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A furious war of words has erupted between the Israel Wagner Society and Tel Aviv University after the latter cancelled a booking by the former following a wave of protests.
As previously reported on Classic FM, the Israel Wagner Society had hoped to break a seven-decade cultural boycott of Wagner’s work by performing the composer’s works for the first time on Israeli soil. However, the university claims to have been misled by the organisers.
Tel Aviv University explained its decision in a statement to the media saying: "We recently found out, to our astonishment, that the event is actually a concert during which the works of German composer Richard Wagner are to be performed.
"You deliberately concealed this important detail from us, as well as the topic of the event and the exact name of the organisation behind it."
The university added that public pressure had been a factor in cancelling the event: "We have received complaints and angry protests calling for the cancellation of this controversial event, which crosses a red line and would deeply offend the Israeli public in general, and Holocaust survivors in particular. As you know, this is a highly sensitive public issue, particularly in Israel, where there are so many Holocaust survivors."
Wagner remains a controversial figure in Israel. Though he died decades before the rise of the Nazis, he was Hitler’s favourite composer and a notorious anti-Semite.
Jonathan Livny, founder of the Israel Wagner Society hit back at the university: "The excuse that they didn't know is totally ludicrous and an outright lie.”
In a letter of protest to Tel Aviv University, Uri Chanoch of the Holocaust Survivor’s Centre wrote that playing the music that was regularly heard in Nazi concentration camps in the modern Jewish state was insulting.
He wrote: "This is emotional torture for Holocaust survivors and the wider public in the state of Israel. "Wagner provided inspiration for the Nazis, and there is a direct link between him and the Holocaust."
The Israel Wagner Society is now facing heavy financial losses and intends to sue the university.