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Exclusive: Shocked Dudamel reconsiders Israel future after double airport harrassment

Gustavo Dudamel is reflecting on whether he will visit Israel again after twice being subjected to prolonged and uncomfortable interrogations on entering and leaving the country at Ben Gurion Airport.

It appears that the star conductor was singled out as a citizen of Venezuela, whose president, Hugo Chavez, is notably aggressive towards Israel.  Dudamel was subjected to tedious, hostile and intrusive questions from immigration and Shin bet agents.

The Israel Philharmonic has sought to shift the blame, saying that Dudamel should have been carrying his letter of invitation from the orchestra. We are assured that he was carrying the letter. What’s more, a representative of the orchestra was with him from the moment he left the plane. He should not have been treated in this way, and is owed an apology by the Israeli authorities. I hope they have the decency and commonsense to offer one.

The IPO is at fault – if not on Dudamel’s arrival, then certainly on his departure – for failing to ensure that its guest was treated with appropriate courtesy and dignity. He is not the first to fall foul of B-G’s tight security. We hear that Zubin Mehta, longtime music director of the Israel Phil, has had trouble getting through on occasion.

In a statement to Slipped Disc this morning, issued via his agent, Gustavo Dudamel said: ‘These matters are both unpleasant and very unfortunate.  I love making music with the Israel Philharmonic and we hope to find ways of working with them in the future.’

dudamel israel2

Dudamel is music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Simon Bolivar orchestras. He is in demand as a guest conductor in Berlin, Vienna and La Scala. Israel may have to wait its turn, next time round.

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  1. Derek Castle says:

    What a dump! Look at the way they treat Barenboim for ‘speaking his mind’.

  2. James Inverne says:

    Derek, they gave Barenboim the highest award the country has to offer (the Israel Prize) and allowed him to ‘speak his mind’ at the ceremony. He is also a very frequent guest of the IPO. That, presumably, is what you refer to?

    • Derek Castle says:

      I think I saw the award ceremony you refer to, James, where there were protests (didn’t a woman minister walk out?) because he dared to read from the Israeli Constitution, embarrassing those who prefer to ignore the plight of the Palestinians. I’m sure there are evil people operating to obliterate the State of Israel, but isn’t it also up to Israel to do more to try to attain peace? After all, they’ve got the overwhelming backing of the U.S.A. The hardliners seem to have the upper hand (after all, Israel is a democracy!) And they need some good PR! All the convincing apologists on TV seem to come from the Palestinian side. At the end of his Beethoven series at the Proms last summer, Barenboim announced that the concert with his WED Orchestra in Ramallah?, planned for the next few days, had suddenly been cancelled by the Israeli Govt. No reason had been given. He also indicated that he thought things would get worse before they got better. Finally, a minor but I think significant point. We know Wagner is an old bete noire, but the hecklers at the concert with the IPO, when he tried to play the Liebestod as an encore (I know it’s a while ago now), show that the older generation at any rate think the world is still against them.

      • gerald berke says:

        Playing Wagner in Israel is like playing Dixie for the NAACP… it’s bad taste. And if somebody wants to “obliterate” you, well, that tends to make for a disharmonious relation… as far as protection, do this: pick up a cat, keep it secure and comfortable, and carry it into the dog park. Make sure it feels safe.
        And, that being said,it is stupid and offensive to mess with Dudamel. That smacks of lawlessless, ruffians, bullies.

      • James Inverne says:

        Hi Derek, well at that ceremony Barenboim made a political criticism which he was perfectly entitled to make, and the lady politician there then made the point that given his statement she didn’t agree with him getting the award, which she was also entitled to say. I don’t think either ever considered that the other had no right to hold their views and it was done fairly politely, and the lady didn’t walk out as far as I remember (unless I’m getting amnesia). That seems to me to be a healthy debate, and is typical of Israeli political discourse.

        Not everyone who disagrees with Barenboim’s statements thinks the Palestinians don’t deserve a state – in fact a recent survey showed that even a majority of the (right-wing) Likud party think they do and Israel has offered a state multiple times – but Barenboim lays the blame mainly at the feet of Israel, which with all respect to him I think is naive and unrealistic. What he and many ignore is the fact that this is not an Israel – Palestinian conflict. In fact it has always been about the dynamic between Israel and the Arab world (and arguably beyond, as Russia has tended to support the Arabs, the US Israel) and the Palestinians are used as propaganda pawns (witness the way Saddam suddenly started talking about them in the first Gulf War, while lobbing Scuds at israel and paying thousands to the family of any Palestinian suicide bomber). It is far from a simple situation. I personally would be perfectly happy if Barenboim chastised equally Israel and the Arab states and Palestinians themselves, but he doesn’t seem to…maybe he takes some of it as read, but it shouldn’t be.

        On that Wagner concert, look, I’m personally all in favour of Wagner being regularly played in Israel but I also understand the sensitivities of the Holocaust survivors there and also the symbolic values that Wagner has there in terms of anti-Semitism etc. Where I think Barenboim was wrong at that concert was not in programming it, but in saying he wouldn’t conduct it and then surprising everyone with it as an encore. Any ageing Holocaust survivors in the audiencethen would have faced the choice of either walking out, very embarassed while everyone watched, or sitting and hearing the music in great discomfort. That was the issue and that’s mostly why people took offence.

        All the best,

        • Carroll Straus says:

          You don;t have to be a holocaust survivor to have a problem with Wagner. I am 63 years old and my grandparents emigrated from Belarus– and I would have been offended.

  3. Clearly this is not the way that you want a distinguished visitor to be treated, but short of putting the Maestro on a private plane at a private airstrip, what should the orchestra have done differently? Aside from making sure that the Maestro had all relevant travel documents and invitations, what exactly can an orchestra representative do to dissuade Israeli security forces from initiating an interrogation? I wouldn’t think it likely for cultural institutions such as the IPO to possess the political and legal power to exempt its guests (distinguished or not) from scrutiny at checkpoints in the world’s most heavily guarded airport…but I could be wrong.

    • It is easier to blame the orchestra, but not the Israel authorities; However, It doesn’t make any sense. As William said, what IPO could do? (Please, show us we’re wrong) If Dudamel cannot surpass the political issues of a country and just decide to do not return, that’s he’s decision to put it above artistic points.
      He should try Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra; they would love him at the country.

    • Well, here’s an idea. In America, it’s very difficult to secure visas for foreign guest artists. I have been in numerous situations where we had to call a Senator and ask for his office’s assistance in getting a visa approved in time.

      The IPO could have anticipated that Dudamel’s passport would be scrutinized, and asked for a prominent politician to send an emissary to the airport, or at the least, given him an additional letter of invitation from the government itself. This is a completely plausible scenario, and might have mitigated the problem. But the fact that it happened a SECOND time? The IPO absolutely should have taken some proactive step to ensure the problem didn’t happen on the way out.

  4. I always tell my artists who go to Israel that it might be unpleasant but that it is much better than being blown-up on a plane. I think though that there could be a VIP list from trusted organizations. Especially cultural ones.

    • @Talcal’s statement seems to sum it up. Israel’s situation is unique and it’s motto is “Never Again.” They do make mistakes. Their treatment of Maestro Dudamel is one of them.

    • Noemi Adlerst says:

      1- I am quite happy to see that National Security and anti-terrorism are more important than a conductor’s ego.
      2- I am sure Mr Lebrecht is NOT suggesting that Mr Dudamel should have been treated differently from any other Venezuelan passing through security, lest he suggests that there A citizens and B citizens according to professional and (supposed) artistic merits. Would not this be exactly the opposite of everything initiatives like El Sistema stand for?
      3- Since Mr Dudamel clearly uses his nationality as promotion tool (El sistema and company) it is rather silly not wanting to be considered Venezuelan anymore when it comes to other matters.
      4-By avoiding Israel as result of this experience Mr Dudamel would play by the same rules he claims were applied at the airport to him being Venezuelan (racism or discrimination).
      4- Security team could be really annoying and difficult in US too, but this does not speak for the country in general, and certainly does not prevent people from wanting to work on US soil.
      5-Mr Dudamel must be by now too softened up by the luxury treatments he gets in LA. Maybe he should think that many people in his home country are suffering far worser fate than a rough questioning at airport security.
      6 – Mr Dudamel and classical musicians in general should be aware that the world is a bigger and riskier place than a concert hall, and act accordingly when they are confronted with this when bigger things are at stake than waving batons and sweaty hair to a public of few thousands.

      • So you are saying all Venezuelans should be treated equally badly by Israeli security?

        And regarding 4, how is avoiding a place where someone has been treated badly “racism”?

        And, do you think asking people lots of BS question at the airport does anything for “national security”?

        • Israeli airport security openly admit they do profiling based on criteria such as race, nationality, age etc. And yes, the questions do make sense. Read more here:

        • What you think are BS questions, Michael, may not be so in reality. The Israeli security record is extraordinarily good, so perhaps they possess some expertise in this realm that you don’t.

          Virtually all passengers receive thorough questioning by security personnel both entering and departing Israel, including questions that might be considered fairly personal an/or unimportant. This, however, is how Israel protects itself and all the other travelers from threat. I know that I, a 60 something Jew from NYC get questioned each time I go there. I go with the flow, never take it personally, and it’s over before I know it.

          I’m sorry if Dudamel considers himself above suspicion, but he of all people should certainly realize what a nut job of a leader Argentina has, and that any Argentinean will, as a result, receive more than average scrutiny. Not playing the prima donna and having all his papers with him, would likely get him through security with far greater ease and less pain.

          • Venezuela, not Argentina.

          • Carroll Straus says:

            Assuming any person from Venezuela is somehow likely to wish Israel harm, the Israelis had plenty if notice that this particular Venezuelan was arriving. Any necessary vetting could have been done LONG before he arrived and let’s be real. ONE interrogation is sufficient.

        • Is important to remember that Venezuelan president Chavez, damned and corse Israel in national tv and in a very treating tone Knowing how Israel works, they are just sending a message back.

          • Andrés says:
            February 17, 2013 at 3:09 am
            “Is important to remember that Venezuelan president Chavez, damned and corse Israel in national tv and in a very treating tone The President Of Venezuela Damns The State Of Israel | Chavez Exposing Israel & the U.S. Knowing how Israel works, they are just sending a message back.”

            Pretty strong stuff, but I don’t see any “anti-semitism” here, just very strong anti-imperialist rhetorics, and it is also important to remember that Venezuela is in a part of the world which is still struggling to recover from centuries of western colonialism, and after the end of that, massive intervention of western powers in the affairs of countries like Venezuela, Chile, or on the other side of the planet, Iran, where they have helped overthrow progressive governments in the interest of big business because those countries nationalized the oil and other resource industries.

            But it is also important to remember that whatever bad boy Hugo says about the US and Israel, Dudamel hasn’t hesitated to work in Israel before, he even went on an international tour with the Israel Philharmonic. So he is reaching out across political and geostrategic fault lines with music. I can see a strong message there, too.
            And yes, you are right, the fact that his short but significant history with this, one of Israel’s leading cultural institutions is irrelevant to the Israeli government and that they want to use him to “send a message back” does indeed send a message in itself – but not a good one.

      • Dear Noemi Adlerst
        With all your 6 paragraphs of great demagogy, you still have time to join Shin Bet (if you already not part of it) and interrogate Barack Obama as soon he lands in Israel. Do not forget to take Donald Trump with you. It would be a great opportunity finally to find out where the president was born. Good luck.

      • Yes, thanks god the world is a bigger place than just Israel. so best to just avoid it and thus the arrogance of their surpressive system.

  5. I thought it was only simpletons like me who were ‘attacked’ for visitng another country (and neighbour) – it was horrific to be treated like a criminal.
    Somehow, Maestro Dudamel should have been much better looked after. Security is fine, but being rude and aggressive is not ok under any circumstances.

  6. One would expect that an organisation such as the IPO would have contacts with airport management to ensure that Dudamel was accompanied through the airport and security by an airport VIP co-ordinator or similar. I’ve never been to Israel so don’t know the procedure, but would the officials have allowed him to make a phone call to IPO management when things got sticky so they could confirm he was who he said he was?

  7. Well, let’s look at that from a different side. First of all, I think it is detestable to expect that stars and celebrities should be treated very different from mere mortals. Why should they expect more respect for their human rights and dignity than other people? And I am glad that incidents like this do happen, as they highlight this problem. I wish all the politicians and decision makers had an occasional reality check and also had to go through some of the security procedures which they imposed on ordinary people.

    And secondly – I am sorry, but in all that hype about El Sistema we sweep under the carpet the fact that it enjoys support and is treated as advertisement of a rather unpleasant political regime. I think it is high time maestro Dudamel and people behind him come to terms with that. (you might want to read this: So yeah, there is a good reason why he might be a more legitimate target for detailed security questioning than a humble tourist or musician from a country with a less controversial political system.

    • Mark, I just want to add my small experience to your comment. A regular guy, also from south America but Brazil. Twice times in Israel as a humble tourist and during both times the security procedures were the expected ones that did not take too much time, or bother me. No one knows about me in any place, but I did not suffer any extra.
      “So yeah, there is a good reason why he might be a more legitimate target for detailed security questioning than a humble tourist or musician from a country with a less controversial political system.”

      • Mark,
        Gustavo Dudamel is proudly Venezuelan. If he had been born a Spanish Jew in Israel, he would not have been in the place that he is in now. Venezuela gave him everything. Maestro Dudamel was voted one of the 100 most important people in the planet by Time. President Chavez did not say to Dudamel, don’t go to Israel. In fact, Chavez may boycott Israel, but Dudamel chose not to. In fact, in the boycott Israel movement, Dudamel chose to be friends of Israel despite his govenment’s position. Dudamel is a true friend of Israel. In fact Dudamel is loved and admired by millions in the world. Moreover, in a dispute between Venezuela and Israel, you are dreaming if you think that Dudamel will choose Israel over his country that gave him everything.

        So, Isreal, in its familiar arrogance has alienated a giant in the world of classica music. Way to go!

  8. Israeli security is a pain in the butt whether you are Gustavo Dudamel or Joe Schmoe. Everyone knows it, and accepts it, since it’s the price to fly safely in and out of Israel. It’s the safest airport in the world, and even though I am often driven crazy by the constant questions and checkpoints, I know that when my flight leaves, every possible thing has been done to make the experience safe.

    Hugo Chavez is practically an anti-Semite who has a history of making horrific remarks against Israel. People from these countries, fair or not, should expect a certain level of suspicion. It’s guilt by association, but that’s the way it is.

    • “Guilt by association” = racism, pure and simple.

      • Gustavo Dudamel wasn’t questioned because he is of South American origin, he was questioned because he comes from a country with a history of terrible relations with Israel. Was he allowed in and out of the country with all of his property? Yes. There’s no racism, just despotic tyrants(Chavez) and a security team at an airport that knows how to read a passport and ask questions.

      • No, Michael, it’s called being realistic and cautious. It’s starting to seem to me that you might have been bitten by the anti-semitism bug.

        • Please don’t do that, Stuart. If you start characterising any criticism of Israel as “antisemitism”, you not only insult millions of fair-minded and anti-racist people around the world, but you make any real discussion impossible. It’s obvious that Israel needs to be particularly careful about its security, but it must be possible to discuss and criticise how it goes about it without being fly-swatted by dismissive antisemitism charges. In any case, a messageboard read predominantly by classical musicians would not be the first choice for people who actually don’t like Jews to spend time on!

  9. You don’t have to go to Israel to work…..Performing the War Requiem in Jerusalem , when the bus station next door was blown up during the Libera Me made me realise how essential it was to perform the piece there, but then to encounter such unpleasantness at the airport on my way home made me change my view. I havent been back since..

    • You realize that that the procedures at the airport are designed to ensure that it won’t go the same way as the bus station right?

      • indeed I do, but am baffled as to why it should be such an unpleasant experience in Tel Aviv when compared to other airports around the globe.

        • stanley cohen says:

          Because the threat of danger is imminent or even immediate, as your own comment on the Palestinian Arab who drove the bulldozer he worked on, into a bus queue of innocents – that’s why the security in Israel is so much more intense. We wont even go into the fact that he was employed by an Israeli firm and enjoyed all of the health and security benefits of any Israeli citizen.

        • Other airports in big cities should have the kind of security the Tel Aviv airport has in my opinion. It would be much better than the theater we get in TSA which never actually stops anything…

  10. No matter who is to blame, this whole incident should NEVER have happened! I hope the IPO made proper diplomatic arrangements in advance. If they did, they were not observed. Maestro Dudamel’s response to the disgusting treatment was more than gracious. However, with treatment such as this, I would be loathe to return to that country ever again.

    • Why? Or rather said, what horrible thing did actually happen? He “was subjected to tedious, hostile and intrusive questions from immigration and Shin bet agents” – oh my God! Must have made him unable to perform for ten years at least!

      It is a well known fact that Israeli authorities set an absolute priority on security – with reason. And this is why everybody is told to come with sufficient time to the airport when flying to or from Israel. And well, this might indeed result in somewhat incomfortable interrogatories. If that’s all, so what? Was he arrested, tortured, harmed, whre his properties damaged or seized?

      Is there any reason why famous musicians should recieve better treatment than everybody else?

  11. Who is this Dudamel that such such a minor fuss is made over him ? nothing but an orchestra conductor.
    They are a dime a dozen ,the Israeli Security should do exactly what they think necessary and the exalted
    Dudamel should understand he is but a visitor to a country always under great stress and knowing that, he
    should be polite enough to understand the situation and not make waves . Perhaps Mr. Dudamel
    is beginning to believe in his own publicity and thinks he is Dudamel the great conductor .There is nothing
    special about Mr.Dudamel that he should be treated any differently than any other visitor .Don’t like
    the treatment ? stay home .

    • That’s what the real problem is here. Not that they questioned and investigated Dudamel thoroughly. The fact that they felt the need to do so is the real problem. They shouldn’t have to ask him many questions at all to figure out what he is up to because he is a very public figure and one can easily find a lot of information about him. One doesn’t even have to be a security service professional of any kind – one can simply google him.
      So this story illustrates that the security services there probably don’t have their stuff together and that it’s more a big show than a real security layer.

      • Border security isn’t supposed to “just google” people. They are supposed to assess threats at the border. We have no idea what questions were even asked of him!

        • Waldo says:
          February 13, 2013 at 4:44 pm

          “Border security isn’t supposed to “just google” people. They are supposed to assess threats at the border. We have no idea what questions were even asked of him!”

          Indeed, I am sure they have access to databases and research tools far beyond Google, and my point was that they should be able to find out who he is and why he is coming to Israel very, very easily without harassing him. He also has a history of traveling to and working in the country. Plus he has even toured internationally with the Israel Philharmonic. So he has even acted as a kind of cultural ambassador for Israel. So treating him this way is even more shameful.

      • Lol. Michael – just read again what you have written. Dudamel IS now a part of Venezuelan establishment and seems to be openly supporting and being close to Hugo Chavez. If you were an Israeli agent wouldn’t you consider him a valuable source of information on what happens inside a government which is openly hostile to Israel and use an opportunity to question him thouroughly? Come on people. Look around and see the real world.

      • LOL … We can’t really blame the airport scurity personnel for not being classical music fans now, can we?

      • stanley cohen says:

        In a country where ordinary private soldiers address their officers by their first names, the old cult of forelock touching and bowing and scraping has never existed, Anyone who tries the ” Do you know who I am?” ploy will get what they deserve. I have no idea whether this actually occurred but your suggestion needed to be addressed whatever.

    • Just to have a word here, the Maestro Dudamel is considered by many as the Paganini of this era. He is Not just an other “orchestra conductor”. But that is not my point, if the israel airport security are gonna insult and be hostile with every musicians and artist just because the country where they were born is not a POLITICAL ally of Israel, and you people are agree with that, then you do not deserve nor appreciate the MUSIC, and you may continue focused on the politicians and their lies. After all Dudamel do Music and contribute to mankind and people like “ariel” and “noemi” contribute with racism and sadness.

  12. This is quite normal for Israel. If you go there you know the security is going to be incredibly tight. This is because the country is on a constant war footing. The England rugby coach, Clive Woodwood, had a similar experience. No-one is treated any different to anyone else. Perhaps if we were living under the constant threat of attack we would do the same. Our conductor friend really needs to consider his priorities before going off on a celebrity whine.

  13. Chevalier Diddley says:

    He loves the United States enough to take their money. Why doesn’t he travel with a US passport? Ah I see, that’s the definition of modern-liberal hypocrisy. You can’t have it both ways. Grow up and join the real world.

  14. At least they didn’t break his conducting baton. :)

  15. Marko Velikonja says:

    Ben-Gurion Airport and El Al are renowned for having tight but supposedly intelligent security. So nothing wrong with giving him thorough scrutiny. And they should be no more/less polite to him than to any other traveler. But smart security also tries to triage and focus on high-risk people. Maybe the Venezuelan passport made him higher-risk, but being a notable public figure – with thousands of Google hits, most of them related to music – surely should make him less so. So I’m less concerned about whether they weren’t properly solicitous of Dudamel, than that they were wasting everybody’s time on someone who presented such a low risk.

  16. Marko -contrary to your observation a majority of those Google hits alone would raise suspicion .

  17. John Hames says:

    Some contributors, in their haste to make the usual pro- or anti-Israel points, aren’t reading David Wilson-Johnson’s note carefully enough. He considered it important to perform in Israel, and in particular to perform a pacifistic work there, at some danger to his own life by the sound of it. But the unpleasantness started when he was *leaving* the country. I’m sure we’ve all experienced surly immi/emigration staff, but it sounds as though at the very least there isn’t much joined up thinking around the Israeli airports. Will they know who Obama is, or hook him out on account of his race? Nowhere is it said that Dudamel thinks he’s too important to be questioned, but if this is how the country treats its friends (assuming it thinks it has any), we’re looking at a self-reinforcing siege mentality.

  18. I suspect that Dudamel can do without concertizing in gallant, plucky, treasured little Israel.
    Just as Richard Wagner can.

    • Ros Pratch says:

      A good point. Maestro Dudamel’s career won’t be troubled in the slightest if he chooses never to return to Israel. And, I would rather suspect, that will most probably be the case.

      • Noemi Adlerst says:

        Luckily Israel has had and has its share of REALLY good conductors without the media created-smart-not so smart-boys of conducting visiting often. So it’s sound as if it would be a win-win situation.

        • well, yes, i you want Israeli inbreeding, thats indeed a perfect situation. Not so much for diversity.

          • Noemi Adlerst says:

            Uhm, let me see: looking at the history and at the present: Mehta, Martinon,Pappano, Toscanini, Levine, Fisch, Bernstein, Eschenbach, Bychkov… does not look like inbreeding to me, and cultural diversity was quite safe there too (unless for cultural diversity one can only imagine Fiesta, Mambo and Marachi in the concert hall, and this is just radical chic snobism).
            PS: Dudamel as conductor is not fit to be in this list, in my modest opinion, but clearly people at the IPO thought it otherwise, maybe now they will reconsider after this celebrity whining spree?

          • Noemi Adlerst says:
            February 15, 2013 at 10:28 am

            “Uhm, let me see: looking at the history and at the present: Mehta, Martinon,Pappano, Toscanini, Levine, Fisch, Bernstein, Eschenbach, Bychkov… does not look like inbreeding to me, and cultural diversity was quite safe there too (unless for cultural diversity one can only imagine Fiesta, Mambo and Marachi in the concert hall, and this is just radical chic snobism).
            PS: Dudamel as conductor is not fit to be in this list, in my modest opinion, but clearly people at the IPO thought it otherwise, maybe now they will reconsider after this celebrity whining spree?”

            That doesn’t make sense to me – first you say Israel doesn’t need visiting conductors because it has so many great ones of its own – and then you list names of which only one (Fisch) actually is *from Israel*. Musically, I am not a big fan of Dudamel either, but if he doesn’t belong in that list, Fisch certainly doesn’t either.

            I also find it interesting that Latin American culture to you seems to be all about “Fiesta, Mambo and Marachi” (and it actually is “Mariachi”, BTW). And that you find that in the concert hall somehow is “radical chic”, as if that was somehow a dangerous thing. That’s a lot of borderline racist stereotypes densely packed together right there.

        • “unless for cultural diversity one can only imagine Fiesta, Mambo and Marachi in the concert hall, and this is just radical chic snobism”
          Naiomi, this statement of yours has [redacted]. Thankfully, you are the only one to have descended to that level. Thank you for opening your heart.

  19. Mark Stratford says:

    Simon Rattle conducted IPO as a young man and apparently they gave him such a hard time and made him feel so lonely that he resolved never to go back.

    • Simon Rattle declared on a visit to Caracas that “the future of classical music is in Venezuela.” He was referring to El Sistema, which has produced so many brilliant youth orchestras, made up of kids from economically and socially marginalized communities, bringing classical music to new audiences and a new generation. (Compare to the usual audience in Carnegie Hall, mostly made up of people above the age of 50.) The main figure in El Sistema is, of course, Gustavo Dudamel.

      I’m sorry to read the apologias here for the idiotic conduct of the Israeli airport security. They could easily have figured out who Dudamel was. If they did and decided to question him anyway, supposedly to obtain information on the Venezuelan government, as one contributor suggested, it was even more idiotic.

  20. Stephen Carpenter says:

    Such a sadness. The article itself was sad, but the real sadness is in the comments. Shoulda Coulda Woulda.

  21. In 1996 I played several concerts as soloist with the Haifa Symphony and recall distinctly the intense interviews – by two consecutive agents – at the airport prior to my departure from Israel, despite the quantities of paper work that I had, such as contracts, and concert programs. This is their protocol for security – and I would rather have that than the slipshod and indifferent security that I have encountered at several American airports, including having to ask for my shoes back at Logan airport late one night, post-911, because the “security” were too busy joking and flirting with each other to pay attention to procedure and to what was in their scanning machine.

  22. Jerry Enis says:

    I would imagine, per capita, Israeli’s purchase more classical culture than the vast majority of countries in the world — a fact of great pride. There is also great pride in the security forces. But, since this site is open to everyone, the informed as well as the uninformed, incidents are blown out of proportion. Dudamel did NOT say he wouldn’t return to Israel…just as the scores of people who have been annoyed or embarassed by security procedures carried out by agents who sometimes err in their use of common sense don’t say they’ll never fly again. Dudamel is too wonderful and talented to join the ranks of the pampered.

    • He is niether pampered or spoiled. He is just human, and he got abused because he is Venezuelan, and Latino (he may even be Jewish because he has a connection with Isreal) Historically, converted Jews of Spain fled tothe new world to avoid the Spanish Inquisition. How Ironic that Gustavo Dudamel faces a Jewish Inquisition albeit he did not get tortured, thank God he was not Palestinian, who have no rights.
      Isreal does not have too many friends in the world. Gustavo Dudamel was a friend of Israel. Not even President Chavez could tell Dudamel not to go to Isreal, and their are good reasons not to go, but Gustavo went, and the Israeli slapped him in the face. Was all that bullying all that necessary…..really.

  23. This was a well written and honest article. I hope that the Israeli government has the dignity to apologize to Maestro Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra for the unacceptable treatment of such an important person. Itzhak Pearlman went to Venezuela and was treated with the most respect. I wonder what Maestro Pearlman thinks of this incident..Maestros Pearlman and Dudamel are friends.

  24. The Israeli legal system is a complete mess of British law left over from the occupation, Ottoman law, religious law, and many ‘secret’ laws which are not published and can only be seen by credentialed persons going in person to view the documents. Their concept of human rights is obviously not what one would expect coming from a western country, but even so there are laws on the books in Israel which are regularly ignored by IDF and the ‘security’ agencies in Israel. Upon leaving (yes, the scrutiny is often worse when leaving) after my last concert there they decided to harass me upon seeing the “Handala” keychain I was given by a shopkeeper after speaking the few words of Arabic I know.

    Upon seeing it I heard them tell the girl to swipe my laptop again (the residue test) even though it had passed the first time, and did so obviously in a manner to obtain a ‘false positive’ result. They illegally confiscated my laptop whereupon I have no doubt they performed an illegal scan of the hard drive, installed tracking software, and so forth. This is standard procedure for them, and of course entirely illegal, even according to their own ridiculous ‘laws’. I protested as I am aware they need a warrant for such a search, but the response was ‘you either give us your laptop or you stay in Israel.’

    There are thousands of stories, many far worse, which you may easily find by doing a simple internet search. For example the Canadian girl of Palestinian background who came for a visit and was denied entry, and whose laptop was returned to her with 3 bullet holes in it because she had taken some pictures of graffiti.. Who knows what exactly happened to Dudamel, but all artists are better off avoiding work there. There are moral issues as well, unless you’re a fan of the ethnic cleansing and apartheid they have been carrying out…

  25. Mark Marcus says:

    There ought to be a commandment; Don’t embarrass your friends or they won’t be friends for long.

  26. Gustavo Artiles says:

    I believe that Dudamel is unquestionably a great musical value to humanity. So is maestro Abreu, the creator of El Sistema from which Gustavo emerged. However, international politics cannot be ignored. Both he and maestro Abreu do represent–whether they want to or not–a manifestly antisemitic foreign governmnet that has repeatedly insulted Israel and the Jewish race (Dudamel has conducted and recorded Mahler, not to mention Bernstein, so I doubt he shares any of Chavez’s bizarre antisemitic ideas. But if you are a superstar, as Dudamel deservedly is, you have no choice but one day to set your political and moral stand very clearly. Dudamel and Abreu have both accepted to be photographed themselves next to Chavez, whose regime´s human rights abuses have not been very well understood or seriously examined by the foreign presss. So this case may be unjust, but it is a patent knock-on effect of said international politics. These two great musicians should pay a little more attention to that ugly side of life and maybe read a good biography of Fürtwangler and Richard Strauss._Gustavo Artiles

    • Gustavo – comparing this to the situation this to the situations Furtwängler and Strauss found themselves in is, frankly, really quite silly. I doubt you have read “a good biography” of Furtwängler yourself since you don’t even know how to spell his name.

      As I said in my previous post, in this situation, there are no real good guys and bad guys and Dudamel working in Israel, even touring with the orchestra, despite the fact that he is a Venezuelan celebrity and the regimes do not like each other is a pretty strong and courageous statement. Do not forget that Israel currently is under much more attack for alleged human rights violations than Venezuela. In this climate, it is great to see there are people like Dudamel who act as cultural ambassadors between those two worlds.

      • Yes, Michael, I do know perfectly well how to spell Furtwängler, but if you are so knowledgeable you should also realise that when sending a quick message on email many people mistype words and that doesn´t make the current Venezuelan regime any better. That was the point, and international propaganda of Chavez as a “friend of the poor”, as I often hear from foreign friends, ignores the corrupt, oppresive situation in a country where they don´have to live. It is not, as you like to put it, that the regimes simply don´t like each other. One has to take a stand on that.

        • So you don’t think many of the people who have to live under the current Israeli regime would not characterize it as “oppressive”? Does that make Dudamel a bad guy for going there to work with the IPO? It seems to me that he already making a stand, sending a strong message, by doing so, in particularly as a prominent Venezuelan. The message I see here is that people and culture are more important than getting bogged down in endless political bickering and stand taking. The situation is a huge mess in both places, again, there are no simply good or bad guys on either side. So I think it is all the more important to have people like Dudamel who are above that. If he was just a regime poster boy, why would he be so visible in his work with and praise of the Israeli musicians? Why would he go on tour with them? To the US – another country which Chavez condemns.

          Or am I completely misunderstanding that and the world is a happy, harmonious, peaceful place – except for that Chavez guy who alone causes all the trouble?

  27. Mr. Dudamel is a poster boy utilized by the Venezuelan regime as a symbol, role which he eagerly embraces! He never misses an opportunity to conduct in official acts and always demonstrates his enthousiastic support and great affection for Mr. Chavez.

    Given the virulent antisemitic statements of the Venezuelan Government and it’s open support of Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas and everyenemy of Israel on earth, I wonder if Mr. Dudamel has ever distanced himself of such expressions! It is very convenient to sit in LA with the prominent status of Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and enjoy the best of both worlds.

    I wonder if the Jewish sponsors of the LA Phlharmonic ever asked Mr. Dudamel where does he stand on the current antisemitic and Israel bashing posture of Mr. Chavez regime…or is it that selling more tickets and subscriptions is more important. Likewise, I suspect the Israel Philharmonic must have paid a hefty paycheck for Mr. Dudamel services and charged the Israeli public accordingly. I guess Mr. Dudamel didn’t feel any need to draw that line with the Veneuelan regime and express some measure of support for israel or the Jewish people.

    Finally, it is a very easy copout to use the argument “i don’t mix culture with politics”. It is worthwhile to recall the number of artists who happily partnered with the Nazi regime during Second World War under the shield of Arts and Culure ie. also famed conductor Herbert von Karajan! Well, Culture is no excuse for willinglky espousing the wrong principles and pretend there should be no consequences.

    Did Mr. Dudamel wonder or even care why there is no Venezuelan Ebassy in Israel? Did he think that his standing by Mr. Chavez would go unnoticed in Israel? I deeply regret that it went unnoticed to the Israeli Philharmonic!

    I’d appreciate somebody mentionning any instance of Mr. Dudamel publicly distancing himself from those positions…

    • Here is s pretty strong pro-Israel statement from Mr Dudamel:

      Gustavo Dudamel and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra

      In the enormous mess that centuries of colonialism and decades of post-colonial imperialist intervention (sorry to sound so marxist!) have left in regions like the Near East and Central/South America, there are no simply good and simply bad guys.

      The message that Mr Dudamel is sending by continuing to work with the Israel Philharmonic, even going on international tours with them as he has in the past, is maybe not a “copout” but a strong message that people and culture should be more valuable than the endless, pointless geostrategic games played by governments here and there and from which very few beyond the big corporate interests these governments serve actually benefit.

      Seeing that he is such a very public figure in Venezuela but that he still makes such strong pro-Israel statements is actually quite courageous. The message that was sent back by this treatment of his by Israeli security forces seems to be that they aren’t interested in people reaching out across the abyss. They rather keep everything black and white so they can go on being the good guys and painting everyone else as bad guys.

    • Pedro Perez says:

      Moral of the story: Chavistas aren’t welcomed in Israel so they should stay away. Clearly individuals who fall into this category should have no interest in visiting israel specially after knowing they will receive disgusting treatment when entering and LEAVING the country.

  28. This is very sad. Dudamel is a terrific conductor. My colleague was given a terrible time at Ben Gurion because he had visited a Palestinian university with me, and we carried letters of authentication from a variety of national and international organisations. It has nothing to do with security but spite for having the temerity to visit the West Bank. Dudamel has the gall to be a citizen of Venezuela. It simply alienates israel and Israelis further when bridges could be made.

  29. Tremendously overrated ‘conductor’ and a totally illegal state….they are suited perfectly……….

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