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Just in: Piano recital ‘sabotaged’ by anti-Zionist mob in South Africa

Pianist Yossi Reshef was jostled by protestors on arrival last night for a recital at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. Members of the audience were kicked and pushed as they entered and a performance of Beethoven’s Tempest Sonata was disrupted with screams, shouts and vuvuzelas. Reshef, who is based in Berlin, is Israeli born.

yossi reshef


The university offered a qualified apology:

The University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, deeply regrets that a concert held on its campus last night was disrupted by some members of the University community and representatives of external organisations.


The diversity of people, programmes and ideas at Wits leads to the richness and robustness of the institution. This is indeed one of the greatest qualities of excellent higher education institutions, and one which Wits cherishes.

Prof. Loyiso Nongxa

Vice-Chancellor and Principal

Read a full account here.

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  1. Steve Wogaman says:

    Interesting word choice.

    Ambushed, disrupted, yes; but sabotaged? That implies a maliciously prepared breakdown of the performance. Give Mr. Reshef a little more credit.

  2. Graf Nugent says:

    For anti-Zionist, read…

  3. José Bergher says:

    I hope all concert artists refuse to perform at that place till full guarantees are provided against further sabotage by the crazy bastards.

    • I agree especially with a prat like that in charge of a University. I pity the poor students

  4. “The diversity of people, programmes and ideas…”

    How can such diversity be celebrated when a performing artist is interrupted? There are forums for the expression of political views and this recital was not it. I would feel the same way if the shoe were on the other foot.

  5. Abigail Clifford says:

    What will happen the next time the Israel Philharmonic play in the London? Maybe after last time they won’t come again.

    • [redacted] There have been no important visits by Israeli musicians sponsored by the state and the zionist cultural fund for years. Progressive jews who play with Palestinian musicians and do not support state aggression are allowed.
      Yossi showed complete disregard for the cultural boycott and deserved what he got in lots of the concerts he played. H enever distanced himself from the state at all so was lucky he played a few without disruption. Few musicians like him will travel again like that.

  6. Describing these people as “anti-zionist” is as ridiculous as the demonstration itself.

    The intellectual vacuum that occupies these people’s brains certainly casts doubt on the university’s claims of being an excellent higher education institution.

  7. Kevin Greenwood says:

    Diversity is the only word which comes to mind that has become its own antonym. To be diverse, especially in today’s world of academia is to think alike, or if conscience hits, a rarity, not to think at all. Stray not from the herd, college nor gaggle and be not different but stay diverse together.

  8. Timon Wapenaar says:

    “The Tempest” indeed!

  9. Kerry M. Berger says:

    Music transcends politics, and to use a venue like a concert recital to make a point about anti-Zionism is simply improper just because the musician is an Israeli Jew. This shows more extreme bias and prejudice of the protesters than it does to support any particular cause of peace in the Middle-East or justice for Palestinians. Frankly, I feel these demonstrators are reprehensible and if they are university students, they should be required to make a formal public apology or expulsion from university.

  10. neil van der linden says:

    I dont know that the pianist has to do with the Israeli regime, but South-Africa by itself has bitter memories from the time of the Apartheidsregime, when one of the few foreign nations to support Apartheid South-Africa was Israel; very much tainting the ideals and ideologies on which Israel itself claims it is based. That said, as far as I can see there is no direct connection between Yossi Reshef and the Israeli government in the past or in the present. The fact that he moved abroad on the contrary indicate that he is a staunch supporter of Israeli international politics, now or in the past. The fact that a university in South-Africa has invited Yossi Reshef rather may indicate, if anything, that he has been ‘cleared’.

    • Kerry M. Berger says:

      I think the term apartheid applied to Israel is totally inappropriate because it assumes that Palestinian-Israelis have no rights to vote or citizenship, which was the case of Blacks in South Africa. The fact is, while Palestinians are indeed second class citizens and subjected to segregation, they are not existing in a world like South Africa’s Apartheid. Instead of being a nasty biased troll, Neil Van Der Linden, which only detracts from the credibility of your comments and more like Neo-Nazi and Arab propaganda, why not be more accurate about the situation, and call the beastly behavior of the current Israeli Government what it actually is — “segregation” pure and simple. You’d also be demonstrating maturity and be less offensive if you took that tact. Deal with facts and not propaganda. There is enough of that going on without you adding to it in such an ignorant manner.

      • neil van der linden says:

        I was purely applying the term Apartheid to the nation where it was cruelly invented, South Africa. Furthermore I was only referring to the fact that, diabolically, Israel in those times was one of the few supporters of Israel. That is what I was saying. And again, I did not speak out about whether trying to block a concert by an Israeli-born pianist is the right way. I would not have joined this protest. However I hope that somebody also realises that by playing the antisemitism card anytime somebody protests something regarding Israel Israel inflates and abuses the struggle against antisemitism as a part of the struggle against any kind of racism.

        • Kerry M. Berger says:

          I wasn’t playing the “anti-semite” card as you would poorly attempt to accuse me of. You were the one who made the comment regarding apartheid from the start and you clearly were alluding to Israel and the fact the pianist is Israeli. Whether Israel supported the old South Africa is irrelevant today. The US supported it too as did many if not most European nations until it became politically incorrect to do so. Stop playing games on a subject you clearly do not possess any rational understanding of. Jews have also long supported African-Americans in the United States as we too have experienced slavery and repression for way too long. I’m not about to sit quietly while you spread your half-truths for whatever your agenda is Neil van der Linden. You Europeans still have not learned the lessons of WWII, as so many of the EU members continue to support Hamas and other terrorist organizations. The duplicity of that is well understood and it is reprehensible. The disruption of a concert in this manner is unacceptable behavior in a civil society.

      • Timon Wapenaar says:

        Sho! I’m glad that didn’t turn ugly and personal for no reason at all.

        What Neil has written is a matter of historical record. The rifle used to keep the boot on the black man’s neck was an exact copy of the Israeli Galil.

        Neil, we both know what’s going on here: some yahoos from the SRC and its continually mushrooming sister bodies decided they wanted to show they were manne and decided a performance by an Israeli pianist would provide them with the excuse to look cool in front of their supporters, as well as for their supporters to demonstrate sufficient zeal. It’s got sweet nothing to do with Israel or Palestine, and this poor pianist walked into the middle of it.

        • Fredrik Wessels says:

          Timon, you’ve made an unproven statement (“to show they were manne”) about what was nothing more than an international pianist making a recital interrupted by thugs. As a correction, the Galil and R4 were both copies of the M16. Even Hizbollah used M16s when it suited them, so stop making that spurious leap of logic about Israelis being responsible in part for apartheid. I remember Gavin Woods from Inkatha nearly being lynched at UCT in 1994. So much for ‘democracy’ at our educational institutions. It seems that thuggery rules the roost.

          • No, the Galil is not a copy of the M16, it is an entirely Israeli design. Google it if you don’t believe me. And yes, Israel did support apartheid, the R4 license being one visible sign, their sale of nuclear technology to SA being another, SA’s export of vast numbers of diamonds to Israel being yet another. With that, together with their current policies towards Palestinians (so reminiscent of apartheid), it’s no wonder some people don’t like them.

  11. says a lot about the intellectual level of this university………the title university doesn’t mean the same everywhere

    • So much has changed in South Africa over the years and undoubtedly, the standards of the University of the Witwatersrand which I used to attend have changed and are most probably unrecognisable nowadays. The entire sociological, philosophical and intellectual mores which used to be part of the University of the Witwatersrand are no longer in existence. South Africa is in turmoil as are it’s universities.

      I would not advise any musician to go and perform there.

      • neil van der linden says:

        Rosanne, not to be cheap, but your remark maybe ignorant. Yes, a lot in SA has changed. It has emerged from Apartheid. And yes in the past Israel was one of Apartheid-SA’s few allies. So apart from the fact that Israel nowadays rings a sourer tone than some would like to hear because of its current policies, Israel’s name in current SA also may have a rawer sound because of the tainted past. Which doesn’t mean that a pianist not particularly representing the state (and who does even live in Israel) should be received this way. But there is more to it than ‘lack of civilisation’ or ‘academic decline’. Maybe the state of Israel should listen better to the message that is under it, instead of always calling in the antisemitism topic. That is disgusting.

  12. There were idiots like this around when I was at university 45 years ago. This is nothing new. These people do not believe in the exchange of ideas and believe that only their own views should be expressed. They talk about ‘diversity’ but woe to anyone who deviates from their own set of so-called values.
    There is, however, also a far more dangerous breed – the band of PC activists who seek to ban any speaker who does not match up to their ideas of ‘diversity’. The problem is that these people are often influential.

  13. And if Yossi Reshef resided in Israel, neil, would that render the mob scene at the concert okay???

    These protestors are merely anti-semitic scum. Do they similarly disrupt and scuttle the activities of Arabs/Moslems who ancestors sold African blacks into slavery? These protestors are guided by their hero, Mandela, who is openly hostile to Israel, but seems not to mind or protest very much against the slaughter of blacks in Sudan, Nigeria, Rwanda, etc etc. Only the “poor” Palestinians are to be pitied because their “oppressors” are the hated Jews, not Arabs/Muslims.

    • ditto – you have directly confronted the sad reality.

    • neil van der linden says:

      He is not living in Israel, nor is he there to represent the Israeli state. And I wont go into the second half of your message. Apparently you were there and you know more than me, but then it is something that has not yet reached the news.
      But one thing: Mandela who has been for years in jail due to the horrendous but maybe indeed Western-civilised Apartheid regime that was friends with Israel, has every reason to bear a grudge to Israel yes. However when the Apartheidsregime finally left, Mandela was the one who put up the truth finding committees, which were a way of reconciliating with the past, and remarkably little revenge has taken place, even towards some of the worst accomplices of the Apartheidsregime. As far as I know Israel has never apologised for its support of the Apartheidsregime.
      Your statement is a horrible gotspe. How dare you?

      • neil van der linden says:

        And yes in his time when Mandela was in jail and the whole world protested Thatcher had the guts to call him a terrorist… Yes.

      • You won’t go into the second half of my statement, Neil, because it is perhaps “inconvenient” for you and also perhaps for Mandela. While the Palestinians are not fully integrated into Israeli society, they in no way whatsoever are treated the way in which SA treated its non-whites. The pro-Palestinians always apply a double standard when it comes to Israel and, extremely often, to Jews in general. Israel, which was shunned by virtually all of its neighbors and most of Europe during SA’s apartheid regime, chose to continue trading with SA. At the same time, as Mandela and Desmond Tutu know very well, the Jewish population of SA was one of the few groups which, mostly, did not support the apartheid regime.

        As long as it’s Jews being critiqued, bombed, or being thrown into ovens — or blacks or anyone else being killed by Arabs/Muslims —- there seems nothing for the protestors to object to. Let a Palestinian suffer a hangnail as a result of an Israeli, then let’s gin up the protests!

        As to Thatcher … was she Jewish??? How to this pertain to anything?

      • Graf Nugent says:

        Before we get snippy, let’s remember that news is not what happens, news is what certain people choose gets reported. Stuart’s got a point: only Israel gets attacked and woe betide them if anyone from there tries to defend him or herself.

    • Vuvuzela says:

      Your racism is showing. Strongly. Stop it. You’re sound as bad as the anti-Semites and anti-black racists. Nelson Mandela has nothing to do with this disruption, just as this pianist is not responsible for Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians or its avid support for the monstrous apartheid regime in South Africa, which thankful has been consigned to the dustheap of history. So please, just stop it.

  14. I attended the Reshef concert at Wits and can tell you that it was a depressing spectacle. Indeed, Wits is no more than a shadow of what it was even 20 years ago and it would appear that the campus has been over-run by these brainless militants who, in all probability don’t have the slightest clue about the issues they’re demonstrating against. What exacerbated matters was that Reshef’s tour coincided with the annual Israel Apartheid Week which has a presence on almost every campus in the country. When he arranged the tour he had no idea that Apartheid Week even existed and noone warned him. His appearance was like a red rag to a bull and I take my hat off to him for agreeing to go ahead with the concert in the face of the threats he received. Tomorrow he plays at Stellenbosch University where there is a similar threat of disruption – although the University authorities appear to be well geared up to counter it. Ironically, the very issue of Israel being a apartheid state is so inherently false that it further adds to the frustration. But to try’n explain this to these idiots is like talking to a wall. Afterall, we’re talking about the Jewish State …

  15. One agrees that music should transcend politics, and yet, maybe the two have always in some way been intertwined, as Mr. Lebrecht’s fine study and probing investigation of the history of the Vienna Philharmonic has shown- though the circumstances there were not of protest but complicity. And, was not Beethoven himself a revolutionary figure and whose music- at least some of it- inspired by a revolutionary impulse? (or, also, Delacroix, whose painting celebrating the French Revolution was recently defaced with magic marker) Except, I suppose, in each artist’s case the protest or revolutionary spirit was memorialized in the work itself, not the defacing of it.

    Apart from one’s approval or rejection of a specific political cause- and this particular one has inspired outrage, anger and passion on both sides- demonstrating outside the theater, and maybe quietly inside, might not have been impermissible given our Western norms of “free speech”, though breaking up the concert and roughing up the performer, with or without the level of violence described in the article, was very, very troubling, indeed.

    In this regard, I recall, as a student in the very early 1970’s, attending a Carnegie Hall recital of Leonid Kogan on one occasion, and on another, Oistrakh and Richter, and, at both, there were demonstrations that disrupted the concert. In Oistrakh’s case, I was in the upper balcony, several rows away from someone who let off a tear gas or stink bomb, one of several detonated in the hall. The concert stopped as some people filed out to get a whiff of fresher air. Oistrakh just stood quietly until the commotion subsided.

    A similar disruption occurred at the Kogan concert, and initially he seemed rattled, though in the second half, which consisted of short pieces, he had regained his bearings and was marvelous, and in subsequent concert at Lincoln Center, I can’t remember how much later, he was fully in control, and brilliant in his interpretation of Schubert and Schumann- an example of a truly subtle intellect probing and revealing the architecture and sensibility of those works- for a student it was a real clinic. So, in some way the music survived the politics.

    These and other demonstrations were inspired by a desire to protest the Soviet Government’s crackdown on its Jewish (and other) intellectuals, and to allow the emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union- and who among musicians, artists and intellectuals would have opposed that- but they were carried out by the JDL (Jewish Defense League), either collectively, or by its individual members, in messy and sometimes violent ways. And in the case of the Soviet artists, they were directed against musicians who were powerless to change the system and were not unsympathetic to their cause- Oistrakh, always with the memory of the Stalinist purges in mind, did try to help others sub rosa, and when he was forced to sign a letter against Rostropovich he did so with pain and guilt, which he later acknowledged to his friend- and Kogan though suspected of more complicity with the authorities, was said to have been harsh in his indictment of KGB General Serov (at least as quoted in the biography of the famous ballerina Plisetskaya, Rodion Schedrin’s wife). Nor could one forget that the protest was also contrary to the U.S. Government’s own policy at the time. Recall that Nixon was engaged in sensitive three-way negotiations with the Soviets on nuclear disarmament and with the Chinese on detente, and that, so as not to upset matters with the Soviet leaders, Kissinger had counseled a quiet approach re: the Soviet emigration policy, as opposed to an in-your-face demand that they comply with human rights, an approach that is still an ongoing subject of debate in our present day foreign policy and diplomacy.

    Furthermore, our political history, even of events that have occurred on the floor of Congress itself, is rife with stories of protest, disruption and even violence, with our politicians sometimes engaged in nasty, sometimes brutal physical fights (for example, the near fatal beating of the abolitionist Charles Sumner).

    So, while we castigate this particular demonstration in South Africa as it was carried out, if we view it through the prism of a larger history of protest, we are left with some fundamental questions- e.g., is every protest in a cultural forum wrong? if not, is every expression of civil disobedience in a cultural forum wrong (for example, should the people of Austria at the time of the Anchluss, including Cardinal Ratzinger, have disrupted a concert of the Vienna Philharmonic? or should the newly elected Pope Francis when he was a Cardinal in Buenos Aires, have disrupted a concert at the Theatre Colon to protest the Videla government and its policy of repression and “dirty wars” against its own population in the 1970’s and early 1980’s ?), and if there are circumstances that would justify civil disobedience, is there, nonetheless some level of physical disruption one should never exceed? And can the moral imperative of the substantive issues itself legitimize or delegitimize the disruption? This is not to pass judgment or take sides on the political issues (and I see a tragic analogue here between Maestro Reshef and Maestros Oistrakh, Richter and Kogan), but only to raise the questions, because these are the very ones we are now having to answer on the whole range of other issues we are facing, given the plethora of wars that have been devastating peoples and countries (and with more still on the horizon), and given the economic breakdowns that have been shredding the social fabric of one’s own society, and that of so many others. At least, it’s a thought one might ponder.

    For two interesting articles re: the incidents in the 1970’s, see the NY Times obituary of
    Richter at:
    and also a report of a State Department warning

  16. I wonder if this Mr. Nongxa would characterize, say, the murder of Steven Biko as “diversity of people, program, and ideas”? I shutter.

    • K. Honigman says:

      “Shudder”? Why blame this man for espousing ideas of diversity? He didn’t organize the protest, the hooligans did. Why blame him? Was Harvard University’s president Larry Summers to blame when students and faculty there ranted against Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians?

  17. Not that it should affect a concert of classical music, but Israel never advocated on behalf of SA’s apartheid regime’s racist policies. Given its circumstances, it was looking for allies wherever it could find them, and there were precious few to find. I’m not saying Israel should or should not have done business with South Africa, but that’s all it was doing with SA–business. Not an ideological partnership.

    As for the disruption, this is a problem of both the ideological Left and Right. Political zealots generally believe that only people who agree with them should have a right to speak. Even though supporting the right to speak of someone you disagree with is one of the essential principles of democracy.

    I’ve watched many Tours de France–the two week bicycle race held every summer there–and nearly every Tour has been disrupted at one point or another by people trying to make a political point that had nothing to do with the Tour. Especially offensive were Basque separatists waving their would-be national flag vigorously in the path of the oncoming riders, often forcing the riders to barrel along not being able to see what was going on farther down the road.

    So it’s not the arts that are under assault per se. It’s democratic civilization.

    Ironic that Lefties and Righties, who so heartily despise each other, are in perfect agreement on the idea that only one’s own opinions should get a public airing. And both are adroit at cooking up ridiculous and offensive justifications for their totalitarianism.

  18. I am disgusted to read of the behaviour of the people who disrupted this concert last night. I am equally disgusted at the very “partial” apology by the Vice Chancellor. Surely music should transcend diverse political views. To my mind, the people who behaved in such a manner towards a visiting pianist and to the audience who went to hear him play are nothing more than ill-mannered, intolerant rabble rousers.

    The University of the Witwatersrand was once a noble institution. Students and lecturers often held demonstrations to express their disgust at apartheid, but these demonstrations usually took the form of marches or standing outside the university holding placards.

  19. I agree with “supporting the right to speak of someone you disagree with is one of the essential principles of democracy”, assuming there is a dialogue. If one side is “speaking” music and the other side is spewing catcalls, screams and wreaking disruption, of course there is no common language. In a concert, people come to hear music and shouldn’t be subjected to saboteurs.

  20. Easy response. Pull the plug on an finances to wits. Even though an alumnus i will never support Wits again. The ethos wits once had is gone forever. To put it simply, no benefactors or alumni should support this hot bed of antisemitism.

  21. I have just visited South Africa – memories? corrupt government officials, Pistorius, people being dragged behind police vans (and dying), poverty, anger, fear, hatred, lack of employment and the means to improve ones lot (in all racial communities). What is so different to the Apartheid years I remember so well? Nothing has really changed. The shoe is just on the other foot. South Africa is eating its own entrails until it shudders and dies. This will take years – and I certainly won’t be around to see any true regeneration. Music rises above such a situatiuon (cf music in the concentration camps) but is at the mercy of its context. As a university student and lecturer in South Africa it was frowned on to have ‘eurocentric’ interests and only ‘made in South Africa’ was ever considered good enough but yet South Africa is desperate to be accepted by the world communities and considered a first world country. Well it must prove it and engage with the world. And this is not the way. Serious musicians will not go to South Africa. Why do something unpleasant and dangerous to one’s person? I have just seen a documentary on Rostropovitch. Here was an artist, a man of concience. a humanitarian. In South Africa the majority would say ‘Rostropovitch? Who?’

    • neil van der linden says:

      I am afraid that anywhere in the world including Europe except for Azarbaijan, where he was born, the majority op the population would say ‘Rostropovitch? Who?’. Not typical South-African.
      Yes I guess there is progress and there are backdraws in South-Africa. But at least it shook off Apartheid. To say that things now are not much better than under Apartheid sounds a bit eerie to me. Reminds me of Italians who would say that things were better under Musolini.
      Yes art can transcend politics, but doesn’t the phrase ‘Music rises above such a situatiuon’ remind us of what Mengelberg and Richard Strauss thought and said during and after WWII. This is not to say that anything else in this case is comparable to WWII.
      In the beginning of this debate I reminded about the fact that Israel had been an ally of Apartheid South-Africa and that this is despicable. This is not to say that I agree with disturbing a concert in South-Africa by an Israeli pianist if he is not representing the Israeli government. In fact the pianist even lives outside Israel.
      In the meanwhile Nelson Mandela here was accused of being driven by an antisemite agenda. As somebody mentioned, however there have been a lot of Jewish anti-Apartheid-activist risking their lives against the system, including some who closely worked with Mandela.
      To read that people think the university system in SA was much tidier about twenty years ago (the Apartheidregime ended in 1990) is a bit eerie.
      I dont know what those who disturbed the concert shouted or what else drove them, but neither do other readers. And so to classify the protest as outright antisemitism seems somewhat premature and if it had anything to do with Israel’s role towards SA in the past, I would not say it is necessarily uncivilised. And to disqualify the whole SA academic system based on one case of protest also seems to take many things a bit too far.

      • Hi Neil me again. To be honest a lot of what you say sounds eerie to my ears. I am not in this to argue my point. I rather feel deep concern about the situation. Arguing with many South Africans is like trying to get a point across to a fundamentalist. But, yes, you are entitled to your opinions and comparisons like any other. South Africa did shake off Apartheid and is to be commended for doing so. Sadly, and many people I spoke to feel this way, many of those people who sought to bring about change in their own small way feel disappointed by what has been put in its place politically. So, putting Apartheid aside and all the pats on the back – what has it got to say for itself now? In the Apartheid years the Universities were not a lot ‘tidier’ and had much to answer for. Until we all stop talking about race (which is obsessive in South Africa) there won’t be much progress. ‘Tolerance’ has become a mere platitude.

  22. Just a thought to add to the above. It is a nice irony that Beethoven’s ‘Tempest Sonata’ should be drowned out and destroyed by vuvuzelas. Makes my point, really.

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