Edinburgh festival: no change on Israelis despite boycott campaign

The organisers of the Edinburgh International Festival have said they will not bow to pressure after pro-Palestinian campaigners called for an invitation to an Israeli dance company to be withdrawn.

Israel's Batsheva Dance Company is due to perform three shows at the event between August 30 and September 1, as part of a UK-wide tour.

But the company has been targeted by pro-Palestinian activists in Dundee, who called for the shows to be disrupted on the basis that Batsheva is "actively complicit in whitewashing Israeli human-rights abuses, apartheid, and occupation of Palestinian land" because it receives funding from the Israeli government.

Prominent anti-Israel groups, as well as individual activists from MP Jeremy Corbyn to journalist John Pilger and Yvonne Ridley, have now backed a letter sent under the auspices of the 'Don't Dance with Israeli Apartheid' campaign.

The letter, sent to EIF director Jonathan Mills, expressed support for "a boycott of all cultural performers and exhibiters that are institutionally linked to the Israeli state".

The signatories said that they protested "in the strongest terms about the invitation... The tactic of boycott was legitimate and effective in helping to end apartheid in South Africa and it can make a significant contribution in countering the latest manifestation in Israel/Palestine.

They added: "Without question, Batsheva meets the criteria set by Pacbi (the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel) for boycott action and it is for this reason that we are calling on you to withdraw its invitation to perform at this year's festival."

The signatories also said that they rejected the suggestion that culture could be "disconnected from politics" and that the presence of the Israelis could be balanced by the presence of Palestinian performers.

"The EIF is one of the most prestigious arts festivals in the world, and we believe that it should be, unambiguously, on the side of justice and human rights for all," they wrote. "This means opposing apartheid Israel and those who act as ambassadors for this state. We call on you to withdraw the invitation."

A spokesman for the EIF confirmed that Mr Miller had got the letter but said that the festival's position on Batsheva's involvement remained unchanged.

Last updated: 4:46pm, July 16 2012