My crowded diary saved me from an awkward decision this week. I received an email asking if I was free to play in a concert in a couple of weeks time, which I wasn’t – apologetic reply and all that. In different circumstances, assuming I had been available, and given that the programme included the 10th Symphony of Dmitri Shostakovich , I’d normally have agreed like a shot. But there was an added element in the invitation that gave me pause for thought – it said that as the raison d’etre of the performance was to raise money for ‘Palestine’ (my quotes, see below), they hoped we understood that there were no fees or expenses payable.
Now I am always happy to take on a certain number of ‘pro bono’ engagements, so the lack of remuneration was not an issue. However, I was troubled about the vague nature of the beneficiaries here. I have great sympathy for the plight of the Palestinian people, but I do not have great sympathy for their cause – at least, the publically stated cause of their political leaders. If raising money for ‘Palestine’ is purely to send medical and other humanitarian supplies to people in need, I have no quibble, but if it is simply to send the money to organisations whose intentions are unclear, or whose structures obfuscate the ultimate destination of the funds, I object.
Whilst recognising that hardship on one side of the conflict cannot be cancelled out by hardship on the other side, one should remember that people are suffering in Israel as well as in Palestine. It saddens me that efforts to raise funds for those in need always seem to be aimed at one side only: hence, if asked to play in a similar event in the future, and given that I am reassured about the destination of the money raised, I will accept, on the basis that I make a donation of my own to Beit Halochem, a charity my family has supported for many years. It’s not much, but it calms my moral nerves.