Standing ovations for Israel's Batsheva despite disruptions

A protester burns a ticket outside the theatre

A protester burns a ticket outside the theatre

Protesters who disrupted the first of three performances by an acclaimed Israeli dance troupe were "sowing hatred", said a spokesman for the Israeli embassy in the UK.

The Batsheva Dance Company performed "Hora" on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings as part of the Edinburgh International Festival.

The production, like those of the Habima Theatre Company and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, has been beset by a campaign organised by anti-Israel activists.

Despte the festival organisers standing firm on Batsheva's inclusion, on Thursday night around 150 people gathered outside the venue to protest against its presence, brandishing signs that read "don't dance with Israeli apartheid" and burning tickets.

A group of demonstrators also managed to enter the auditorium and disrupted the dance three times but did not cause it to finish early. Up to 12 activists were ejected from the theatre after interrupting the dancers.

The Israel ambassador to Britain, Daniel Taub, was in Edinburgh to see the show.

A spokesman for the embassy said: "These demonstrators are clearly not motivated by any desire to help the Palestinians or advance peace but only to sow hatred.

"We are delighted the audience gave Batsheva repeated standing ovations," he said, adding that he urged Britain "to condemn disturbances in Israeli cultural performances".

The spokesman added: "We are committed to ensuring that Israeli British cultural co-operation will continue to flourish."

The British government expressed its strong support for "the freedom of Batsheva to appear at the festival".

"I deeply regret the attempts to disrupt them," said Alistair Burt, minister for the Middle East. "The UK absolutely opposes the targeting of institutions and individuals for no other reason than they are from Israel.

"It achieves nothing, is divisive and runs counter to the long history of cultural freedom in this country."

Batsheva's performance on Friday night was disrupted at least four times and six protesters were removed from the scene.

Last updated: 10:14am, September 6 2012