An Israel Boycott Is A Celebration Of Misanthropy, Ignorance And Haemorrhoids
IS the aim to ban Jews from the UK. George Galloway wants an Isreal-free Bradford. Sainsbury’s removed Jewish food from its shelves lest it offend anti-Israel protestors and, presumably, anti-Semites. Also in London, the Tricycle cinema would only allow Israeli Film Festival to go ahead if the organisors denounced Israel and refused to accept money from the Israeli embassy.
The Tricycle’s sister theatre accepts £720,000 from the UK Arts Council, operated by the British Government, which has launched wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
And at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the Jerusalem-based Incubator Theatre is seeking a new venue for its work, The City, because pro-Palestine and anti-Israel activists wanted it banned.
The Underbelly venue cancelled performances of Incubator Theatre’s production The City – a hip hop crime fable – on Wednesday after a demonstration of around 100 outside. There had also been a letter signed by Scottish artists and writers, including the playwright David Greig and Scotland’s national poet Liz Lockhead, calling for Incubator not to be allowed to perform given what is happening in Gaza: Incubator receives funding from the Israeli government.
But the company’s artistic director, Arik Eshet, said that his government was not funding art for political reasons. “They fund art for art,” he said. “It can be against the government, we are not censored. Every group that comes to the Fringe from other countries is unable to come without government help.”
Eshet said they were not political people, that they came to the Fringe as artists. “The last few days have been depressing,” he told the Guardian. “But we are trying to be in a good mood, we are trying to find a new venue and in the mean time we’ll sing in the streets … sing for peace.”
So much for free speech and art. This is what the undersigned want banned:
During the past nine years, the Theater has put on more than 1,500 shows from 30 original productions and plays, including a television series on Channel 10. It has also gained the recognition of public bodies such as the Jerusalem municipality and the Ministry of Culture. The Incubator Theater is based in Beit Maziya, a theater complex located in the center of Jerusalem.
“The Theater aims to be a significant agent of cultural change in Jerusalem and an active force in developing an urban climate of pluralism and openness that accommodates a wide spectrum of opinions and world views.”
Just as in Bradford, where the ban showed only that many locals are not bigots, the righteous who want Israelis to agree with them or be censored are not the only voices.
Douglas Wilson writes:
This is a well intentioned, misguided piece of intellectual band-wagonism which I fundamentally disagree with.
Would the signatories of this letter have been in agreement with other international festivals boycotting Scottish theatre companies which had received support from Creative Scotland or other state subsidies during the illegal war in Iraq, in which the UK took an active part, and has led to the death of hundreds and thousands of innocent Iraqis?
Why then should this theatre company be held accountable for the actions of the Israeli government when numerous Scottish or Scottish based artists have toured the world during Blair’s war in Iraq?
Roy Beers adds:
Could we maybe run a check on companies likely to appear in the near future to make sure we get similar headlines for other offenders – so Russia is out, certainly; most or all Middle Eastern countries, China (for about a dozen reasons), the USA (illegal war), Sri Lanka (genocide) many African countries (human rights, genocide, war, corruption … etc).
As with the Tricycle’s double-standards, many events at the Fringe are backed by the English or Scottish Arts Council.
Arik Eshet, artistic director of the Incubator Theatre, notes:
“Those British people or Scottish people are not seen as representatives of their government. And, as with us, they are probably not funded because of their political views, so how can you cancel them or blame them for anything? This is discrimination in the way they’re thinking…. if boycotts are going on, that means their side is heard [but] the other side is not.”
Cultural bans are hideous. What sane person agrees that disagreements should be waged over a theatre performance, a jar of pickles or a film? Culture should be enjoyed and experienced in all forms. It helps humanity understand one another. Banning it is ugly and stupid.
So. Is it about culture? Or is it about making Israel the pariah? Is it about the end of the Jewish state?
In 2013, the The American Studies Association voted to endorse an academic boycott of Israel:
The resolution approved by a plurality of ASA members cites as a rationale the lack of “effective or substantive academic freedom for Palestinian students and scholars under conditions of Israeli occupation” and calls for the association to boycott Israeli higher education institutions, which are described as being “a party to Israeli state policies that violate human rights and negatively impact the working conditions of Palestinian scholars and students.”
Goldblog saw double-standards:
Another approach of the American Studies Association would be to study the reporting of such organizations as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, as well as make lists of the countries that violate human rights on a regular basis (100 or so come to mind with minimum effort) and boycott them. Still another direction would be to boycott institutions in the U.S., which is occupying Afghanistan and conducting assassination campaigns in five or six countries around the world. Many members of the American Studies Association teach at institutions that receive research funding from the Pentagon. The most appropriate response by these academics might be to ban themselves from the conferences they organize and cease to read their own papers.
Scott McConnell had an answer:
A corollary to this point is that America, because of its “special relationship” with Israel, has a particular obligation to stand up against the injustices Israel is responsible for.
This is the fundamental problem:
Not that the ASA is practicing double standards and not even that it’s boycotting academics, but that it’s denying the legitimacy of a democratic Jewish state, even alongside a Palestinian one. I don’t think that position is inherently anti-Semitic, but I do think it’s profoundly misguided. Britain is not illegitimate because it has a cross on its flag and an Anglican head of a state. Germany is not illegitimate because its immigration policy favors members of a dominant ethnic group. Jews deserve a state that takes a special interest in their self-protection, just like Palestinians do. And disregarding both peoples’ deep desire for such a state is not a recipe for harmonious bi-nationalism (if such a thing even exists); it’s a recipe for civil war.
Matthew Kalman hears another side:
“No, we do not support the boycott of Israel,” [Palestinian President Mahmoud] Abbas told reporters [at Mandela's memorial last week]. “But we ask everyone to boycott the products of the settlements. Because the settlements are in our territories. It is illegal…But we don’t ask anyone to boycott Israel itself. We have relations with Israel. We have mutual recognition of Israel.”
But what of the banners?
Tablet Mag reports:
In a sign that the organization is feeling the heat from outside opprobrium, the ASA’s Caucus on Academic and Community Activism has posted a defense of its Israel boycott. The statement offers tacit acknowledgment of the fact that over 40 universities–including almost the entire Ivy League–have condemned the ASA’s action. In response, the ASA Caucus lists other academics who have endorsed the boycott and calls for supporters to renew their membership or join the ASA. Unfortunately for those attempting to exonerate the ASA from charges of prejudicial treatment of the Jewish state, one of the six scholars the ASA Caucus cites is Richard Falk, a known 9/11 truther and promoter of anti-Semitism.
Cultural boycotts are not about fostering debate and fomenting a better way for all. They are about isolation and killing off the enemy.
PS: If you want to boycott Israel, then you can. Free speech. Free choice. I’d prefer to take any high and low culture where I can get it. And if I ever need my insides investigated for cancer, hemorrhoids or excessive bile, I’d opt for the Pillcam, made in Israel and safer than endoscopies.