It is very pleasing to read in this Jerusalem Post article Boycotting the Boycotters that the Cape Town Opera Company is performing in Israel despite pressure from Archbishop Desmond Tutu and others.
According to the Jerusalem Post article, The managing director, Michael Williams stated
I’m against arts and academic boycotts.” “It did not help the artists fraternity in South Africa when the boycott took place. We became voiceless. It set us back 10 years. [The arts] is not the place to be boycotting. That is the place to be supporting, to be interacting, strongly. The place to express oneself.
I believe in doing something positive, in positive actions. Not coming is negative. Nothing would have come of not coming. Our being here will create all kinds of other reactions.”
The article conrtinued “In a statement to the press, Hana Munitz, director of the Israeli Opera, said that both the Israeli Opera and the Cape Town Opera are apolitical organizations. “The agenda is culture and art,” she said. “Both houses relate to culture as a bridge.”
During his time in Israel, Williams plans to make use of this “bridge” to reach out to opera lovers and musicians throughout the region. “I made commitments to pro Palestinian organizations in my country that we would be entering into dialogue. I have made contact with the Barenboim- Said Foundation (the organization responsible for the Musical Education in Palestine project). I have written letters to the Palestinian Circle School. We are bringing them in to see performances. We are trying to get people from Nazareth and Ramallah to come see the show. Hana Munitz has said that we would encourage dialogue and she is putting her money where her mouth is,” he explained.
While Williams received criticism from people like Tutu, he stated that “A lot of people thanked us for taking a principled stand on this issue.”
Further comment here.
As an aside, the origin of the word “boycott” is interesting – Captain Charles Boycott was subject to ostracism in Ireland in 1880. A few years on, some highlights of Geoffrey Boycott here and as Boycott said “To stay in you’ve got to not get out”
And from a visit by Nelson Mandela to Israel in 1999 – when he said “I cannot conceive of Israel withdrawing if Arab states do not recognize Israel within secure borders,” after meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy.