Music and dancing are meant to be beautiful expressions of human nature. They are expressions of joy, sorrow, excitement or sadness that whatever part of the world you come from, whatever language you speak or whether you are religious or not brings some of the strongest feelings to the fore. They can therefore be great unifiers, bringing people together regardless of nationality, race, religion and creed.
Sadly for those at the heart of the movement seeking to boycott Israel, Israeli culture whether it’s beyond the pale, simply because it’s Israeli. This is discrimination based on hatred. Those leading the boycott movement against Israel ignore that Israel is a liberal democracy, surrounded by countries like Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iran who are places with little democracy to speak of and where terrorism flourishes.
One of those who has been a vocal supporter of boycotts of Israel over many years has been the well-known musician, composer and artist Brian Eno. Eno recently found out no doubt to his horror that the Israeli Dance Company Batsheva were looking to use his composition in their piece Humus. Sadly, rather than being proud his work was going to reach out to more people, he made it clear that he would not allow Batsheva to use his composition. This is because some of the money that made it possible for people across Italy to see Batsheva came from the Israeli Government.
At this stage it needs to be remembered that Batsheva’s Director, Ohed Naharin has been an outspoken critic of Benjamin Netanyahu and as you can see from the video I link to below is prepared to make significant sacrifices for peace.
To paint him as some sort of spokesperson for the Israeli Government, would be the equivalent of saying Eno is a mouthpiece for the UK Government. What the attempted boycott of Batsheva, suggests is that those involved in the boycotting of Israeli culture are not merely targeting the Israeli Government, but targeting anything Israeli. In other words it’s a hatred of Israel and Israelis for merely existing. They seek to prevent people experiencing Israel’s diverse culture.
What Eno’s actions represent are also an insult to artistic freedom of expression. One of the key things artists the world over are rightly proud of is artistic freedom of expression. One of the ways the Soviet Union expressed its totalitarianism was through Soviet Realism, where the state proscribed art as only adhering to what the Government want, rather than freely allowing people to design music, produce dance pieces, write pieces of literature or draw art which reflected their own feelings and personality. Thanks to being the sole democracy in the Middle East, Israel does not deny its people the freedom to express itself through art and that has allowed for a diverse culture to be developed, which Batsheva is part of.
For artistic freedom of expression to reach its pinnacle it needs to cross borders. Art works from people sharing ideas across borders and from people from different parts of the world being able to experience other nation’s culture and this includes Israel’s vibrant culture. By attempting to boycott Batsheva, Brian Eno attempts to deny audiences worldwide from experiencing Israeli culture.
In addition, the impact on Jewish people of boycotting Israeli culture is particularly strong when you consider that 6.1 million Jews live in Israel, making it the largest population of Jews worldwide. Considering this, it’s no surprise that Israeli culture is globally important to Jewish culture. Therefore, for Italian Jews experiencing Israeli culture is an important aspect of their Jewish identity, which boycotting Israeli culture stops them from expressing.
I have no doubt that, like me, Eno would like nothing more than for a peaceful solution to be bought about between Israelis and Palestinians. However, as Ohed Naharin reminds us boycotts of Israel do not help bring about peace and do not help Palestinians. Indeed, all boycotts do is give rise to Palestinian extremists who feel that Israel is the devil incarnate and cannot be talked to, fuelling Israeli suspicions that there’s no partner for peace.
My plea to Mr Eno is to abandon his support for boycotts of Israel and instead to take part in the many cultural projects for peace which bring peace between Israelis and Palestinians. After all, culture is a force for peace and can be part of the building blocks of peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
If you share my belief that culture can build bridges between Israelis and Palestinians, whilst boycotts are discriminatory and build walls between Israelis and Palestinians, please sign We Believe in Israel’s petition calling on Brian Eno to stop his prejudiced boycott of Israeli culture: http://www.webelieveinisrael.org.uk/petition/sign-petition-calling-brian-eno-stop-prejudiced-boycott-israeli-culture/