A Pro-Palestinian group has called on the University of Michigan to cancel a scheduled performance by the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra (JSO), saying it would constitute a "violation of the calls for broad boycotts against Israel until it recognizes the Palestinian people's inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with international law."
In a letter to University Musical Society President Ken Fischer, the Middle East Task Force (METF) of Ann Arbor said "since the JSO is one of the primary promoters and exporters of Israeli cultural life, one of its functions is to boost Israel's image on the world stage. In this way, the truth about the Israeli occupation of Palestine becomes suppressed, and its institutionalized attacks on Palestinian cultural heritage are ignored. Any attempt by the US hosts of the tour to develop ties with this Orchestra, therefore, amounts to condoning Israeli apartheid.
"As such, we call upon the JSO's scheduled hosts to be mindful of the appeal issued in 2006 by Palestinian filmmakers, artists and cultural workers … to end all cooperation with Israeli art, film and cultural organizations and institutions sponsored by the Israeli government," the letter read.
"We urge the hosts to condemn Israel for its racist and discriminatory practices, rather than condoning them. Finally, we call upon all American citizens of conscience to support the call by the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee and to boycott all cultural institutions supported by the apartheid Israeli state."
'Israeli apartheid institution.' Batsheva Dance Company (Photo: Gadi Dagon)
METF said it would hold a non-violent protest outside the Hill Auditorium on the night of the performance, scheduled for November 16.
The group quoted JSO Conductor Leon Botstein as saying that the orchestra was "very international, with a very wide age range and a very wide political span - from extreme left to extreme right - and I admire the civility with which it handles itself", and added that "oddly enough for an orchestra that hails from Jerusalem, a city where Palestinians make up about one-third of the population, there are, apparently, no Palestinians in the orchestra."
In the letter METF also mentioned the Batsheva Dance Company, which is scheduled to perform in the US in February, 2009, calling it "an Israeli apartheid institution."
METF cited an article published by the London-based Independent, which said "Batsheva is hardly a political entity, but it's funded by Israel's government, its performers include none of Arab extraction, and it is proud to be considered Israel's leading ambassador."
JSO said in response that its management had met with Palestinian dignitaries from east Jerusalem about a year ago to discuss new ways to cooperate.