RIZWANA SHEIK UMAR

The three plays – The Time keepers, Volunteer Man and My First Sony – have all been previously presented at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown.

Chairman of the network, Iqbal Jassat, said: “We are dismayed too that despite calls by South African civil society on the organisers and sponsors of the event to heed the plea for a cultural boycott of Israel, they have opted to dismiss these.

“We wish to remind Iain McMillan, chairman of the Hilton Arts Festival, that by staging plays by Israel, they would be seen to be endorsing the right-wing regime and its policies of occupation, colonialism and apartheid.”

Jassat said the boycott, supported by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, was launched against Israeli academic and cultural institutions to pressure the country into withdrawing from lands occupied in 1967; removing all its colonies in those lands; agreeing to United Nations resolutions about the restitution of Palestinian refugees’ rights and dismantling its system of apartheid.

McMillan said he did not anticipate the sentiments generated by the scheduling of the plays: “The plays were chosen by our artistic director who thought they would be of good value and artistic merit. While we have considerable respect for the boycott campaign, there is nothing sinister about these acts.”

McMillan said the inclusion of these works in no way reflected the festival’s endorsement, or otherwise, of the state of Israel or its policies.

“The plays from Israel were selected in good faith in order to enrich the festival programme. Furthermore, the company was being paid to perform by the festival organisers on the same basis as any other participants, said McMillan.

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