Jewish musician denounces ‘dreadful display of extreme intolerance’ by anti-Israel protesters

Videos from the scene showed audience members heckling the protesters before each of them were escorted out of the venue.

By Shiryn Ghermezian, The Algemeiner

Jewish Australian rock singer-songwriter Deborah Conway and her guitarist-husband Willy Zygier condemned the group of anti-Israel protesters who on Saturday night repeatedly disrupted their concert in Australia, during which an audience member broke a wine glass and threatened one of the demonstrators with its shattered stem.

“It was a dreadful display of extreme intolerance,” the musical duo said in part. “We were all confronted with a micro example of civilizational breakdown, but the forces for civil discourse triumphed in the end.”

The Tasmanian Palestine Advocacy Network (TPAN) organized an anti-Israel rally outside The Playhouse Theatre in the city of Hobart where Conway and Zygier were performing.

TPAN said after the rally that “an anonymous group of absolute legends” protested inside the venue, disrupting the concert a number of times.

One male protester held a Palestinian flag from the second floor of the auditorium and loudly called on the room and Conway to condemn what he described as Israel’s “murder,” “genocide”, and “war crimes” in the Gaza Strip, referring to the ongoing war targeting Hamas-led terrorists in Gaza who are responsible for the Oct. 7 massacre in southern Israel.

The protester was escorted out of the venue by security and the concert proceeded as planned.

A female protester then stood up by the stage and called out to Conway, criticizing her support for Israel and its “ethnic cleansing.”

The activist was then confronted by a female audience member who smashed a wine glass on the stage, held its glass stem towards the protester’s face, and yelled, “Get out! Get out!”

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The protester was escorted out by security shortly afterward and could be heard saying, “You’re fu—ing hurting me.”

Once again, the performance resumed until a third protester stood up and repeated, “Free, free Palestine” before being thrown out of the auditorium by security and theater staff.

Videos from the scene showed audience members heckling the protesters before each of them were escorted out of the venue.

Conway and Zygier said the pro-Palestinian activists should realize their actions will not help further their cause or bring an end to the ongoing war in the Middle East.

“Calling Deborah genocidal, responsible for deaths etc & other ridiculous lies does your cause no good,” the musicians wrote in a Facebook post.

“None of it is true but somehow your movement have convinced themselves, and others, that ruining our careers will ‘Free Palestine.’ It’s the stuff of crazed ideologues.”

“Going down the path of characterizing Israel as an illegitimate state is a recipe for endless war and a constant path of misery for Arab & Jew,” they added.

“It is a convoluted history with terrible mistakes on all sides but the demonization of people on either side will also bring misery to Australian shores. We understand people are inflamed and passionate and powerless but excoriating the other, bringing violence is counter productive. For f—k’s sake Hobart is as far from the Middle East as you can get.”

The husband and wife also said they sympathized with their audience on Saturday night because they “got a whole lot more in their evening’s entertainment than they bargained for (& paid for). So did we.”

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“We applaud their bravery for their attempts to protest the protesters. Except with the caveat that going down the path of violence is unhelpful to say the least,” the musicians concluded, referring to the incident with the broken wine glass.

“And we really hope that they have enough of a memory of the show itself that will outlast the ugliness that we all had to endure. That’s a frail hope but we cling to it.”

The anonymous group of anti-Israel activists from the concert said in a released statement on Monday that they were protesting “in solidarity with Palestine” and in protest of the theater’s decision to host a musician who “made hateful statements about Palestinians” in an interview last year.

They claimed Conway used “violently racist, dehumanizing language that normalizes genocide.”

They also said that the moment in which an audience member confronted one of the protesters with the stem of a broken wine glass “shows how normalized this rapid leap to violence is by supporters of the racist and colonial Zionist project.”

During the interview referenced by the group, which took place in December, Conway was asked about her thoughts on how Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are suffering during the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

The interviewer said “innocent people, lots of kids” are being negatively affected by the war.

“It depends what you call kids,” Conway responded. “You see 16-, 17-year-olds, young boys, toting rifles. Unfortunately Hamas recruits boys that are not men yet. There are a lot of young people dying but I believe the responsibility for that lies pretty squarely with Hamas who have embedded themselves in the civilian population, who have not allowed Gazans to move south when Israel asked them to — they actually murdered some people who tried to move.”

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During the same interview, Conway denounced antisemitism targeting the Jewish community in the aftermath of the Oct. 7 massacre. She also commented on Israel launching its military campaign in response to the Oct. 7 attacks, saying: “I don’t believe that Hamas can be allowed to continue to use Gaza as an operations base. War is awful and atrocious. People get killed, it’s horrible, and I think Hamas has embedded themselves in such a way to use Palestinians as a human shield for their operations.”

On May 19, Conway and Zygier performed at a pro-Israel rally in Melbourne organized by the Christian-led movement “Never Again Is Now” to show solidarity with the Jewish community facing hate and antisemitism.

Shortly after the Oct. 7 attacks, Conway performed on stage wearing colors of the Israeli flag. She later said she did so because “that was my way of saying, ‘I’m a Jew. I’m proud to be a Jew [and] I support the right of Israel to exist.’”