On Sunday September 11, “Broadway Supports Black Lives Matter,” a group led by actress Tonya Pinkins, was to stage two benefit performances at Feinstein’s/54 Below, a supper club on West 54th Street in NY. Playbill reports that the events have been canceled because the club objects to the BLM platform that says Israel engages in “genocide” against the Palestinian people.
Earlier this week, Playbill published this email from the club to ticket-holders:
The owners and managers of [Feinstein’s/54 Below] strongly believe in and support the general thrust of the goals and objectives of BLM. However, since announcing the benefit they’ve become aware of a recent addition to the BLM platform that accuses Israel of genocide and endorses a range of boycott and sanction actions.
Feinstein’s/54 Below would have preferred to hold the concert in support of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, without endorsing or appearing to endorse the entirety of the Black Lives Matter organization and its platform but we’ve found that a distinction impossible for us to effect.
As we can’t support these positions, we’ve accordingly decided to cancel the concert.
We’re sorry about this unfortunate situation which has not dimmed our commitment to supporting social justice.
The Times says that Feinstein’s/54 Below is a “popular cabaret” and that Pinkins told the newspaper by email that several participants will gather at Joe’s Pub on September 18 and raise funds for Black Lives Matter there. Good luck. Joe’s is part of the New York Public Theater, which recently canceled the Jenin Freedom Theatre production of The Siege, apparently because the board mutinied over the possibility of a play that honors Palestinian resistance to occupation.
The benefit performance was a follow-up to an August 1 event at which Broadway supported Black Lives Matter, in a performance featuring Audra McDonald among others. Consultants on the September 11 benefit included Frank Leon Roberts, a professor at NYU, and performer Adrienne Warren.
The US justifies and advances the global war on terror via its alliance with Israel and is complicit in the genocide taking place against the Palestinian people.
The platform also denounced Israeli “apartheid” and supported Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel for those practices.
I’ve reached out to organizers of the concert for comment. None forthcoming yet.
This is happening the same week that the New York City Council contracts committee is condemning BDS, with members stating that New York has the largest Jewish population of any city in the world and that BDS is anti-Semitic because it denies the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in Israel and that New York is joined at the hip to Israel, financially and economically and on national security, too.
So the battle is pitched in New York. This issue will only gather momentum in the 50th year of the occupation, when the persecution of Palestinians has become so intolerable to so many.
As for the cultural power here, remember what performer Garrison Keillor said about New York in a column on Donald Trump last week in the Chicago Tribune:
Manhattan [is] where the Times is the Supreme Liberal Jewish Anglican Arbiter of Who Has The Smarts and What Goes Where. When you came to Manhattan 40 years ago, you discovered that in entertainment, the press, politics, finance, everywhere you went, you ran into Jews, and they are not like you: Jews didn’t go in for big yachts and a fleet of aircraft — they showed off by way of philanthropy or by raising brilliant offspring. They sympathized with the civil rights movement.
It is safe to assume that if Black Lives Matter had condemned “genocide” of black people in the United States, that language would not have been objectionable to club owners and Jewish organizations. In fact, some in the civil rights movement have made just that assertion without an uproar from the Israel lobby. But now the civil rights movement is saying Palestine is important. And they have traction on the left. It is getting harder and harder to straddle the claims of being both progressive and pro-Israel.
Black4Palestine just posted that very point, off this news:
And so it begins…Folks are not truly committed to the anti-racism of the Movement for Black Lives if they can’t take action against Israel’s inherently racist relationship to Palestinians.
Thanks to Adam Horowitz and Ofer Neiman.