I am pleased to say that EoZ will be publishing a regular column from the excellent humor site, PreOccupied Territory.
Here's the first: Berkeley, California, May 14 - Advocates of the Boycott, Divest, Sanctions movement against Israel expressed frustration today that their lobbying efforts targeting major cultural figures have yet to elicit a commitment from the world's most famous composer not to appear in Israel.
BDS activists have been focusing on high-profile figures in academia, the arts, film, music, and other fields, attempting to convince them not to maintain ties with fans or colleagues in Israel. Though it has enjoyed only mixed success at best, the movement continues to lobby those figures, especially celebrities, in the hope that such prominent people declaring a boycott will encourage others to behave in similar fashion. However, they have yet to succeed in scoring the endorsement of anyone with the stature of Ludwig van Beethoven.
Beethoven's music has provided the soundtrack for some of history's most enduring moments, such as the final victory over Napoleon in 1815. The choral finale of his Ninth Symphony, a setting of Schiller's Ode to Joy, is perhaps the most famous piece of music ever composed, surpassed perhaps only by the opening bars of his Fifth Symphony, and was adopted as the theme of the European Union. The chorus was conducted by none other than maestro Leonard Bernstein at a concert celebrating the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Gaining the backing of a seminal figure such as Beethoven would put wind in the BDS movement's sails, but they have yet to come close to succeeding.
"Part of the difficulty is tracking him down," confesses Omar Barghouti, a BDS pioneer. "He seems to be a very private person. But I rather doubt he hasn't heard of us, as we've been attracting attention across Europe and North America for a number of years." Barghouti speculates that perhaps the composer does not wish to make any political statements, but other activists note that such neutrality would not be in keeping with Beethoven's character.
"Beethoven had no problem erasing the dedication to Napoleon at the top of his 'Eroica' Symphony when Napoleon declared himself emperor of France in 1804," said musicologist and BDS activist Hedda P'myass. "He was quite clear on where he stood when it came to international politics." P'myass, for her part, suggested that the composer had sympathies for Israel, but was uncomfortable voicing them in polite company.
Barghouti says the movement will keep trying. "We might not have convinced Mr. Beethoven not to have ties with Israel, but he hasn't yet visited there, either," he noted. "If we keep the pressure on, maybe it will stay that way."
"Or we will just declare that he supports boycotting Israel, as we usually do." [EoZ]
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