By Jonathan Hoffman
September 3, 2012
Superb column in Friday's Mail:
You usually get everything represented at the Edinburgh International Festival: it caters for all self-indulgent tastes in the postmodern world of moral relativism – from binge-drinking and bigamy to buggery and blasphemy.
Gradually, over the decades, the arts have aided the rehabilitation of medieval notions of sin and human vice: lust has become love; wrath is free expression; greed is a work ethic; envy is a spur to social mobility; pride is aspiration; sloth is simply genetic; and gluttony has become a human right.
We’ve come (or gone) a long way since the Lord Chancellor’s censoriousness was curtailed. Our theatres may indeed still be monuments to our prodigality and folly, as the Puritan preacher the Rev’d Thomas White declaimed at St Paul’s in London during the plague.
But one wonders about the contemporary equivalent of his evangelical apocalyptic observation that ‘the cause of plagues is sin...the cause of sin is plays; therefore the cause of plagues is plays.’
How about: ‘The cause of all the world’s problems is Israel...the cause of Israel is Jews; therefore the cause of all the world’s problems is Jews’?
The Israeli Batsheva Dance Company were happily plié-ing and jeté-ing in their latest work, ‘Hora’, at Edinburgh’s Playhouse Theatre on Thursday evening before an audience which included His Excellency the Israeli Ambassador Daniel Taub and Israeli Culture Minister Limor Livnat.
But they were rudely interrupted (three times) by anti-Israel activists and pro-Palestinian protestors (who tend to be one and the same). There was also a baying horde outside, chanting ‘Free Palestine’ bluster, waving signs that read ‘Don’t dance with Israeli apartheid’, and burning the show’s tickets.
Don't dance with Israeli apartheid. Bizarre, isn’t it? Their objection wasn’t to the artistic expression of the dance, but to the mere presence – the mere presence – of an Israeli dance group at the Festival.
The Dance Company were performing at Edinburgh's Playhouse Theatre in front of His Excellency the Israeli Ambassador Daniel Taub and Israeli Culture Minister Limor Livnat.
Of course, had this been a group of white thugs objecting to the presence of Muslims at the Festival, they would not only have been forcibly ejected from the theatre but swiftly arrested for racially aggravated harassment or some ‘hate crime’. But Jews are fair game: a malignant anti-Semitism masquerades as socially-acceptable anti-Zionism, but still we only ever seem to hear about the alleged racism which couches as Islamophobia.
Perhaps the most concerning thing is that this is becoming something of a regular occurrence: only a few months ago, the antisemites disguised themselves as groundlings at Shakespeare’s Globe in order to heckle a Hebrew performance of The Merchant of Venice by the Israeli Habima Theatre Company (which is odd, because the play is itself rather antisemitic).
And last year, a Radio 3 Proms broadcast was suspended for the first time ever when members of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign began singing Beethoven in order to drown out the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra’s Webern and Bruch. Why? Because the Orchestra bore the name of Israel, includes Jews, and so must be an agent for the great Zionist conspiracy.
The leitmotif of complaint is that Israel is using the arts as a cultural smokescreen for the propagation of propaganda, while, in reality, every Jewish crotchet is a bullet in the head of an innocent Palestinian child, and every Hebrew jot and tittle represents another bulldozed Palestinian dwelling in the ‘occupied territories’. This is the mirror which anti-Semites tend to hold up to nature; to show bigotry her own feature, hate her own image, and all the luvvies and dahlings of the time their ignorance and hypocrisy.
The Left have long spouted their lies and hatred against Israel under the enlightened guise of reasoned truth and artistic integrity. They may be quick to point out that Israel uses the arts as Zionist propaganda, but they are invariably blind to their own deliberate use of the arts and media in the propagation of their pathologically anti-conservative, anti-British, anti-American, anti-Israel myopic worldview.
Instead of storming the stage, burning tickets or chanting against a foreign policy, it is the primary task – indeed, the vocation – of all artists to create: the writers must write, composers compose, dancers dance and actors act. If the anti-Israel protestors are so concerned about the malignant political influence of Israelis through their art, let them write their plays about boycotting Israel; ballets about ‘Israeli apartheid’; and symphonies on a theme by the ‘evil Zionist state’.
Instead of demanding censorship of all Israeli artistic expression, why don’t these trendy, enlightened, Guardian-drenched Judeophobes just tell us their own story? And then let the interested audiences pay to be entertained: let them watch, listen, weigh the evidence and judge. And then let them be changed, or not, for good or ill, by the muse of creativity.
Isn’t that the function of art?