Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has asked the Cape Town Opera to cancel a planned trip to Israel, saying it would be inappropriate and unconscionable. Photo: AP

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has urged Cape Town Opera to postpone its trip to Israel to stage Porgy and Bess, in much the same way he had called on the international community to boycott apartheid South Africa.

 

In a letter to the group yesterday, Tutu said the trip to Israel would be wrong. During the struggle against apartheid it was inappropriate for international artists to perform in South Africa with its discriminatory laws and racial exclusivity. So, too, would it be wrong for Cape Town Opera to perform in Israel, said the Nobel Peace Prize winner.

“Cape Town Opera should postpone its proposed tour next month until both Israeli and Palestinian opera lovers of the region have equal opportunity and unfettered access to attend performances.

“Only the thickest-skinned South Africans would be comfortable performing before an audience that excluded residents living, for example, in an occupied West Bank village 30 minutes from Tel Aviv, who would not be allowed to travel to Tel Aviv, while including his Jewish neighbours from an illegal settlement on occupied Palestinian territory.

“The Tel Aviv Opera House is state sponsored. By luring international artists to perform there, it advances Israel’s fallacious claim to being a ‘civilised democracy’. Yet, every day, millions of citizens are denied the right to educational and cultural opportunities in Israel and the Palestinian territories it occupies.

“In South Africa, people opposed apartheid in many different ways. Those of us who believed in peaceful means of forcing change, received enormous assistance from our friends abroad in isolating the apartheid state: economically, politically, socially and culturally,” Tutu wrote.

He also appealed to Cape Town Opera’s singers to re-consider their participation

“Much as it offers you opportunities to travel abroad and show the world what we can do, listen to your conscience. God loves Jews and Muslims equally.

“To perform Porgy and Bess, with its universal message of non-discrimination, in the present state of Israel, is unconscionable,” Tutu wrote.

Contacted for comment, Cape Town Opera marketing manager Lesléy Liddle initially said the organisation’s director, Mike Williams, would respond when rehearsals finished last night. Later Liddle issued a short e-mail notice that said: “Kindly be advised that CTO will forward an official release with regards to the Archbishop Tutu’s media statement of CTO’s Israeli tour of Porgy & Bess at 11:00 tomorrow 27 October 2010.”

Attempts to contact her for an explanation proved fruitless as messages left on her cellphone went unanswered. The Israeli embassy in Pretoria was approached, but a man who answered the phone refused to comment and suggested that the ambassador be contacted today.

“If he has the information and if he wants to, he will give you the information you need,” he said.

Asked for the contact details of the ambassador and of the embassy’s public relations officer, the man refused: “This is not an emergency. Call tomorrow,” he said in response to the Israelis being afforded the opportunity to comment. - Cape Times