"My deep shame at this bigoted festival protest"

By Jonathan Hoffman
September 3, 2012

Jackie Kemp in the Observer .........


Batsheva, the Israeli contemporary dance group, should have been one of the hits of this year's Edinburgh international festival. They got five-star reviews for their witty, sexy and creative show.

As Batsheva are an ethnically mixed group of performers who danced to a "mash up" including the Star Wars theme and Wagner and who, at home, have incurred the wrath of the Orthodox community for a routine involving them stripping off to a Passover song, it would seem bizarre to hold them responsible for any Israeli government policies. Surely it would make as much sense to blame the ballerinas of the Mariinsky (formerly the Kirov) for Putin's human rights abuses. [JH - Of course there is no comparison between Putin's repressive regime and Israel's democratic regime even in the face of daily existential threats]

Indeed, Batsheva's choreographer, Ohad Naharin, has said he is "in disagreement" with his government whereas the prima ballerina of the Mariinsky, Diana Vishneva, has maintained a studied silence over the fate of Pussy Riot.

But while Mariinsky played a sumptuous Cinderella at the Festival theatre to sell out audiences, with a line of chauffeur-driven cars waiting outside to pick up dignitaries, including government ministers, the Batsheva had a very different fate. Their show played to half-empty houses and was continually disrupted inside the theatre. It was a tense and nervous – if well-coiffed in shades of grey – Edinburgh contemporary dance audience that made it into the foyer through the hundreds of shouting demonstrators taking up most of the pavement outside.

The night I was there, the show was stopped three times; the next night it was four. As an audience member, I must confess I felt alarmed and vulnerable. I didn't know what was about to happen. The 82-year-old Dutchman next to me patted my arm and murmured: "This is not Kristallnacht. I remember that"

Despite the courage and professionalism of the performers on stage it must have been a nerve-racking gig for them; in other countries protesters have remained outside the theatre. No one was arrested for any of the disruptions, the Scottish police taking the view that it was not illegal.

The dancers were being held responsible for the situation of Palestinians on the West Bank and in Gaza on the very thin grounds that their work had been praised by the Israeli government and they take government money – both things that apply to the Mariinsky.

A group of Scottish writers headed by Scotland's national poet Liz Lochhead (who has also taken government money on occasion) even wrote to the press calling for a cultural boycott of all Israeli companies and artists. This was what was effectively being imposed on the rest of us by the pickets outside.

I felt personally deeply ashamed and upset that these renowned international artists who were visiting the EIF were unable to perform their show in peace. I have spent the last year researching a book (Confusion to Our Enemies: Selected Journalism of Arnold Kemp; Arnold was my father). In the course of that, I read up on the work of my grandfather Robert Kemp – he was one of the founders of the Edinburgh festival and coined the term the fringe.

It was started in the aftermath of the Second World War, to bring back the joy, colour and vibrancy of cultural expression into people's lives, lives that for the most part had been grey and miserable. It was started so that people from different countries could communicate heart to heart in the international language of art and culture.

It would be a tragedy if people who live, not in the shadow of war but in relative ease and comfort, manage to achieve their wish and create a cultural climate in Scotland where it is impossible for artists to perform because of the passports they hold.



Tue, 09/04/2012 - 12:54

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One of the most bizarre aspects had to be the ceremonial burning of the theatre ticket .
Every so often an announcement would be made that another 'theatre goer ' had seen the error of his ways and to great fanfare hand in his ticket for burning .
A close observer would have recognised the same extra from the PSC casting couch going through this strange ritual .
The most unsettling part about this mass delusion was that apart from Napier and his goons , there was no one else to witness it .
It was a device to effectively raise the level of hysteria and so drive the fascists on to greater heights of screamed hatred and abuse of genuine theatre goers .
None of this should come as any surprise . All there were well versed in the Marxist Propaganda training manual . Lies and subterfuge and mass delusion . These dinosaurs are relics from another era and have not come to terms with the death of Communism .
This sort of hate filled action helps them to relive their glory days and gives meaning to their empty lives .


Tue, 09/04/2012 - 16:59

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Thu, 09/06/2012 - 15:30

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This goes to show that citizens are mobilising against apartheid and occupation.

Protest against the treatment by Israel of Palestinians will continue and is becoming more international.

Harvey speaks as if he was there - 'A close observer would have recognised the same extra from the PSC casting couch going through this strange ritual' - did you drive up in your cab?


Fri, 09/07/2012 - 09:25

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"by Mick Napier
Chair, Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign
15 July 2012

Being Jewish in Scotland, a survey of Scottish Jewish opinion funded by a Scottish Government grant of over £21,000, found that there was virtually no anti-Semitism in Scotland amidst a rise in anti-Zionist political activity across the country. The results of this survey give the lie to those Zionists who have claimed that vigorous criticism of the State of Israel can, even inadvertently, lead to an increase in anti-Semitism. Determined opposition to the crimes of the State of Israel, or to the colonial project of Zionism in its entirety, is a political position based firmly on the promotion of universal human rights, including opposition to racism in all its forms." http://www.scottishpsc.org.uk/index.php/zionism/future/hopes/the-end-of-... ...So Mr Hoffman how do you explain calling the protest bigoted?


Fri, 09/07/2012 - 11:27

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Alistair Clark
The demand for a Palestinian state from the River to the Sea is in itself racist and apartheid .
No Israeli is going to countenance such an absurdity .
They are not going to wake up one day hold a referendum and vote themselves into an Islamic state . The PSC know and understand that . The only way it could be achieved is by war and bloodshed on an unprecedented scale . The PSC are not worried by that . The ends justifies the means . Thus it always was and always will be with unreconstructed Communists . Stalin murdered millions in order to bring about his social reform project .
Finklestein labeled the PSC a cult . One which has no political traction outside some 57 Islamic states many of which are ruled by despots and others which are currently tearing themselves apart and murdering their own people .
Do you honestly think Israelis will ever accede to that reality .
Speaking of realities , I suggest you consider Abbas s demand for a completely Juden frei West Bank . That is the reality of true apartheid .


Fri, 09/07/2012 - 11:31

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You can read my eye witness account of Napiers racist demo on Richard Milletts blog which is also cross posted at Harry's Place , CIF Watch and other ethical blogs .


Fri, 09/07/2012 - 12:41

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