Open letter to Les Grands Ballets canadiens de Montréal

March 9th, 2009 | Posted in Boycott, Canada, Palestine, Quebec
    Open letter to les Grands Ballets canadiens de Montréal.

Dear Alain Dancyger, directeur général, Les Grands Ballets canadiens de Montréal

In 2008, Jean-Luc Godard, the celebrated French film maker, one of the founding members of the French New Wave in 1960s cinema, declined an invitation to be a participant in The Tel Aviv International Student Film Festival. Godard’s refusal to attend the festival was a recognition of the importance of the Anti-Apartheid boycott movement called for by many Palestinian, Israeli and Human Rights organizations world-wide.

This letter is an appeal to you by Tadamon!, a Montreal-based collective which works in solidarity with struggles for self-determination, equality and justice in the Middle East and is deeply involved in the international campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions against the Israeli government.

We call on Les Grands Ballets to take the same courageous and principled stand as Godard and many other artists by cancelling your planned performances in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in the summer of 2009. Your visit, particularly at this time of intensified Israeli war crimes in Gaza, can only help Israel’s public relations efforts in covering up its persistent violation of international humanitarian law and universal human rights. Performing in Israel, especially after the horrific toll of death and destruction in Gaza, which the entire world witnessed, would be morally unjustifiable.

Culture, in light of Israel’s refusal to conform to universal humanitarian laws cannot be separated from politics; performances and other kinds of cultural forms in which non-Israelis participate in Israel, especially at the invitation of the state, are always politicized. This is even more so in the case of a performance in a festival that celebrates the 100th anniversary of the founding of the capital of Israel.

Les Grands Ballets’ participation in the Festival of Tel Aviv would, in effect, legitimate the Israeli narrative about the city’s history and its place and role in historical Palestine, a narrative that denies the key role played by the city in Zionist colonization.

Les Grands Ballets Canadiens perhaps has not heard of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, who have called on cultural workers and academics to boycott Israel; “we, Palestinian academics and intellectuals, call upon our colleagues in the international community to comprehensively and consistently boycott all Israeli academic and cultural institutions as a contribution to the struggle to end Israel’s occupation, colonization and system of apartheid.”

Would Les Grands ballets have performed in Apartheid South Africa? We ask that you consider this question while weighing your decision as to whether you wish to perform in Israel or not. There are clear parallels between the repressive regimes imposed on the indigenous people of South Africa and Palestine, as clearly outlined by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Indeed, it is widely accepted now that Israel is an Apartheid state whose policies and practices are openly racist.

In September 2008 Israeli security officers at Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion Airport forced an African-American member of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Abdur-Rahim Jackson, to perform twice for them in the airport, in order to prove he was a dancer before letting him enter the country. Even after Jackson complied, one of the officers suggested that he change his name. Due to Jackson’s first name, given to him by his Muslim father, he was the only member of his company subjected to this typical Israeli ethnic profiling.

I refer you to an article from the journal, Dance Insider, by the editor, Paul Ben-Itzak, calling for the boycotting of the Israeli company, Batsheva, presently on a tour of North America. It is a strong statement, giving compelling reasons for the cultural boycott, by a prominent and experienced dance journalist.

Many prominent international cultural figures, including Ken Loach, Brian Eno and John Berger, and some artists’ unions, like the Irish arts council Aosdána, have heeded the Palestinian Call and shunned Israel, just as they had boycotted South Africa during the apartheid era.

We hope that you will read this letter in the spirit in which it is written: our belief that citizens of the world can and must take whatever part they can in bringing a just peace to the Middle East, in demanding an end to the injustices suffered by the Palestinians and the restoration of the rights long denied them.

We also hope that Les Grands Ballets will understand the moral imperative of the academic and cultural boycott of Israel; that the company will take a position on the side of justice and peace and provide an example of moral conviction to other Canadian cultural and academic institutions.

Freda Guttman for Tadamon!

Leave a comment

Upcoming events