Cape Town Opera apology to Tutu not enough
- It must witness the Occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people
The announcement that the Cape Town Opera would be performing “Porgy and Bess” in Tel Aviv and the call by Israeli activists calling for a boycott of Israel prompted us to meet with Michael Williams, the Director of Cape Town Opera.
We stated clearly that we opposed any official tour that legitimises the Occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people.
Having met with him, we were heartened by the prospect of hosting a meeting for the Opera leadership and human-rights activists on Palestine and Israel. The purpose of this meeting would have been the discussion of an educational component for the Opera tour in Israel and Occupied Palestine. Regrettably this opportunity was eclipsed once Cape Town Opera disrespectfully rebuffed the appeal of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and failed to distance themselves from the venomous attack on the Archbishop by the Israeli Ambassador and Ms. Rhoda Kadalie.
Rhoda Kadalie called the Archbishop a “bigot”. Labelling the Archbishop a “bigot” has brought the Opera Company, South Africa and the liberation struggle into disrepute. The Cape Town Opera has also become associated with the untruthful hate-speech of the Israeli Ambassador (“Furore over Tutu’s boycott Israel call” Cape Times, October 28th). The disgraceful rejection of Tutu’s plea and alignment with the Ambassador and Kadalie’s attack dampened the possibility for dialogue.
In subsequent correspondences, Michael Williams said: “I am happy to apologise to [Archbishop Emeritus] Tutu that due to my commitments to singers and people at IO [Israeli Opera] we are not able to cancel tour. I am happy to distance CTO from the statements made by Kadalie and others.” Williams also agreed to copy us on his apology to Archbishop Tutu and that stated he was “very willing to engage with Palestinian organisations.”
We call on Cape Town Opera’s patrons, board, management and staff to support this stand by Michael Williams. We look forward to the immediate publication of the apology and commitment to meetings with Palestinian and Israeli groups struggling for a just peace. While we commend Williams’ promise to engage with Palestinian-affiliated music and groups Cape Town Opera must witness the Occupation first hand by visiting occupied Al-Khalil/Hebron, Bi’lin, Silwan, Sheikh Jarrah and meet groups such as Anarchists Against the Wall, Breaking the Silence, ACRI and B’tselem.
We urge all artists in South Africa to boycott any future official tour of Israel.
Vivien Cohen and Zackie Achmat