Israeli Citizens Call: Cape Town Opera, Please do not Perform Porgy and Bess in Apartheid Israel!

“It behooves all South Africans, themselves erstwhile beneficiaries of generous international support, to stand up and be counted among those contributing actively to the cause of freedom and justice…we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians” (Nelson Mandela, Pretoria, 4th December, 1997)

Dear singers, musicians and other members of the Cape Town Opera,

As Israeli citizens who are active against our government`s apartheid policies, we find it distressing that the Cape Town Opera has agreed to perform at the Tel-Aviv Opera House starting 12/11/10. The Tel Aviv Opera House is state sponsored, and serves Israel’s “We are a Civilized Democracy” propaganda narrative. This institution is complicit in Israel`s policy of colonization and apartheid. Therefore, we are asking you to postpone your performances to a future time when Israel no longer practices these policies.

Every day, millions of Palestinians are denied the right to enjoy equal educational and cultural opportunities in Israel and in the occupied Palestinian territories. This right is being denied because of the Israeli checkpoints, the siege of Gaza and the apartheid-like discrimination faced by Palestinians within Israel. For example, a Palestinian opera fan living in the occupied West Bank village of Bil`in under military and violent Israeli control will not be allowed to go to Tel Aviv (30 minutes away) and come to your performance. All the while, his neighbors in the illegal settlement of Modi`in Eilit, built on his stolen property, will be able to travel freely to your performance as privileged members of your audience.

Your upcoming performances in Israel are all the more distressing because of your identity. Most of you have been victims of an apartheid regime in your homeland. We strongly believe that after reviewing the basic information about Israeli policies towards the Palestinian people, the similarity between the suffering and humiliation which you went through and what millions of Palestinians are going through will become evident to you.

In addition to our previous arguments, we feel that the nature of the work you are about to perform in Tel Aviv should be addressed as well. Porgy and Bess is a work of art that conveys a universal message against oppression and apartheid. To appear on stage with Gershwin`s humanistic and universal pearl of the arts in a state that is becoming more and more intolerant, expansionist and racist in its acts – that seems inconceivable to us!

Please note that Palestinians stood with South Africans during the struggle against South African apartheid. We ask you to join us in the Palestinian struggle (which we, as Israeli citizens, support) against Israeli apartheid. Almost all Palestinian artists and a small but significant number of Israeli peers understand why Israeli institutions must be boycotted in the face of an intransigent, racist and militarized Israeli regime. Throughout the world, many musicians, writers, academics, filmmakers and others, have already answered the Palestinian call for a cultural boycott of Israel (and just this week British director Mike Leigh has canceled a visit to Israel for exactly these reasons). It is unconscionable that the Cape Town Opera become complicit in Palestinian oppression.

Without a state, Palestinians increasingly rely on international law and solidarity for their very survival. Israel, with the fourth largest army in the world, has violated international law and numerous global conventions. In one of Israel’s latest acts of barbarity, it illegally used white phosphorus against civilians in the Gaza Strip, in a military campaign that killed 1,400 people including hundreds of children. International jurists, including South Africans such as John Dugard and Richard Goldstone, consider Israel to have committed war crimes. In a comprehensive and meticulous report, senior researchers from South Africa’s own Human Sciences Research Council consider Israel to be an apartheid state.

Please join the momentum around the world, particularly among artists and musicians, who are heeding the call of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. Please reconsider the decision to perform in Tel Aviv at this time. Don`t be on the wrong side of history. We, as Israeli peace activists, implore you to support our common struggle with Palestinians for peace and equality in our region. Please, join us, as many others have already done, and help us put an end to Israel`s apartheid policies.


Liad Kantorowicz
Haggai Matar
Dr. Anat Matar
Ofer Neiman
Itai Ryb
Tal Shapira

On behalf of
Boycott! supporting the Palestinian call for boycott divestment and sanctions (BDS) from within -