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Famed Conductor, Gustavo Dudamel, May Boycott Israel After Abusive Shin Bet Airport Screening

Gustavo dudamel

Gustavo Dudamel conducting the Israel Philharmonic

I’ve written many posts about the abusive treatment Israel’s security police mete out to distinguished foreign visitors to Israel. They’ve included professors invited to address conferences in the country, an Israeli law professor, the daughter of a Supreme Court justice, American ballet dancers. Among other degradations, women have been forced to disrobe in front of male security agents and treated with profound indignity.

Now, the Shin Bet has outdone itself (Hebrew). Perhaps the most exciting musical conductor in the world, Gustavo Dudamel, traveled to conduct the Israeli Philharmonic several weeks ago. His treatment at Ben Gurion was so demeaning he’s now considering refusing to appear in the country again. On both his entry and departure from Israel he endured a prolonged, harassing inspection regimen.

There is a law on the books that bans Israelis from supporting BDS. But they’ll have to adjust the law for the sake of the Shin Bet, which itself is encouraging foreigners to boycott Israel.

The Philharmonic’s manager seemed to blame Dudamel for the problem by implying he didn’t bring his Philharmonic letter of invitation with him; and that if he had, the unpleasantness could’ve been avoided. The only problem with this explanation is that the manager noted that a representative of the organization met Dudamel’s plane to escort him, as is the custom with VIP guests. Surely this representative either should’ve had the letter or been able to vouch for Dudamel.

If you’re a liberal Zionist such behavior may shock you. You may claim that such treatment is an anomaly. Or you may even go so far as to say that such security procedures are an unfortunate necessity due to Israel’s security situation. But this treatment is the norm for the national security state.

My guess is that the Shin Bet decided it would make an example of Dudamel since he’s a national musical hero of Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela, which in turn is the only Latin American ally of Iran. So to score points in a political Cold War between Israel and Iran, Dudamel becomes a useful pawn for the security apparatus. There’s no appreciation that one of the world’s most distinguished conductors should be exempt from such games. No understanding that art and culture should be treated differently than politics. In Israel, everything whether classical music, film, or dance is subservient to the interests of the national security state.

It’s a damn shame. The increasing resonance of the BDS message is only reinforced by such stories.

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{ 15 comments… add one }

  • yankel February 12, 2013, 1:04 AM

    Regardless of how inconsiderate, impolite and unpleasant Mr Dudamel’s screening may have been, let me reassure you that had his name happened to be Ahmad, Mustafa or Mahmud he would have been subjected to far worse degrading humiliations.

    • Richard Silverstein February 12, 2013, 3:18 AM

      No question, & I’ve described precisely such treatment of Palestinians before here.

  • Bob Mann February 12, 2013, 3:01 AM

    Where does he say the screening was abusive? It’s not in the English version.

    • Deïr Yassin February 12, 2013, 3:58 AM

      Bob Mann back at work…..

      • Bob Mann February 12, 2013, 8:55 AM

        Do you see anyplace where he said his screening was abusive?

        Where does that claim come from?

        • Richard Silverstein February 12, 2013, 2:25 PM

          @Bob Mann: And you think because he threatened never to return to Israel to perform again that his screening was a walk in the park?

  • Shoded Yam February 12, 2013, 9:30 AM

    Heres what the perception will be in Los Angeles (a town where at the latest count, latinos are in the majority). Gustavo Dudamel, a Venezuelan national, a hispanic man of color, the world-renowned conductor of the LA Philharmonic, music director of the Orquesta Sinfónica Simón Bolívar, the national youth orchestra of Venezuela, a world culture treasure, was harrased and detained by the Shin Bet, for no reason other than some extremely tenuous connection (having been born venezuelan) to the politics of his native land Israels Jewish gestapo. And who knows better than the settler-infested gov’t of Israel that the concept of “truth” is subjective. Perceptions in the era of YouTube Facebook and Twitter on the other hand are gold. Now you can stop bitching about anti-semitism. Its a self-fufilling prophecy.

  • Dr. Ibrahim Soudy February 12, 2013, 10:56 AM

    Regardless of what really took place in this particular instance, the bad always “weeds” itself out. BDS is working and working very well. It sent even the mighty British Empire into the garbage bag of history!

    • Bob Mann February 12, 2013, 11:25 AM

      In what sense is BDS working?

  • Andy February 12, 2013, 11:52 AM

    I’m confused – didn’t Elton John tell us, when he played in Israel not so long ago, that music is above politics?

  • pabelmont February 12, 2013, 12:00 PM

    ” No understanding that art and culture should be treated differently than politics. In Israel, everything whether classical music, film, or dance is subservient to the interests of the national security state.”

    Well, I disagree. profoundly. BDS should justify all musicians in refusing to travel to or perform in Israel (including but not limited to such non-Isrfael places as OPTs, Golan, and anywhere else Israel may from tim to time be pleased to exert military control.

    That said, Israel’s treatment of Dudamel was stoooopid. From another point of view, Israel should either NOT ISSUE VISAS TO ANYONE and check everyone at the border — or issue visas and honor them (perhaps apart from a security check for weapons). If they are agonna do cavity searches, they should do them on everyone. Israelis included.

    And so forth. Harrassing people is evil and uin this case also stoooo-oooooo-ooopid.

  • dana February 12, 2013, 1:01 PM

    Does anyone have Duhamel’s e mail address? care of the LA Philharmonic for example?

    I would like to write him a letter of condolences. He is truly in great company and getting greater by the day. As an aside, boycott by classical music artists would hurt Israel’s image perhaps more than anything else.

    In any case, thanks to richard for bringing this to attention (who can bear to read Haaretz or Ynet every day?). I will be sure to spread among my many classical music friends and connections. They should know that no matter how many great performers come out of Israel, the country they represent leaves only the sourest of tastes in direct contravention of the Western tradition it pretends to be aligned with.

    • Richard Silverstein February 12, 2013, 2:21 PM

      Luckily my Israeli friends target the important Hebrew language stories and pass them to me as they did in this case. I cover the English edition myself directly.

  • Sim February 13, 2013, 2:20 AM

    Even if the “facts ” that you have received from your friends in Israel are close to the truth your guess is ridiculous, second guess?

  • Carlos February 16, 2013, 7:33 PM

    Not to justify the Israeli Security but (as a Venezuelan married to an Iranian) I must remind you people that this guy is the poster boy, the flag bearer of Chavez’s propaganda machinery (as hypocritical as all communists are, he found success -and money- in “the evil empire”), which is very sympathetic to the cause of many crazy guys, including Hezbollah. Far too many times the “cultural ambassadors” of the ”Bolivarian Republic” travel accompanied by assistants and officials who frequently do “courier” work for the Bolivarian Republic and its allies (like Iran, Cuba, Syria) simply because Venezuelans are not yet as “suspicious” everywhere in the world… That said, truth be told, Dudamel is too high profile for that.

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