Film directors Mike Leigh and Ken Loach, theatre director Michael Attenborough and actress Dame Harriet Walter are among the 117 signatories to a letter of protest over the “harsh” punishment. They claim that artists should be allowed to express themselves freely “without fear of financial or professional retribution”.
The four musicians – Tom Eisner, Nancy Elan and Sarah Streatfeild, all violinists, and Sue Sutherley, a cellist – had called for the cancellation of a September 1 Proms concert by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.
They added their names and LPO [London… Philharmonic Orchestra] affiliation to a letter published on August 30 which stated that “Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians fits the UN definition of apartheid”.
The four were handed a suspension of up to nine months by the LPO, which declared that “the orchestra would never restrict the right of its players to express themselves freely [but] such expression has to be independent of the LPO itself”.
In a letter to The Daily Telegraph, Leigh and his fellow signatories said they were “shocked” and “dismayed” by the suspension.
“One does not have to share the musicians’ support for the campaign for boycotting Israeli institutions to feel a grave concern about the bigger issue at stake for artist and others,” it reads.
“There is a clear link being forcibly created here between personal conscience and employment, which we must all resist.
“A healthy civil society is founded on the ability of all to express non-violent and non-prejudiced opinions, freely and openly, without fear of financial or professional retribution.