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Israeli-Belgian musician pushed to back Israel boycott

Brussels Philharmonic chief violist Nathan Braude says receiving request to join BDS initiative ‘feels horrible’

Nathan Braude. (Screen capture: YouTube)
Nathan Braude. (Screen capture: YouTube)

An Belgian-Israeli musician says he was pressured to sign an open letter declaring he supported the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel. He refused to do so.

According to an entry Monday in the Slipped Disc blog, Nathan Braude, principal viola player for the Brussels Philharmonic and professor of viola at the Royal Conservatory Ghent, was sent a request to sign the letter in support of the boycott initiative by a professor at Ghent University, along with a list of those who had already signed.

Braude told Slipped Disc in an email:

I read your blogs regarding the Israel boycott very seriously; today I had a personal encounter with this. And trust me, it feels horrible.

I received an email on my Conservatory email address from a colleague, asking me to join the boycott against Israel. When I read how many colleagues of mine signed this I felt really bad. What should I do? It feels so terrible. I myself am Belgian and Israeli and do not understand why these people boycott Israel but not the countries who commit real crimes against humanity.

The blog entry in Slipped Disc, which was written by the esteemed British commentator Norman Lebrecht, noted that the request was sent by emeritus professor Dr. Herman De Ley, “of the Philosophy and Moral Science (sic) department of Ghent University.” He added a link to the website of BACBI, the Belgian Campaign for an Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.

“The imputation behind the demand is quite clear,” Lebrecht wrote. “It declares: we know you are an Israeli. If you want to continue working with us here in Belgium, we expect you to boycott your country of origin. That’s the morally scientific thing to do. After all, Daniel Barenboim supports the [boycott movement].”

Braude wrote to the dean of Ghent University upon receiving the letter, which he has not signed, according to Slipped Disc.

The Brussels Philharmonic in Concert in Brussels, Belgium, in 2009 (screen capture: YouTube)
The Brussels Philharmonic in Concert in Brussels, Belgium, in 2009 (screen capture: YouTube)

The boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS) has been gaining momentum recently. In the culture world, one of its most prominent backers is former Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters, who often writes letters to musicians in an effort to persuade them to cancel planned performances in Israel.

A Finance Ministry report written in 2013 but unveiled only last week assesses the potential loss to Israel’s economy should EU states adopt expansive sanctions against all imports from Israel at up to to NIS 40 billion ($10.5 billion) per year and 35,000 more jobless people on the market.

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