THE music played on in Grahamstown on Monday night when a world-renowned Israeli pianist took to the stage despite opposition from free-Palestine activists.
Classical-lovers keen to watch Dr Yossi Reshef tickling the ivories were forced to walk through a tunnel of peace activists handing out pamphlets for a nearby Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) exhibition.
Watched by Rhodes University campus security and police, concert opponents and supporters debated the timing of the South African tour and claimed it was sponsored by the Israeli government. Music students denied a government link.
The concert divided the university when 45 academics came out in support of a Rhodes University Palestinian Solidarity Forum (RUPSF) open letter to head of music Dr Jeff Brukman calling on him to pull the plug on the event. Attempts by one academic to get concert opponents to vocally express their dissatisfaction fell on deaf ears when the protesters agreed to stick to a pre-arranged agreement not to harass patrons.
The Beethoven Room venue – which seats about 100 people – appeared half-full as a nervous-looking Reshef took to the stage to enthusiastic applause.
The timing of Reshef's tour could not have been worse as Rhodes students and academics joined 13 other South African universities in a seven-day international campaign to heighten awareness about conditions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Rhodes media liaison officer Zamuxolo Matiwana said the Israeli Embassy and state organs played no direct part in any of the tour arrangements.
Reshef said yesterday he was a professional musician and was not "embroiled in politics". He said the tour was a private initiative between himself and the various venues at which he performed.