Category Archives: israel

Sound and fury at the Proms over “apartheid” remark

This article first appeared in the September 2013 issue of the BRICUP Newsletter, http://www.bricup.org.uk
Proms collaboration between Kennedy and the young musicians from Palestine Strings.  Credit: BBC/Chris Christodoulou

Proms collaboration between Kennedy and the young musicians from Palestine Strings.
Credit: BBC/Chris Christodoulou

Violinist Nigel Kennedy sent Israel’s apologists into a mighty spin during a Promenade concert in London on August 8 when he used the word “apartheid” to refer to the life circumstances of the young Palestinian musicians with whom he was sharing the stage.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” said Kennedy, addressing an overwhelmingly supportive audience for his innovative performance of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons at the Royal Albert Hall, “ it’s a bit facile to say it, but we all know from experiencing this night of music tonight, that given equality and getting rid of apartheid gives a beautiful chance for amazing things to happen.”
Kennedy, an enfant terrible of the classical music world , had not played at the Proms for years but took advantage of a radical mix of programmes this time to revisit the Four Seasons with a number of jazz musicians, his own largely Polish Orchestra of Life and 17 players from the Palestine Strings wearing trademark keffiyehs. Aged between 12 and 23, these protégées of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music demonstrated considerable artistry in one of the world’s greatest performance spaces. No wonder the Zionist reaction to their mentor’s solidarity comment was so swift and strong.
Within days the Jewish Chronicle announced with satisfaction  that the BBC intended deleting Kennedy’s remark from its edited TV broadcast of the concert. Baroness Ruth Deech, a prominent Zionist and former BBC governor, had pronounced his words “offensive and untrue” and unfit to be heard during a Prom concert. The BBC, saying they did not“fall within the editorial remit of the proms as a classical music festival,” duly obliged. The critically-acclaimed concert went out on BBC4 on August 23 without the offending comments.  
In the interim BRICUP chairman Jonathan Rosenhead had joined supporters of Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, among them actress Miriam Margolyes and writer/comedian Alexei Sayle, in signing a letter contesting the BBC censorship decision. It was published on August 22 in the Daily Telegraph (scroll down through the other letters to find it here) along with a fair-minded article by the paper’s Religious Affairs editor John Bingham.
The Jewish Chronicle named BRICUP and Rosenhead in its coverage.
The issue was taken up by wider activist circles with writers’ organisation PEN and Index on Censorship weighing in in Kennedy’s defence. Rock legend Roger Waters of Pink Floyd was moved to issue a long-awaited statement calling on fellow musicians to back the boycott.
petition calling on the BBC to revoke its censorship decision  quickly garnered more than 1,200 signatures.
Music commentator Norman Lebrecht, himself deeply pro-Israel, picked up the story, calling into question the provenance of a statement in which Kennedy described his comments as “purely descriptive and not political whatsoever” anddenounced the BBC’s “imperial lack of impartiality”. The flighty genius does not own a computer or use any new-fangled digital media so the statement was issued via a musician friend’s Facebook page. As a matter of interest, Lebrecht later posted YouTube footage of the concert, generating serious and largely favourable discussion on his blog.
Matters were complicated by Kennedy’s own manager Terri Robson – presumably with an eye to her charge’s potentially lucrative future bookings – publicly suggesting that the BBC was within its rights to censor him.
Thanks to links with pro-Palestinian classical musicians who are in contact with Kennedy – he does at least own a mobile phone – we were primed and ready when he once again re-iterated his pro-Palestinian stance in an open letter to the Palestine Strings.
He observed that his comment would surely not “have been censored if it had been referring to the benefits of the demise of the apartheid in South Africa when playing with an African ensemble”.
 
Kennedy’s letter suggested that the Palestine Strings had been detained for 12 hours on their return to Palestine. This turned out to be a misunderstanding. The players were not detained but Edward Said National Conservatory of Music’s Orchestras Manager, Tim Pottier, was held for 12 hours at the Allenby Bridge. An official at the conservatory explained in a private email, “Tim is now sadly used to long interrogations and waiting at the Bridge, although the return from the Prom established a record. The occupying authorities who control all entries to Palestine know him far too well and, I suspect, do not like what he does.”
This incident, naturally enough, was not deemed newsworthy by mainstream media. Indeed, although the Telegraph’s Bingham refers to “a bitter row over alleged censorship”, others showed zero interest in the BBC censorship story.
One late entry into the fray was pundit Dominic Lawson who chose to use his valedictory column in the Independent on September 2 to slag off Kennedy and Waters as part of a sinister army of antisemites holding Israel responsible for all the evils of the world.
His attack highlights the care supporters of BDS need to take in the terminology they use. Waters has defended himself expertly when challenged, but drawing attention to Baroness Deech’s Jewish-sounding maiden name (“nee Fraenkel”) rather than referencing her vociferous Zionism, and shooting down a pig-shaped zeppelin emblazoned with a Star of David (albeit alongside other symbols of oppression), has handed ammunition to the enemies of BDS. A call from a small group of German Jews to boycott a forthcoming concert by Waters has won mainstream coverage denied to the injustice done to Kennedy.
It remains to be seen, at the time of writing, if any further controversy will follow Kennedy’s planned appearance at the Last Night of the Proms on September 7.
As he himself noted when news of the BBC’s censorship plan became known:
“ . . . the BBC has created . . . a huge platform for the discussion of its own impartiality, its respect (or lack of it) for free speech and for the discussion of the miserable apartheid forced on the Palestinian people by the Israeli government supported by so many governments from the outside world.”

CALL FROM GAZA TO TOM JONES – SING FOR FREEDOM AND JUSTICE, NOT ISRAELI APARTHEID

Palestinian musicians from Gaza have issued an eloquent plea to Sir Tom Jones, who supported the South African anti-apartheid movement and recent anti-poverty initiatives, to cancel a planned performance in Tel Aviv in October.

“Sing for Freedom and Justice, Not Apartheid and Ethnic Cleansing”, the letter says. See full text below and here.

Let’s hope Sir Tom will join Afropop star Salif Keita in cancelling an Israel gig and violinist Nigel Kennedy in denouncing Israeli apartheid.

The campaign details can be found on this facebook page

 To Tom Jones from Gaza: Sing for Freedom and Justice, Not Apartheid and Ethnic Cleansing

 28/08/13

Besieged Gaza, Occupied Palestine

Dear Sir Tom

We are a group of Palestinian musicians, academics and students from the besieged Gaza Strip in Palestine. Despite Israel’s blockade of our land, air and sea borders we have continued to enjoy the soul, vibrancy and passion of your songs. Israel has deprived us of our homes, our olive groves, our families and communities, our freedom to travel and even our musical instruments. It is for this, from the crowded streets of Gaza’s refugee camps, we are calling on you to cancel your performance in Tel Aviv, the Sun City of the Middle East, this October. We ask you to honour the global call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against the Israeli apartheid regime, in the same way you and other famous, principled artists refused to entertain apartheid South Africa.

After the United Nations approved cultural boycott was imposed on apartheid-ruled South Africa in 1980, you pledged not to perform there again. It is to your credit that you were persuaded “without much difficulty not to go back to South Africa” by the Welsh anti-apartheid movement.[1] It is in this tradition of refusing to entertain apartheid and racist subjugation that we are asking you to heed the call to boycott Israel until they stop denying us Palestinians our most basic human rights.

 

What Israel is imposing on us has been described by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination as, “tantamount to Apartheid”.[2] Israel has violated more United Nations Resolutions than any other country, and a recent report from the UN Human Rights Council recommended sanctions until Israel adheres to international law.[3]

After visiting the West Bank, Archbishop Desmond Tutu stated that Palestinians are “being oppressed more than the apartheid ide­o­logues could ever dream about in South Africa.”[4] After their long experience in the fight against inequality and racism, is it not enough that Archbishop Tutu and other anti-apartheid heroes are calling for a boycott of the Israeli apartheid system?

If you perform in Israel, be aware that most of your audience will have served or are serving in the Israeli army. For those of us in Gaza, no matter who we are, we are denied the chance to see you perform by armed Israeli soldiers, Merkava Tanks, Drones, and F16s. We are punished because we belong to this land and hold its identity. Due to these restrictions the vast majority of us have never left the Gaza Strip. The area of Gaza is fifty times smaller than your homeland Wales. Yet our population is half the size, meaning that we are trapped in one of the most densely populated areas on earth.

In the horrific and destructive bombings over eight days last November, Israeli forces killed over 170 people (including 33 children) and injured over 1700.[5] Their crime? Being born Palestinian.

Can you accept 1.7 million of us in Gaza, over half of whom are children, are being collectively punished in what major Human Rights Organizations call, “the world’s largest open air prison?”. Can you accept that Palestinians make up the largest community of refugees in the world, ethnically cleansed from their land but denied the legal right to return home? Can you accept that Israeli policy included banning the entry of musical instruments, such that so many splendid voices of our young could never be heard by the outside world?

 

In June this year in the agit8 concert you joined the call to end poverty, singing “lord help the poor and needy” and “go help the motherless children.”[6] These are worthy aims, and we ask you to join our call to not entertain the country that systematically inflicts abject poverty on our people in Gaza and routinely makes orphans of our children. The 2005 call for the boycott, divestment and sanctions of Israel is endorsed by the overwhelming majority of Palestinian civil society organizations,[7] and has been heeded by a large number of artists and singers around the world such as Roger Waters, Annie Lennox, Elvis Costello, Stevie Wonder, Vanessa Paradis, The Pixies, Faithless and Carlos Santana.[8]

 

What we are asking for is based on international law, endless United Nations resolutions and an expectation to live with the same basic freedoms as anyone else in the world. We demand an end to Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian lands, the return of Palestinian refugees to their homes and full equality granted for Palestinian citizens living inside Israel. This is not utopia; it is a call for equality that has been denied to us since Israel was founded on the ruins of Palestinian refugees.

 

When asked, you drew a line on apartheid South Africa. We ask you now to maintain the pressure already set by an increasing number of musicians refusing to perform in Israel until Palestinians get the same human rights and dignity as anybody else would expect. From the Gaza Ghetto, we ask you to heed the calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions and to cancel your concert this October 26th in Tel Aviv, the Sun City of the Middle East.

 

Jafra of Gaza Band
Mohammed J Akkila (Singer)
Ismail Harazine (Flute Player)
Rami Abu Shabaan (Musician)
Ahmed Irshi (Singer)
Bashor Bseiso (Musician)
Iyad Abu Lilah (Drummer)
Mohammed Said el-Susi (Rapper)
Osama Said El Susi
Iyad Zumlut (Musician)
Haidar Eid

The Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel (PSCABI)
University Teachers’ Association in Palestine (UTAP)

One Democratic State Group

 

References

[1] http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/wales-role-ending-apartheid-recorded-4803372

[2] http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/5588/un-committee-2012-session-concludes-israeli-system

[3] http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/un-inquiry-calls-for-sanctions-against-israel-over-west-bank-settlements.premium-1.500565

[4] http://www.rabbisletter.org/endorsement-by-south-african-archbishop-demond-tutu/

[5] http://www.dci-palestine.org/documents/dci-concludes-investigations-%E2%80%93-children-make-approximately-23-percent-fatalities-gaza

[6] http://www.one.org/us/2013/06/14/jessie-j-tom-jones-and-baaba-maal-amplify-the-call-to-end-extreme-poverty-at-agit8-in-london/

[7] http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=869

[8] http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/roger-waters-calls-for-boycott-of-israel-20130320

 

NIGEL KENNEDY LOOKS FORWARD TO END OF “ZIONIST APARTHEID”

Violinist Nigel Kennedy, whose remark about the “apartheid” conditions faced by Palestinians was censored from a BBC Prom concert broadcast, has vigorously defended his comment, adding more fuel to the row about the BBC’s decision. See the Jewish Chronicle’s coverage here and here.

In an open letter to young  musicians of the Palestine Strings with whom he shared the stage to spectacular effect on August 8, Kennedy, who is billed to play at the Last Night of the Proms on September 7, wrote:

Your performance at the Royal Albert Hall was something to be proud of and demonstrated the benefits of people being treated equally as opposed to being decimated and robbed by an apartheid system.

As you have seen, there is huge support for stopping the abuse of your human rights. My short comment [about apartheid] was purely observational and humanist. It surely wouldn’t have been censored if it had been referring to the benefits of the demise of the apartheid in South Africa when playing with an African ensemble. Many thanks however to [everyone] for giving a world platform to the important discussion concerning Zionist apartheid.

I hope life is treating you ok. We all miss you over here. I’m sorry to hear that the “normal” treatment of Palestinian people by the Israeli authorities led to you being detained for twelve hours. I am looking forward to playing with you again soon and to the days when we can play on a level playing field in Palestine and throughout the world.

No further information is available at the time of writing about the detention of the young musicians Kennedy refers to.

The BBC has insisted that Kennedy’s “apartheid” remark was cut for purely editorial reasons. But an article in the Jewish Chronicle before the TV broadcast on August 23 referred approvingly to lobbying efforts by Zionists, among them Baroness Deech, a well-known pro-Israel advocate and former BBC governor.

The decision to censor has provoked serious online discussion in musical and activist circles, with writers’ organisation PEN and Index on Censorship weighing in in Kennedy’s defence. The Daily Telegraph published a letter signed by 32 Jews opposed to the BBC’s decision, among them actress Miriam Margolyes and writer/comedian Alexei Sayle.

An online petition – Don’t Censor the Palestine Prom – has gathered more than 1,100 signatures and remains open.

NIGEL KENNEDY CONDEMNS BBC’S “CENSORSHIP AND IMPERIAL LACK OF IMPARTIALITY”

The following statement has been issued on behalf of violin maestro Nigel Kennedy in response to the BBC’s decision to censor a remark he made  during a Prom concert with young Palestinian musicians on August 8 (see previous post for details).

Will the BBC now have the courage to restore Kennedy’s comment to its rightful place in the TV broadcast of the concert on August 23?  Will they continue with his scheduled appearance as one of the stars in the gala Last Night of the Proms on September 7?

As Kennedy says,  the BBC may have done us a favour by inadvertently generating “discussion of the miserable apartheid forced on the Palestinian people by the Israeli government supported by so many governments from the outside world.”

A spokesperson for Nigel Kennedy said:

“Nigel Kennedy finds it incredible and quite frightening that in the 21st century it is still such an insurmountable problem to call things the way they are. He thinks that once we can all face issues for what they really are we can finally have a chance of finding solutions to problems such as human rights, equal rights and even, perhaps, free speech. His first reaction to the BBC’s censorship & imperial lack of impartiality was to refuse to play for an employer who is influenced by such dubious outside forces.

Mr Kennedy has, however, reminded himself that his main purpose is to provide the audience with the best music he can deliver. To withdraw his services would be akin to a taxi driver refusing to drive their customer due to their political incorrectness. He, therefore, is not withdrawing his services that he owes to his audience, but is half expecting to be replaced by someone deemed more suitable than him due to their surplus of opportunism and career aspirations.

Mr Kennedy is glad, however, that by censoring him the BBC has created such a huge platform for the discussion of its own impartiality, its respect (or lack of it) for free speech and for the discussion of the miserable apartheid forced on the Palestinian people by the Israeli government supported by so many governments from the outside world.

Mr Kennedy believes his very small statement during his concert was purely descriptive and not political whatsoever.”

EURO 2013 IN ISRAEL DRAWS PALESTINIAN, ISRAELI AND OPERATIC PROTESTS

Israel’s shameful hosting of the UEFA under-21 men’s football finals, due to conclude when defending champions Spain face five-time champions Italy on Tuesday June 18, has elicited a range of creative protests from Israelis and Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and from operatic singers in the UK.

In the West Bank village of Nabih Saleh, regular protests against the course of Israel's Apartheid wall deployed the Red Card symbol. See a series of photos here.

In the West Bank village of Nabih Saleh, regular protests against the course of Israel’s Apartheid wall deployed the Red Card symbol. See a series of photos here.

Israeli activists staged a series of Red Card protests linking the UEFA tournament to 65 years of confiscation of Palestinian land.

Israeli activists staged a series of Red Card protests linking the UEFA tournament to 65 years of confiscation of Palestinian land.

In London, J-BIG soprano Deborah Fink and baritone Willem Meijs gave football's favourite operatic number a new twist.

In London, J-BIG soprano Deborah Fink and baritone Willem Meijs gave football’s favourite operatic number a new twist. See YouTube video of their performance.

HIGH PROFILE SUPPORT FOR UEFA CAMPAIGN FOLLOWS STRING OF BDS VICTORIES

Mahmoud Sarsak, Palestinian footballer and former detainee, currently in the UK as part of a European tour

Mahmoud Sarsak, Palestinian footballer and former detainee, currently in the UK as part of a European tour

The past couple of months have been a high-octane period for the BDS movement – more than this modest blog could keep up with!

Stephen Hawking raised the bar for scientists and others in the academic community when he declined an invitation to take part in Israel’s President’s Conference, while Zionists resorting to legal weapons had their fingers scorched when they took the UK’s Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) to a tribunal.
See reports on both from the British Committee for the Universities of  Palestine (BRICUP)
The campaign exposing toxic global security firm G4S for its many human rights transgressions in Palestine and elsewhere, hit the headlines with protests at its AGM in the City of London on Thursday June 6.
Currently J-BIG is proud to be playing a leading role in the Red Card Israeli Racism campaign which has highlighted the grotesque injustice of Israel being allowed to host a major football tournament this month while denying fundamental rights to Palestinians.
This campaign is receiving a huge boost thanks to the inspiring presence in the UK of Palestinian footballer Mahmoud Sarsak, former political prisoner and hunger striker.
Sarsak with poster of football hero Eric Cantona at the Manchester United ground

Sarsak with poster of football hero Eric Cantona at the Manchester United ground

Mahmoud’s career as a promising midfielder in the Palestinian national team was blighted by his arrest, interrogation, torture and three years’ detention without trial in various Israeli jails. After his eventual release less than a year ago, following a global campaign on his behalf, he has resolved to use sport as a medium to express his solidarity with all victims of oppression, focusing on political prisoners and especially those in Israel and Palestine.  He explains his evolution in an interview here.
After many weeks of tense anticipation as the Mahmoud Sarsak 2013 UK Tour support group worked with friends in Gaza to negotiate hurdles thrown up by visa applications, flight arrangements and sealed borders, Mahmoud arrived in London in time to lead protests at the Annual Congress in London on May 24 of European football’s governing body UEFA.
TV footage showed Mahmoud accompanied by Jewish comedian and author Alexei Sayle as he presented petitions calling on UEFA not to hold its under-21 finals in Israel this month.
On May 28th his message was underwritten by prominent individuals including veteran anti-apartheid campaigner Archbishop Desmond Tutu and top-ranking professional footballer Frederic Kanoute in a letter published in the Guardian newspaper.
They draw a contrast between UEFA’s resolve at its congress in London to punish racism in football and its “total insensitivity to the blatant and entrenched discrimination inflicted on Palestinian sportsmen and women by Israel.”
Sarsak’s UK tour has taken him so far to Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield,  Newcastle and Scotland.
Mahmoud in Sheffield with Football Unites, Racism Divides

Mahmoud in Sheffield with Football Unites, Racism Divides

The tour is supported by leading members of anti-racist football organisations Show Racism the Red Card, the FARE network, Football Beyond Borders and the Professional Footballers’ Association, plus Jews for Justice for Palestinians, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Friends of Al-Aqsa and J-BIG. 
On the eve of the final match in the European under-21 competition, at 6.30pm on Monday June 17 at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, Mahmoud will be part of  an expert panel exploring the impact of politics and racism in football and the role of sport as a means for Palestinians to resist discrimination.
The event will include a screening of a new short documentary  from Philosophy Football,  filmed days before the under-21 tournament kicked off in Israel on June 5.
As during the earlier leg of his European tour, which took him to France, Belgium, Norway, the Netherlands and Italy in March and April, Mahmoud and his message have attracted considerable media interest, especially from sports journalists.
Here are just a few examples:
Here is some of the coverage of the controversy Red Card has generated:

TOP FOOTBALLERS CHALLENGE UEFA TOURNAMENT IN ISRAEL

A statement signed by 52  European football players has dramatically raised the profile of the campaign challenging European football’s governing body UEFA for staging its 2013 under-21 finals in Israel.

KANOUTENews of the statement, published on Friday November 30 on the website of former Tottenham and Sevilla striker Frederic Kanoute (pictured above), was picked up by the Guardian online and then by many other media worldwide (see references below).

The group of UK premier league footballers and players in other major European leagues said that holding Euro 2013 in Israel was tantamount to rewarding it for the assault on Gaza which killed 170 Palestinians in November, including boys playing football. Israeli aerial attacks also destroyed the Palestinian Paralympic Committee offices, along with a stadium and sports complex where the Palestine team prepared for the 2012 Olympics.

The Guardian story explained:

The signatories, who include Eden Hazard of Chelsea, Abou Diaby of Arsenal and five Newcastle players – Papiss Cissé, Cheick Tioté, Sylvain Marveaux, Yohan Cabaye and Demba Ba – also criticised Israel’s continued detention without charge or trial of two Palestinian footballers.

 Several former Premier League players have also signed the letter, including Didier Drogba and Frédéric Kanouté, both of whom now play in China. Players with QPR, Stoke, Blackburn and Ipswich are among the signatories along with footballers in France, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Turkey.

The statement roundly condemns the Israeli assault on Gaza, describing it as “yet another stain on the world’s conscience” and expresses “solidarity with the people of Gaza who are living under siege and denied basic human dignity and freedom”.

It then focuses on the destruction of a football stadium which the Israeli military said had previously been used by Hamas as a rocket launching site but which at the time of the bombing was not.

The statement had originally been signed by 62 players. Ten, including Drogba, dropped out, possibly due to Zionist pressure.

The statement was welcomed by the Red Card Israeli Racism campaign which has been working with activists around Europe to challenge the staging of the U-21 finals in Israel since UEFA announced its decision in early 2011.

Last Tuesday, ahead of the draw for the competition in Tel Aviv, the campaign circulated the text of a statement from a group of public figures including filmmaker Ken Loach saying:  “it is inappropriate for European football’s governing body to be staging international competitions in a country responsible for systematic discrimination against Palestinians.”

Twenty-two British Members of Parliament  have signed a motion (EDM 640) in the House of Commons registering “with profound disapproval . . . that the FA is prepared to participate in the European Under-21 football tournament to be played in Israel in June 2013, even though Israel is geographically not in Europe and is a country which has policies of racial apartheid against Palestinians.”

ACTION:

Call on your MP to sign EDM 640

Sign the petition calling on UEFA to move the Euro 2013 final away from Israel

Links to some of the extensive media coverage:

http://www.agencemediapalestine.fr/blog/2012/12/01/bonne-couverture-mediatique-de-lappel-de-footballeurs-en-soutien-a-gaza/

http://www.tdg.ch/monde/afrique/Les-footballeurs-ne-veulent-pas-d-un-Euro-en-Israel/story/28143281?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

http://www.saphirnews.com/Kanoute-Drogba-Menez-Mandanda-Des-stars-du-football-soutiennent-la-Palestine_a15800.html

http://www.insideworldfootball.biz/worldfootball/asia/11647-gaza-conflict-damages-vital-sporting-infrastructure.

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/sport/football/article3616788.ece

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/news/9715577/Premier-League-players-call-on-Uefa-to-remove-Israel-as-European-U-21-hosts.html

http://www.france24.com/en/20121130-top-footballers-urge-rethink-israel-venue

http://soccernet.espn.go.com/news/story/_/id/1246310/didier-drogba-among-stars-declaring-support-for-palestine?cc=5739

http://itisallaboutfootball.tumblr.com/post/36899657123/european-football-players-declare-support-to-palestine

http://www.101greatgoals.com/blog/freddie-kanoute-is-joined-by-hazard-diaby-papiss-cisse-tiote-demba-ba-in-condemning-plans-to-hold-u21-euros-in-israel/

http://www.twtd.co.uk/ipswich-town-news/21988/ellington-amongst-players-in-israel-protest

http://www.todayszaman.com/news-299857-football-players-stand-in-solidarity-with-palestinians-amid-recent-israeli-aggression.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/01/sports/soccer/soccer-players-protest-european-under-21-championship-tournament-in-israel.html

http://www.foxnews.com/sports/2012/11/30/footballers-sign-statement-protesting-israel-hosting-euro-u21-tournament-after/

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/sport/football/israel-risky-hosts-for-under-21-euro-championships/story-e6frfg8x-1226527893532

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/nov/30/footballers-u21-european-championship-israel

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/footballers-protest-israel-hosting-uefa-euro-u21

http://www.timesofisrael.com/soccer-players-protest-israel-hosting-uefa-under-21-tournament/

HUMANISING THOSE ISRAEL SEEKS TO DEMONISE

Click the caption to read the names and ages of the victims of Israel’s current assault on Gaza.
The letter below has appeared in the Guardian newspaper, along with several others commenting on the attacks. Initiated by Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, it has been signed by the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network and more than 30 individuals including actress Miriam Margolyes, comedian, author and actor Alexei Sayle, writer/musician Leon Rosselson and author Mike Marqusee. (Not all the names appear in the Guardian).

Letter to the editor
As Jewish supporters of Palestinian rights, we have once again watched in horror as Israel escalates its lethal bombardment on the civilian population of Gaza.  Numerous people including children are being killed or wounded.  Israeli casualties came only after Israel, having started the slaughter by killing a 13-year-old boy in Gaza on November 8, shattered a truce by assassinating the Gazan military leader who had negotiated it. So who is the terrorist and who wants peace?

Israel’s political-military leaders cynically escalate the conflict, trying to justify their blockade on Gaza and acting tough in the run-up to government elections. Having turned Gaza into an open-air prison, they again punish the Palestinians for electing leaders who attempt to resist the illegal Occupation.

Too much of our media, the BBC in particular, collude with the official Israeli version: that the attacks are ‘targeted’ retaliation for rockets launched from Gaza. Despite hand-wringing by some Western governments, they encourage Israeli belligerence by labelling Hamas as a terrorist organisation, supporting the Gaza siege and denying Palestinian rights, both within and outside Israel. We support the peaceful campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) designed to help achieve those rights.

ISRAELI EMBASSY ORCHESTRATES TWITTER DEFENCE OF HABIMA

VIDEO MESSAGE FROM MIRIAM MARGOLYES

Israel’s pretence of keeping culture separate from politics has disintegrated in the days leading up the appearance of the flagship theatre company Habima at Shakespeare’s Globe in London on May

No doubt under extreme pressure from the Zionist lobby, the Globe  is imposing unprecedented security measures on audiences on Monday and Tuesday, in a misguided attempt to prevent protesters expressing their outrage at the presence of Habima, which entertains colonists illegally settled on Palestinian land.

Link to video here.

In moves that will make the theatre resemble an Israeli checkpoint, bags “and audience members” will be subjected to “extensive searches”; the audience will be required to check in an hour and a half before the start of the performance and no bags larger than a medium-sized purse will be allowed into the auditorium.

Now evidence has emerged that the Israeli Embassy is instructing Israel’s supporters in the UK on how to use Twitter in Habima’s defence.

In emails circulated to some sections of the Jewish community, the embassy is launching a Twitter campaign using “the hashtag #LoveCulture as it is short enough to fit on a substantial tweet and won’t be taken at first glance as a political statement” (our emphasis).

Suggested hasbara tweets from Tuesday morning onwards include:

Great to see @HabimaTheatre celebrating the Cultural Olympiad @the_globe…all the world’s a stage #LoveCulture

 Fantastic seeing the foremost Hebrew speaking theatre company perform the Merchant of Venice @the_globe #LoveCulture

and, with an ungrateful dig at Conservative MP Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, who has made a point of promising to attend the Israeli cultural ambassadors’ performance on Monday:

 Was great to hear @edvaizey enjoyed watching @HabimaTheatre…did he understand any of it though? #LoveCulture

Those interested in helping the Brand Israel Hasbara effort are invited to email the embassy at this address: pr-asst3@london.mfa.gov.il

For those who, on the other hand, respect the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions and recognise cultural boycott as a legitimate weapon in the non-violent struggle for freedom, justice and equality, we recommend joining a mass protest outside the Globe at 6pm on Monday May 28 and again on Tuesday 29th.

The protest is a joint effort by the full range of Palestinian solidarity organisations including Jews for Justice for Palestinians, J-BIG, the Boycott Israel Network, PSC and many more.

Film maker Ken Loach said in statement before the protests that Habima, in common with other Israeli cultural institutions travelling abroad, was part of Israel’s propaganda campaign.

“These performances attempt to normalize the unacceptable, the occupation of land that belongs to the Palestinians,” said Loach. “This complicity makes a mockery of Habima’s claim to freedom in its work.”

Despite appeals over recent months from Israeli campaigners and many respected UK theatre actors, directors and playwrights, the Globe has declined to respect the Palestinian boycott call aimed at institutions, like Habima, that use culture to legitimise the Israeli state’s infringements of human rights and breaches of international law.

See actors David Calder, Miriam Margolyes and John Davies explaining their support for the  cultural boycott of Israeli National Theatre, Habima.

Join the campaign facebook page.

TRIUMPHANT PALESTINIAN RICHARD II AT SHAKESPEARE’S GLOBE

“London loved the Palestinian Theatre’s performance of Richard II in Arabic at the Globe World Shakespeare Festival on4th May 2012 – a wonderful play beautifully performed.”

Sami Metwasi, Ashtar’s witty and tragic King Richard, addresses the post performance discussion audience.

So commented one audience member who joined a packed and lively post-performance discussion on Friday evening with more than a dozen members of the ASHTAR theatre company and British theatre professionals and enthusiasts.

Also on the panel were UK writer and broadcaster Bidisha and Sonja Linden, founder of iceandfire theatre . There is a full audio recording of the discussion here.  Ashtar’s Richard II is on film here.

Based in Ramallah in the Occupied West Bank, Ashtar was formed in 1991 by two prominent Palestinian actors and directors, Iman Aoun and Edward Muallem, both of whom were on stage in Richard II at the Globe on May 4 and 5.

Iman Aoun, artistic director of Ashtar

Their Gaza Monologues, created in 2010 and performed by more than 60 companies in 36 countries, was their artistic response to the Israeli assault on Gaza which killed almost 1,400 Palestinians in Dec/Jan 2008/09. It told the personal stories of a group of children from Gaza. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs tried to stop its performance in Norway.

Edward Muallem, co-founder of Ashtar, Northumberland in Richard II

At the beginning of Friday’s discussion, Aoun, Muallem and 11 other cast members introduced themselves, each drawing warm applause from the audience as they revealed the richness and complexity of their lives as Palestinian artists living and working all over Palestine and the diaspora.

Many are established figures in Palestinian society as directors, playwrights, film-makers, theatre group founders and artistic directors, and educators.

Amer Khalil, Bagot in Richard II, works in theatre with young people in Gaza and the West Bank.

Ashtar’s artistic director Aoun said that in interpreting a Shakespeare play outside their usual repertoire, they had to work hard to understand the setting for Richard II, to explore its meaning at the human level, and to consider what it meant to them.

“With help from our Irish director Connall Morrison we eventually made our starting point the end of the play, where Henry Bolingbroke (Henry IV of England) says he will go to Jerusalem to clean his hands of the blood he had shed – and to dirty our land!,” said Aoun.

“Britain occupied Ireland as it later occupied Palestine. But the play speaks far beyond our situation. Shakespeare talks about every tyrant, every power struggle in every place and time.”

At the Globe’s reception for Ashtar, after their second performance of Richard II on Saturday May 5, Globe artistic director Dominic Dromgoole hailed Ashtar’s interpretation of a play which the English habitually did not “get”.

“It took a Palestinian company to show us what it’s really about,” he said.

The discussion on Friday, held in a lecture theatre at the Globe but organised independently by Ashtar with help from London-based campaigners for Palestinian rights, repeatedly highlighted Ashtar’s role as artists performing universal work.

“When Palestinian artists perform, they are not only representing their lives under military occupation,” said Bidisha, noting that resistance may take political, diplomatic or cultural forms.

Writer and broadcaster Bidisha

She said the play’s bloody action gave us claustrophobic character studies reminiscent of a rich Saudi family scheming and fighting for wealth and power.

Linden, whose own work explores stories that are often passed over or ignored, said artists have a duty to engage and bear witness. She called theatre “a form of non-violent resistance.”

Playwright Sonja Linden

The audience  included a number of actors, directors and playwrights who had signed a letter calling on the Globe to rescind its invitation to the Israeli National Theatre, Habima, in the Shakespeare festival.

Actors Roger Lloyd-Pack (centre) and Kika Markham (right)

BDS campaigner Les Levidow asks Ashtar’s view of the boycott movement

The Habima issue was one of those raised in audience questions.

Aoun stated unequivocally that all the theatre companies represented by Ashtar’s members support the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS), and specifically cultural boycott.

“We cannot agree to any hostile presence on the West Bank, or engage with anyone complicit in it,” she said. “Remember we have to LIVE the Occupation. Even coming here, to perform  at the Globe, I was strip searched at Tel Aviv airport.”

Nicola Zreineh, Iman Aoun, George Ibrahim

Nicola Zreineh, who played Richard II’s deposer Bolingbroke in the play, said the boycott was not just about Habima.

“Any institution of the Israeli state should be cut off as long as justice is denied,” he said.

George Ibrahim, sharing the platform with Aoun and Zreineh, reminded the audience;  “We Palestinians are all besieged. Even in Jerusalem the cruel, ugly wall separates us.”

Another Ashtar member, Firas Farah, joked that checkpoints and closures made it easier to get from Jerusalem to London than to Ramallah.

Firas Farah, Aumerle in Richard II

“When Henry Bolingbroke says he is going to Jerusalem, I think – ‘How will he get a permit?’” said Farah.

In an interview with journalist Eleanor Kilroy before coming to London, Aoun addressed the idea that cultural boycott prevents communication between artists on different sides of a conflict. She agreed that art can build bridges and bring people together,  but she appealed for “a bit of sanity.”

“At night Israeli artists want to perform with us and in the morning they serve in the army. What is the use of going on producing art when deep down they know they are breaking basic human rights by supporting the occupation and its apartheid regime and settlements? Israelis need to work inside their own society; changes have to occur on the ground in Israel for there to be real justice.”

Other members of the Ashtar team were pictured at the discussion by Abbas from inminds.

Bayan Shbib, the Queen

Mohammad Eid, Ross

Ihab Zahdeh, Mowbray and two other parts

Iyad Hurani, Percy in Richard II

Hussein Nakhleh (standing), John of Gaunt

Raed Ayasa, plays Ross and a gardener

George Ibrahim, Duke of Gloucester & Duke of York

Nicola Zreineh, Henry Bolinbroke

See here for an excellent resume by Eleanor Kilroy of the arguments for Habima’s exclusion from the Globe’s festival.

Bidisha is launching her new book, Beyond the Wall: Writing a Path Through Palestine, on Wednesday May 16.

Some examples of media coverage for Ashtar:

http://www.theartsdesk.com/theatre/globe-globe-richard-ii-shakespeares-globe

http://arabshakespeare.blogspot.co.uk/

http://jn1.tv/video/culture/?media_id=22210

http://www.alalamiatv.com/news/?p=4850

http://danhutton.wordpress.com/tag/ashtar-theatre/