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Kiri Te Kanawa brings shame on New Zealand - GPJA

Kiri Te Kanawa brings shame on New Zealand

Global Peace and Justice Auckland is renewing its call for New Zealand soprano Kiri Te Kanawa to abandon plans to sing at the Israel Festival in late May rather than bring shame on New Zealand.

GPJA sent the singer a letter in late February urging her to withdraw from the festival in support of the growing international BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaign against Israeli apartheid.

We asked her to support the boycott and its aims of

· Ending Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of the Gaza strip

· Ending the building of illegal, exclusive Jewish settlements on Palestinian land

· Allowing the return of Palestinian refugees to their land and homes in Israel

However Te Kanawa has not replied and clearly intends to make her second visit to entertain in a country which every day commits human rights outrages against the Palestinian people.

Through the BDS campaign Palestinians have called for her to abandon her trip but she is silent to their suffering. She is prepared to turn her back on the struggle for Palestinian human rights while giving comfort to Israeli politicians and their policies.

Since she appeared there previously in 2001 attitudes to the Israeli state have changed. This country is no longer seen in the racist caricature as a valiant little Western country surrounded by hostile Arab hordes. Instead it is now seen rightly as a brutal oppressor of Palestinians whose legitimate aspirations have been violently repressed at every turn. Israel wants Palestinian land more than it wants peace and every day continues building Jewish-only settlements on Palestinian land in defiance of international law and numerous UN resolutions.

Since her last visit the world has seen events such as Israel's 2006 invasion of Lebanon; its 2008/2009 invasion of Gaza and the cowardly attack on the Mavi Marama. These things may have gone over Kiri Te Kanawa's head but public opinion is changing and she is on the wrong side of history.

In contrast last week Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim visited the Gaza strip and performed a concert as an act of solidarity with Palestinians. Kiri Te Kanawa on the other hand appears to have a Marie Antoinette view of the world. There's still time for her to change her mind but its hard to imagine the glossy soprano having the courage or understanding to act in support of the Palestinian struggle and abandon her Israeli performance.

It is deeply embarrassing to have this kiwi icon in the frontline against Palestinian appeals for support.

John Minto


Global Peace and Justice Auckland

    Letter sent to Kiri Te Kanawa on 27 February 2011

    Kia ora Kiri,

    Request to reconsider plans to perform in Israel

    I'm writing to request you reconsider your plans to sing at the Israel Festival (23 May to 1 June) this year.

    For the past five years Palestinian groups representing all aspects of Palestinian society have been calling for the international community to support the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaign against Israel as the best way to support the struggle for Palestinian human rights.

    An important part of the BDS campaign is the cultural boycott of Israel and here is where your position is so important. Your support for the boycott would be welcomed by Palestinians who suffer under a brutal Israeli military occupation. It will also help Israel to understand it cannot violate international law with impunity and must treat Palestinians as they would themselves wish to be treated.

    The Israeli invasion of Gaza in December 2008 where 1400 Palestinians were killed and the attack on the aid vessel Mavi Mamara last year are just the latest outrages by the Israeli state which the BDS campaign aims to counter.

    We appeal to you as a New Zealander to join the boycott of Israel for the same reasons you supported the boycott of apartheid South Africa. I should point out that Bishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela are strong supporters of the BDS campaign for the same reasons they appealed to the world to boycott South Africa.

    As far back as 1989 South Africa's Bishop Desmond Tutu said "if you change the names, the description of what is happening in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank would be a description of what is happening in South Africa."

    Increasing numbers of international performers support the boycott of Israel and we'd like to think New Zealanders would once again be at the forefront of a human rights struggle.

    If you would like more information please don't hesitate to contact me. I'll look forward to hearing from you.


    John Minto

    Spokesperson Global Peace and Justice Auckland.

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