BRICUP | 05/07/2011 | BRICUP has asked leading American soprano Renee Fleming to cancel her planned concert in Jerusalem. She is planning to appear with the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra on….

BRICUP | 05/07/2011 |

BRICUP has asked leading American soprano Renee Fleming to cancel her planned concert in Jerusalem. She is planning to appear with the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra on 28 July. The concert will be streamed live to 480 cinemas across the USA.

London, 5 July 2011

Dear Renee Fleming:

We understand you’re singing a concert of ‘duets and arias’ in Jerusalem
on July 28 with the Israel Philharmonic and their director, Zubin Mehta
– a concert that will be simultaneously broadcast to 480 cinemas across
the USA under the title ‘Live from Jerusalem’.

We’re writing to ask you urgently to reconsider your decision to do this.
Even at this late stage, you have it within your power to act in sympathy
with people who won’t be able to attend your concert, because they are
Palestinian. Two-thirds of the population was ethnically cleansed in
1947/8, and has never been allowed to return; millions more endure
illegal occupation and siege by the Israeli army. When maestro Mehta
raises his baton, none of these people will be in the audience – the
Israeli authorities won’t allow them into Jerusalem, let alone your
concert at the Sultan’s Pool. ‘Live from Jerusalem’ indeed – more like a
wake – except the Palestinians are not yet defeated. ‘This land
promises wheat and stars’, said the poet Mahmoud Darwish. ‘We are
its salt and its water. We are its wound, but a wound that fights.’

From what we read about your concert, we think it’s using your fame
and popularity in the USA to conduct propaganda for Israel. Do you
really want to do this? Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch,
and the United Nations-sponsored Goldstone Commission, have all
published a great deal of evidence to support charges of war crimes
against the Israeli government and army who conducted the 2008-9
onslaught on Gaza, against a population that was completely trapped –
could not escape, by land or sea. They were like turkeys in a barrel, and
the Israeli army and airforce slaughtered them. You may think you are
simply turning up in Jerusalem to share your glorious voice with musiclovers,
but since Zubin Mehta himself describes the Israel Philharmonic
as ‘Israel’s flagship’, your performance will be spun as a declaration of
support for Israel and the actions of its governments. Do you want to
lend your stamp of approval to war crimes?

Renee Fleming, whether you want to be or not, you have become the
operatic voice of the American people. You sang at the memorial for
the 9/11 victims in October 2001; you sang at the inauguration of
President Obama. You have an iconic importance that goes beyond the
fact of your wonderful voice.

You can choose to use that weight for something brave – you can
withdraw from the Jerusalem concert. You can say that you do not wish
to appear to endorse Israel’s cruel treatment of the Palestinians. If you
do this, you will be in tune with a growing number of Americans who
support an academic and cultural boycott of Israel as long as Israel
denies Palestinian rights – they include Adrienne Rich, Barbara
Ehrenreich and Judith Butler.

Your countrywoman, Alice Walker, is even now on a ship called The
Audacity of Hope, attempting to break the siege of Gaza. She says she is
doing so because of ‘the children of Palestine, who were ignored in our
president’s latest speech on Israel and Palestine, and whose
impoverished, terrorised, segregated existence was mocked by the
standing ovations recently given in the US Congress to the prime
minister of Israel’. You can see her speak in this funny short film, Gaza
Island (it also stars your colleague, Kiri te Kanawa).

In November last year, Cape Town Opera rejected appeals from all over
the world, including from former archbishop Desmond Tutu, to cancel
its tour of Israel. We thought you’d like to watch the flash mob put on
outside its performance of ‘Porgy and Bess’ by Israeli supporters of the
Palestinian call for boycott. ‘Palestine’, they sang, ‘and the living ain’t

You are an adventurous artist, Renee Fleming, and we think a person of
conscience. ‘Boycott apartheid – it’s time to tell Israel NO!’, the
flashmobbers sang. We hope you’ll hear them. Please don’t sing in

Yours sincerely,

Professor Haim Bresheeth

Mike Cushman

Dr Ghada Karmi

Professor Adah Kay

Professor Jonathan Rosenhead

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