Today, Wednesday 11 May, a performance is planned at the AMUZ Cultural Center in Antwerp by Tzahal, the music group that is part of the Israeli army. Conscripted soldiers from the Israeli Occupation Army, who are guilty of forced land expropriation, illegal settlements, discrimination and a system similar to apartheid in Palestinian territories, are welcomed today in this intimate cultural place. In this statement, Stefan Nieuwinckel addresses AMUZ with an urgent question.
Some highlights from the culture year should not be missed. I’m so glad I was able to get two of the last tickets for the performance of the Russian Army Wind Orchestra in Bozar’s Henri Le Boeuf Hall. Top musicians, do not touch a gun, only their instrument. I am already looking forward to their performance of Mozart’s Gran Partita and the wind rocket by the lesser known Czech composer Antonin Reicha.
There will undoubtedly be some daring Volga sounds, but I like to get carried away by them every now and then. Musicians do not have to be close-fitting to me, and well, these gentlemen play in military uniform. Under the circumstances, you just take it into account.
Dear reader, I can reassure you that this is fake news. And sorry to Bozar for dragging them into this. To Mozart and Reicha, by the way, who turned in their graves. No one would dream of borrowing culture in this way for war propaganda. However?
An orchestra with a mission: to pour a culture sauce over an occupation policy.
Maybe it depends a bit on what war it is. On May 11, the Tzahal Orchestra, conscripts from the Israeli Army, will perform at the Antwerp Cultural Temple AMUZ. An orchestra with a mission: to pour a culture sauce over an occupation policy.
The Israeli army is occupying Palestinian territories and leading a terrorist regime. The state of Israel has been repeatedly condemned by the UN for this. According to Amnesty International, among others, Israel is also guilty of forced land expropriation, illegal settlements, discrimination and a system similar to apartheid. Israel’s military rule has a direct impact on all aspects of the daily life of the Palestinian people. The Israeli army, of which Tzahal is a part, is the organization that implements this in practice.
It is with a heavy heart that I notice that this intimate cultural place in the center of Antwerp is rolling the red carpet next to war propaganda.
It is with a heavy heart that I notice that this intimate cultural place in the center of Antwerp is rolling the red carpet next to war propaganda. There is only one urgent question: just close AMUZ on May 11, send Tzahal kindly but definitely home. Like with an explanatory word about the illegality of the Israeli army’s operations in Palestine.
AMUZ is a child of Antwerp ’93, the year that Antwerp was allowed to experience as European Capital of Culture. At the time, there were posters in the city with ‘Can art save the world?’, Meant a bit ironically, but at the same time a relevant question about the social significance of art and culture. And the social significance is really there.
Sometimes it means saying ‘no’, such as canceling a concert that is already scheduled with reasons. And sometimes it means saying ‘yes’. I’ve been playing with an idea for a while now. Ukraine is seeking rapprochement with Europe, but joining the EU is a complex and lengthy process which, despite the dramatic circumstances, should not be rushed.
We can immediately declare Kiev as the fourth European Capital of Culture in this shocking year 2022. Do you know the other three capitals this year? The story – and this is what every cultural creator is looking for – about 150 years of European conflict is on the horizon.
So an urgent request to AMUZ to say no and yes as a tribute to their beautiful origins. No to an orchestra of an occupying power army, yes to a European binding cultural project. I will reveal the three other cultural capitals in 2022 and that narrative in a subsequent contribution. With a few tips for a programming for Kiev ’22 worthy of the question of Antwerp ’93: can art save the world?
For the sake of completeness: AMUZ is not the programmer for this concert. They are ‘Christians for Israel’. However, a cultural temple at the AMUZ level can also pursue a critical policy when renting to external parties.
Stefan Nieuwinckel is the director of Pax Christi Flanders.