:

    Hi Elsie

    Is it okay to continue this? Don’t want to drive you mad!

    Regarding musicality, we’ll just have to differ. I love the Elgar, too, but his recording of it would be way down the list.Try Zehetmair.
    A distraction!Apologies.
    The question is the word ‘apartheid.’ Do you really believe that, in law, Israel is an apartheid state as was SA? In Israel all its citizens have full equal rights which includes one million Arabs. Its citizens have no restrictions on who they may marry.
    The Arab countries dealt with the ‘Jewish problem’ by expelling more Jews than ever left Palestine in 1948. In no possible legal definition can Israel be described as an apartheid state. The Palestinians have no wish to be Israeli citizens. The Palestinians, undoubtedly, have had a bad deal, though as much through the fault of the Arabs as the Israelis, but they should and must have their own state. No question about that. The question then may be, how many Jews would be permitted to live there? I doubt even one. Would this be apartheid?
    As a perhaps small afterthought, you seek to qualify the meaning of the word, by saying that ‘voluntariness’ is the key distinction. I dont recall any choice about my going to a single sex school. Were my paretns therefore guilty of imposing ‘apartheid’ on me?
    The thunderous applause greeting the Palestine Orchestra only serves to underline the emotive, unthinking word NK used.

    I am also somewhat doubtful about his being well-read as he comes across as utterly inarticulate. Indeed, he was even considered an embarrassment on SkySports some years ago when interviewed prior to a Villa v Arsenal game

  6. I think we’ve reached an impasse, John ! We each react to the word ‘apartheid’ differently and we each react to Nigel differently and nothing more we might say is going to change that. I shall be interested to see what the BBC does when it airs the video of the concert on August 23rd………..will they cut the reference to apartheid or not ? I think we ought to stop hogging Eamonn’s blog, but I would like to hear from you if you have any more thoughts on the subject. I can be reached at [email protected]. You guessed that I have a Nigel Kennedy blog, didn’t you ? It’s undergoing reconstruction right now, but the email still works.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me.

    • mark gilbert says:

      Dear Elsie, Kennedy reflects the larger malaise of the bizarre selectiveness of “causes” championed by so many who consider they cherish humanitarian values.

      It is gobsmacking that the almost universal silence on the carnage in Syria can be so easily countenanced by anyone, let alone someone apparently concerned with injustice in the context of the Middle East. There can be NO excuse for that, whatever you may think of Israel.

      More than twice the death toll in Syria, Arab agains arab, moslem against moslem than the conflict between jew and arab in the last hundred years…and not even pause for comment.

      A topsy turvy world we live in, whatever your politcs.

  7. Brian O ' Murchu says:

    Kennedy is courageous, unlike shallow armchair commentators such as yerself
    So you know more about South Africa’s Apartheid era and how it compares to Israeli Apartheid than Bishop Desmond Tutu ?
    I know I don’t …
    Bishop Tutu says ‘ Israel is an Apartheid State ‘ .
    Were you in S. Africa during the Apartheid era ?
    Have you been to Israel and the Palestinian territories , paid by yourself and not by Israel and it supporters?

    Your fellow Irish citizens John Ging, or indeed Dr Mary Robinson, will put you straight on what human rights the Palestinians don’t have under Israeli occupation and in Israel proper.
    Seriously, your blog piece reads like a propaganda placement. Is it ?
    Or are you part of the Israeli Government sponsored programme to serve propaganda out on the Internet?

    Could you not find any pictures of Palestinian kids blown to pieces by Israeli bombs ? UNHCR could help you here.
    Stick with what you know 🙂

    Is mise le meas

    • mark gilbert says:

      Few would support the idea that the current situation in the so-called West Bank, including Gaza, is free from suffering. However, by any standard, whichever cause Tutu and others feel compelled to champion, it cannot possibly be compared to the horrors taking place just up the road against which I have not witnessed a single demo anywhere in the world. That fact alone speaks volumes for the state of play of ideology in contemporary society and does the Palestinian cause no good whatsoever.

  8. mark gilbert says:

    The Irish seem to have a long history of obsessing about Israel. One wonders if and how the current situation in Egypt will play to their political sensibilities. It might be an easier scenario of carnage to cobble into the “cowboys and Indian’ rhetorical digest – with the political islam as the great freedom fighter of the age. You want “democracy”?Look no further than Morsi. Great. Enough to twang your violin string…..

    Syria? Mmm.. a bit harder, that one. Bodies blown up by the Jew? Well, that’s horrible, to be sure..but no more horrible, surely, than the 100,000.00 + blown to smithereens in Syria. How many overt acts of cannibalism does an Irishman need to witness on Youtube, I wonder, before he jumps on a peace train to Damascus?

    No, no. Just too complicated, some of our world, to coalesce nicely with a night at the Proms, I suppose, not to mention merit the support of the courageous like Nigel. He’s on the Peace train to Palestine, of course. Can’t jump off, even for a pit stop in Damascus? To play just a few cherished notes? Perhaps too dangerous…

    Kennedy, however well intentioned, will do little to help bring peace to the Middle East. If anything, I believe, he will contribute, in his own small way, to polarising opinion and cementing the tendency to violence. I also believe that Obama will do the same, not to mention most governing elites and opinion-makers in Europe. Nothing much has changed, in that respect, since the “Peace to end all Peace” in 1919.

  9. Pelon Nord says:

    Reasoned and calm replies Mark Gilbert.

    Mentioning other countries is often called ‘whataboutery’ but it is the almost total silence on the vastly worse events unfolding in states other than Israel (you mention Syria as a perfect example) – the obsession with Israel to the exclusion of the others, that makes one smell a rat.

    Brian O ‘ Murchu. Just because Desmond Tutu says it’s apartheid doesn’t make it so. He has described Jews as a “peculiar people,” and has accused “the Jews” of causing many of the world’s problems.

    Perhaps he’s a little biased perhaps?

  10. mark gilbert says:

    It has to be maddening for those who have, for so long, singled out Israel as seemingly one of the worst culprits of human rights abuse in history. Since, clearly, doing so begs the question, according to which yardstick is this true? Once one, rightly, tries to answer that question, how can one avoid the glare of grosser criminality emanating from almost every arab and moslem state in the Middle East, from state and non state actors? More importantly, perhaps, how can one not at least attempt to give one’s position some wider context? Presumably it’s not that these champions of the “greater good” would not have any consideration for those deemed oppressed etc in any other parts of the region or the world.

    ..and this is not a matter of simply applying some ruse to take the heat off an Israel. It is not about negating the principles of human rights. In fact it is about precisely the opposite.

    If Israel is worse than its neighbours in Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, Iran, the proclamations Kennedy’s of this world should tell us why. If it is not, why the obsessive singling out of this country?

    No, no. It’s a rocky and onerous road for the moralist in this day and age (though it has been since Adam picked up Eve, I suspect). Even if Israel could be said to be a cold-blooded, premeditated murderer, the numbers it has “murdered” since its founding are paltry compared with the internecine violence in moslem states, let alone violence between moslem state actors. Perhaps, then numbers don’t matter. A million here. 100,000 there. Mmm..then what does matter? Have we no right to ask? Have we know right to understand what our champions of our salvation stand for outside the context of a very particular issue?

    “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” indeed..but if you want to get a migraine, just apply that pearl to the conflict of Syria and see who’s side you come out on. Enough to pus a brick in anyone’s wall, Roger, I would guess.