Nov 11, 2010

#BDS: Why the Cape Opera is wrong to tour Israel

The reaction by Zionists to the appeal by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu for the Cape Town Opera to reconsider its proposed tour of Israel with Porgy and Bess echoes, unsurprisingly, what we used to hear from the apartheid regime when confronted with the cultural boycott of South Africa. His point is that it would be "unconscionable" for Cape Town Opera to perform in Israel while millions of people living there are denied access to culture and education.

Tutu said: "The Tel Aviv Opera House is state sponsored. By luring international artists to perform there, it advances Israel's fallacious claim to being a 'civilised democracy'. Yet, every day, millions of citizens are denied the right to educational and cultural opportunities in Israel and the Palestinian territories it occupies." He drew attention to the fact that people living in an occupied West Bank village 30 minutes from Tel Aviv cannot go there, while their Jewish neighbours from an illegal settlement on occupied Palestinian territory are free to do so.

Israel's reaction is the same angry defiance of world opinion which was shown by apartheid South Africa. Now it is Israel which depicts itself as the unfairly and malevolently-selected and misunderstood victim, with the added twist that the malevolence is said to be driven by anti-Semitism. Evidence of the unfairness, it is claimed, is the fact that there are other states - especially in the Middle East - with worse human rights records.

But what has Archbishop Tutu got wrong? For exclusively Jewish occupation of land, Israel has driven Palestinians from their ancestral homes. They cannot travel at will to the theatre where the Cape Town Opera plans to perform. As in the apartheid years in South Africa, they might as well live on another planet and not just down the road from the cultural life that others enjoy.

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