A group of human rights campaigners have protested outside the Tel Aviv Opera House, denouncing the Cape Town Opera for what they say is its support of Israeli oppression of Palestinians, SA Artists Against Apartheid said. Photo: Brenton Geach, Cape Times

A group of human rights campaigners have protested outside the Tel Aviv Opera House, denouncing the Cape Town Opera for what they say is its support of Israeli oppression of Palestinians, SA Artists Against Apartheid said on Tuesday.

The CTO was in Israel for its premiere of the opera “Porgy and Bess” on Monday night.

Protesters parodied the songs featured in the opera to challenge theatregoers, spokeswoman Dasantha Pillay said in a statement.

They sang: “Summertime Palestine, and the living ain’t easy. Apartheid, and the wall is so high, oh the world stands by and the US is funding, it’s time for us people to shout out and cry.

“Cape Town Opera say no, it ain’t necessarily so. Apartheid could end If you comprehend. And not just go on with your show. Boycott apartheid, Boycott apartheid. It's time to tell Israel, no.

“Palestine, life there is not easy. Fascism is at the door.”

Last month Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu asked the CTO to cancel its planned trip to Israel, saying it would be inappropriate and unconscionable. The opera rejected his call.

“Just as we said during apartheid that it was inappropriate for international artists to perform in a society founded on discriminatory laws and racial exclusivity, so it would be wrong for Cape Town Opera to perform in Israel,” he said.

The opera's managing director Michael Williams recently said while it respected Tutu's views, it was “first and foremost an arts company that believes in promoting universally held human values through the medium of opera”.

As such the opera was “reluctant to adopt the essentially political position of disengagement from cultural ties with Israel or with Palestine,” Williams said.

Pillay said the performance of “Porgy and Bess” in Israel, by singers from the CTO, drew harsh condemnation from human rights groups in Palestine, Israel and South Africa.

They had called on the CTO not to travel to Israel because of Israel's “discriminatory laws, war crimes and because Palestinians living there would be barred from attending the opera”, she said. -

Sapa