Dahlia Scheindlin, who writes for the progressive Israeli webzine +972, had a column the other day on the heckling of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in London last week by BDS activists and how this “spews hatred, not solutions.” She begins
For the record: I cannot stand the disruption of public speeches, forums, performances and events by hecklers. There’s something about the screaming face of the heckler, the flapping arms and confused camera angles trying to find the source, that I find repulsive. I hate watching the discomfort of the speaker, performer, or politician, I hate the audience’s non-comprehending wonder or its shame on behalf of the performers.
I don’t think I risk any street cred; my active opposition to Israeli policies are open and available for anyone to read. I often try to ground my arguments in sober analysis – sorry if it gets boring sometimes – so that rational people who don’t agree with me might consider listening.
And I feel that the hecklers undo all of our work.
Absolutely. I have a lifelong hatred of hecklers and a strong desire to punch the SOBs in the face whenever confronted with them. Hecklers are despicable, miserable lowlifes. Whenever I read about hecklers I think back to the 2005 referendum campaign in France over the European Constitutional Treaty, of a small rally I attended of the oui de gauche at the town hall in Sèvres, with Jack Lang and Daniel Cohn-Bendit the featured speakers. The audience was older and middle class. The event was disrupted throughout by two loutish, hard leftist hecklers opposed to the Treaty, particularly during Cohn-Bendit’s talk (French hard leftists have a visceral hatred of Cohn-Bendit, who is viewed as some kind of traitor to leftism; personally, I think he’s great). What was striking was that no one did anything for the longest time, until finally a male in authority escorted the hecklers to the door. I attended rallies of all four currents during the campaign: oui de gauche, non de gauche, oui de droite, non de droite, i.e. of supporters and opponents of the Treaty on both halves of the political spectrum. This was the only one that was disrupted.
The hecklers of course knew that all they risked was being led outside. Hecklers are cowards, choosing to disrupt only events attended by staid, politically mainstream, and/or mostly older audiences. E.g. the week after the oui de gauche event, I attended a rally of the non de gauche in Créteil—which has a more populaire demographic than upscale Sèvres—, with around two hundred in attendance. It was the petit peuple de gauche in all its splendor: working-class public employees, CGT and FO activists, Communist and Trotskyist militants, and other sundry hard leftists. It was a horror show, with each speaker seemingly trying to outdo the other in demagoguery and mendacity. If there were supporters of the Treaty in the audience, they knew well not to show it (and certainly not if they spoke with an English, German, Scandinavian, or eastern European accent, let alone an American; that would not have been a good idea). And if a supporter of the Treaty had started to heckle, I guarantee that rather than being escorted out of the hall he (or even she) would have been immediately set upon by members of the audience and subjected to bodily harm. Can one imagine what would happen if pro-Israel hecklers tried to disrupt a BDS rally? Hah!
In re to the above photo, it is of pro-Palestinian hecklers trying to shout down a speech by Israeli ambassador Michael Oren at UC-Irvine last year. The punks should have been expelled from the university illico (were they? I rather doubt it). The below photo is of members of the audience enraged by the hecklers. I would have been with them, you may be sure of that.
But lest one think I’m only into bashing pro-Palestinian hecklers, here’s one of Ligue de Défense Juive (French JDL) hooligans breaking up a pro-Palestine public meeting at the mairie of Paris’ 14th arrondissement this past May (and whose action was defended by this right-wing Zionist group). The title of the event: “Palestine: a popular non-violent resistance” (co-sponsored by the venerable Ligue des Droits de l’Homme, founded during the Dreyfus Affair). One of the speakers I know personally. If I’d been there I’d have been strongly tempted to go into action against the LDJ goons.