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.