A Jewish group in South Africa has criticised a call by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu for the Cape Town Opera to cancel a performance in Israel in November.
"Peace and understanding is best served through constructive and positive engagements between Israel, South Africa and the Palestinian regions, not by boycotts," the South African Jewish Board of Deputies said in 27 October statement.
In a letter to the opera company, Tutu had written, "The Tel Aviv Opera house is state sponsored. By luring international artists to perform there it advances Israel's fallacious claim to being a civilised democracy."
Tutu, the former Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, wrote, "Just as we said during apartheid that it was inappropriate for international artists to perform in South Africa in a society founded on discriminatory laws and racial exclusivity, so it would be wrong for the Cape Town Opera to perform in Israel."
He said millions of people are denied the right to education and cultural opportunities in Israel and the Palestinian territories it occupies.
The Jewish deputies' board, a central representative institution of the South African Jewish community, rejected Tutu's statement that Israel was founded on discriminatory laws and racial exclusivity.
"There is, in fact, no other country in the Middle East that can claim to be as inclusive, non-discriminatory and multi-cultural than Israel," the board stated.
It urged the Cape Town Opera to "add their beautiful voices to those of reason and let their outstanding production sound in the ancient land of the prophets".
The Cape Town Opera managing director, Michael Williams, was quoted as saying by The Herald newspaper that while the opera respected Tutu's views it believed in promoting human values through the medium of opera.
He said, "I am proud that our artists, when travelling abroad, act as ambassadors and exemplars to the free society that has been achieved in free democratic society."
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