Israeli dancers face Edinburgh festival disruption

By Jessica Elgot, July 12, 2012
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Dancers from the Batsheva Company in one of their acclaimed routines

Dancers from the Batsheva Company in one of their acclaimed routines

Campaigners are planning disruption at the Edinburgh International Festival of performances by Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company.

Pro-Palestinian activists in Dundee this week sent out a call to protest against three performances by the company between August 30 and September 1, claiming Batsheva was “actively complicit in whitewashing Israeli human-rights abuses, apartheid, and occupation of Palestinian land” because it receives funding from the Israeli government.

The internationally renowned company, which performed at the Festival in 2008, will return this year to perform Hora, choreographed by artistic director Ohad Naharin.

Part of the company will tour various venues in the UK, including The Lowry in Salford, Bradford’s Alhambra Theatre and London’s Sadler’s Wells in October and November.

Scottish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, and Dundee activist Ryan Swan, wrote to supporters: “We hope Batsheva, like a growing number of Israelis, will stand against Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and support justice and equality for all.

“Should Batsheva fail to take action, their appearances at the EIF will be met with demonstrations and a call for a boycott of their performances.”

This fails to acknowledge that Mr Naharin has often been critical of Israeli government policies.
An EIF spokesperson said: “The Edinburgh International Festival was founded in the belief that bringing artists and audiences together was an important way to promote cultures between peoples. That remains a guiding principle.”

Scottish Friends of Israel’s Myer Green said: “This protest against Batsheva dancers constitutes cultural warfare against the Israeli people as opposed to the Israeli government.

“It injects political protest into a non-political arena at the expense of performer participation and audience pleasure but is achieved at the expense of the apolitical audience whose purpose is simply to support and enjoy notable Israeli performing groups.”

The Israeli embassy in London said: “We look forward to welcoming the globally renowned Batsheva. It is a shame that marginal groups are seeking to disrupt these fruitful links, and to censure expressions of culture which should be fostered.”

Dalit Itai, the company’s deputy director for planning and communications, said: “Over the years, we did have, occasionally, some threats of disrupting our performances. However, this has rarely happened.

“We have a few ground rules as to how to deal with it, and the dancers know how to react should there be a disruption and the performance cannot be continued. We do not ask for extra security and trust the regular arrangement in each of the venues we perform at.”

Last updated: 11:35am, July 12 2012