Take Action: Ask soprano Celine Byrne not to sing for Apartheid Israel
Dear Friends, Irish soprano Celine Byrne is scheduled to perform as Donna Elvira in ‘Don Giovanni’ with the Israeli Opera from February 8th to 23rd 2018. Such a performance would be a breach of the Palestinian call for a cultural boycott of Israel which asks international artists to refrain from normalising Israel’s regime of settler colonialism, military occupation and vicious apartheid by refusing to perform there.
Since 2006 the Israeli government has been engaged in an aggressive public relations campaign known as ‘Brand Israel’ which, in the words of Nissim Ben-Shitrit, the former head of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, promotes “culture as a propaganda tool of the first rank” and “[does] not differentiate between propaganda and culture”. The purpose of this propaganda campaign is to promote an image of Israel as a cultured, liberal democracy, an image completely at odds with its violent and racist reality. This ‘culture washing’ whereby Israel uses culture and cultural workers to obscure its crimes against the Palestinian people is made possible through the cooperation of international artists.
There are a number of steps you can take to help convince Celine Byrne that she should not allow her art to be used to ‘culture wash’ Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people.
1) You can Like, Share and Comment on this Facebook page calling on Celine Byrne to respect the Palestinian boycott call and not to perform in apartheid Israel.
2) Leave respectful and persuasive comments on her social media asking her to cancel her performances in Israel. Please remember that the Palestinian BDS campaign is about appealing to morality and solidarity to persuade artists not to breach the boycott, it is not aggressive or punitive. Always be polite when addressing artists – let’s leave the aggressive behavior to the apologists for Israeli apartheid and occupation, thanks!
Celine Byrne’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/celinebyrnesoprano/
Celine Byrne’s Twitter: @CelineSoprano
Below you can view the letter we sent to Ms. Byrne in an effort to persuade her to cancel her appearances. You can use it as the basis for comments.
IPSC Letter to Celine Byrne – Please Don’t Sing for Israeli Apartheid
Dear Ms Byrne,
I am writing on behalf of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC), as cultural liaison. We note with concern that you are to perform the role of Donna Elvira in ‘Don Giovanni’ with the Israeli Opera on February 8th to 23rd 2018. You may not be aware that in 2005 over 200 Palestinian civil society organisations issued a call for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel, modelled on the call for the boycott of apartheid South Africa. In solidarity with this call and with the Palestinian people, in March this year the Musicians’ Union of Ireland (MUI) passed a motion in support of the cultural boycott of apartheid Israel. The motion reads as follows:
“The executive of the Musicians’ Union of Ireland urges its members, in view of the repeated and continued disregard by Israel of International Law and Humanitarian Law, to boycott all Cultural Activities funded by the Israeli state and not to accept engagements in Israel except where that event is in support of Equal Rights for Palestinians. We believe such an approach should continue until such time that Israel recognises Equal Rights for Palestinians and observes International Law.”
Further, since 2010, some 556 cultural workers in Ireland have signed the IPSC’s ‘Irish Artists’ Pledge to Boycott Israel’. Among the signatories are musicians, composers, dancers, film-makers, writers, painters, sculptors, and others, including many members of Aosdána.
The boycott call asks artists not to cross the Palestinian picket line by performing in Israel and not to collaborate with state-funded Israeli cultural institutions. By performing with the Israeli Opera, you would be doing both. The Israeli Opera is funded by the Council for Arts and Culture under the auspices of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports. Since 2006 the Israeli government has been engaged in an aggressive public relations campaign known as ‘Brand Israel’ which, in the words of Nissim Ben-Shitrit, the former head of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, promotes “culture as a propaganda tool of the first rank” and “[does] not differentiate between propaganda and culture”. The purpose of this propaganda campaign is to promote an image of Israel as a cultured, liberal democracy, an image completely at odds with its violent and racist reality. This ‘culture washing’ whereby Israel uses culture and cultural workers to obscure its crimes against the Palestinian people is made possible through the cooperation of international artists.
The Palestinian boycott call is necessary as Israel is in constant breach of multiple international laws, without facing sanction. 2018 will mark 70 years since the Nakba (catastrophe) of 1948 when over 750,000 Palestinians were ethnically cleansed from their land and homes by Israel. Millions now languish in refugee camps, denied their legally guaranteed right to return. This year also sees the 50th anniversary of Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. The Palestinian people are subjected to military occupation, siege and apartheid by Israel; indeed, there are over 65 racist laws discriminating against Palestinian second-class citizens of the Israeli state itself and of the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Furthermore, among its numerous crimes against humanity, Israel’s forces have killed more than 2,000 Palestinian children, wounded 13,000 and jailed 12,000 since 2000. In March this year a report published by the UN’s Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) concluded that “Israel has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole.”
Israel’s oppression of Palestinian cultural workers is constant and relentless. Palestinian artists are regularly imprisoned, often without charge, theatres and cinemas are closed, arts festivals attacked, artists refused permission to travel, and the people in besieged Gaza are denied musical instruments and art materials (to say nothing of life-saving medicines).
While on the surface it might seem that your performances with the Israeli Opera will be prestigious, the reality is that you will be crossing a picket line and performing to a segregated audience in today’s equivalent of Sun City in apartheid South Africa, an act both morally and reputationally damaging. In 2010 veteran anti-apartheid campaigner Archbishop Desmond Tutu called on the Cape Town Opera not to perform in Israel, stating that to do so would be “unconscionable” while Palestinians are denied their basic human rights.
Therefore, in accordance with the request of Palestinian civil society, we are asking you to withdraw from these performances with the Israeli Opera, not as an act of cultural censorship, but rather to avoid participation in an event both sponsored by and beneficial to the Israeli state until such a time as it ends its occupation of Palestinian lands, adheres to international law and ends its oppression of the Palestinian people.
We would also like to invite you to join many of your artistic colleagues by signing the ‘Irish Artists’ Pledge to Boycott Israel’ at www.ipsc.ie/pledge. Among those colleagues are esteemed composers Raymond Deane, Roger Doyle, Jane O’Leary, and Ian Wilson as well as singers Honor Heffernan and Conor Biggs. Internationally, violinist Nigel Kennedy, conductor Jonathan Ofir and soprano Emma Kirkby (who in 2000 announced she wouldn’t perform in Israel again “until the occupation ends”), among many others, endorse the BDS campaign.
Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions or concerns. Many thanks for taking the time to read this message.