Cambridge University, site of a new controversy against a backdrop of “cancel culture”. The Student Union of the prestigious British establishment has decided to cancel performances in Cambridge on October 26 and 27 of an opera telling the story of the first king of Israel, Saul, and his successor David.
For the student association, this cancellation is justified by the current context of the war between Israel and Hamas, and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, reported the Daily Mail Online on October 25.
In the viewfinder of this association: part of this lyrical work composed by Georg Friedrich Handel in 1739, which relates the murder of Goliath by David. Goliath was a Philistine, a people who lived in what is now the Gaza Strip 3,000 years ago and who inspired the name “Palestine”. A cancellation decision which caused a public outcry. “The cancellation of an 18th century work based on the Bible seems to be a rather extreme example of cancel culture, to put it mildly,” lamented Robert Tombs, professor emeritus of French history at Cambridge, castigating the character. “absurd” of this measure.
For director Max Mason, the production “was unable to fully confront issues that have striking synchronicity with the current conflict in the Middle East.” None of the Student Union's statements mention Hamas, the banned terrorist organization that launched a deadly attack on Israel on October 7.
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To justify such a decision, a statement was also published on October 23 by the Student Union, which attributed the war between Israel and Hamas to “decades of violent oppression of the Palestinian people by the Israeli state.” The association said it “resolves” to “condemn the support of the British government for the State of Israel and the distortions of the British mainstream media in their coverage of this conflict”. The Student Union even insisted: “Only a mass uprising” throughout the Middle East “can liberate the Palestinian people.” To a student's question concerning the definition of a "mass uprising", the student who had written the motion responded cryptically: "think of the first Intifada", reports the British daily, in direct reference to the Palestinian uprising between 1987 and 1993, violently repressed by the Israeli army.
This decision comes in an already tense context within the university on the issue of the Israel-Hamas conflict. A few days earlier, a debate organized by the Cambridge Students' Union calling for solidarity with Palestine was interrupted by debate chair Benjamin Knight. The latter feared that this debate risked “inciting violence”.
The statement announcing the cancellation of the opera, strongly condemned by the Cambridge Jewish Students' Union which demanded a "public apology", led the President of the Student Union, Fergus Kirman, to modify this statement on 24 october.