How boycotts became an own goal
Batsheva tickets being burned at a protest
The eight city tour by the Batsheva Ensemble is a a major target for the PSC and other BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) campaigners.
The Batsheva tour plays to some of the PSC’s strengths. They have a national network of semi-autonomous groups, and this gives them the chance to vent their spleen against Israel in their own regions.
Some of the venues are in hotspots of BDS activity, notably Edinburgh, Brighton and Bradford. Where the PSC itself is weak it is able to plug into far left groups to provide “rent-a-Trot” demonstrators.
These groups’ habit of infiltrating multiple organisations means that credibility can be given to demnstrations by bringing along local trade union branch banners etc.
Venues, police, performers and pro-Israel campaigners have learned how to react flexibly to unpredictable protests through bitter experience. Hence in the initial Batsheva tour dates last week audiences clapped and cheered for the performers, drowning out the protesters.
Gary Sakol of the Zionist Federation deserves huge thanks for co-ordinating leafleting outside venues.
The cultural boycott is a flawed weapon for the PSC to use. It is a rip-off of the anti-apartheid protests against South African sports teams. Those teams were all-white when South Africa was majority black.
In contrast, performers like Batsheva personify liberal, multicultural Israel. When many people have a mental image of Palestinian boys throwing stones at Merkava tanks, drawing attention to the Israel of avant-garde dance troupes is a BDS own goal.
Luke Akehurst is director of We Believe In Israel