New row over Tel Aviv trip

A NEW furore has broken out over Cape Town Opera's trip to Israel next week, with Palestinian groups accusing the opera of lying.

Last month Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu asked the Cape Town Opera to call off its trip to Israel.

Tutu said it would be "unconscionable" for the company to perform in the Tel Aviv Opera House - which is sponsored by the Israeli government.

Company managing director Michael Williams immediately gave Tutu's suggestion the thumbs down.

But Williams later apologised to Tutu and said he could not meet his demand.

Williams told human rights activist Zackie Achmat and Jewish pro-Palestinian activist Vivian Cohen that while in Israel the company would also work with three Palestinian musical groups.

These are the West-Eastern Divan Youth Orchestra, the Barenboim-Said Foundation and a Palestinian circus school.

But Palestinian boycott, sanctions and divestment groups say the three organisations told Cape Town Opera they would not work with them.

"The West-Eastern Divan and the Barenboim-Said Foundation confirmed that they had not agreed to work with or provide any assistance to the Cape Town Opera on this tour," the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel said in a statement.

"The Palestinian Circus School has condemned Cape Town Opera's claim as a blatant lie," the PACBI said.

"We are appalled by the opera's decision to perform in the Sun City of Palestine (Tel Aviv). The world did not stand by while the ugly apartheid regime was slaughtering the oppressed blacks of South Africa. We expect no less in Palestine," said academic and Palestinian activist Haidar Eid.

But the Williams said this was untrue.

"On the contrary, we have had positive contact with the Barenboim-Said music education project. We are organising their trip at the moment," he said.

Williams admitted that though he promised Achmat that the opera would work with the Palestinian circus school, they had not heard from them.

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