Brighton Batsheva show cancelled to delight of Israel boycotters

By Jennifer Lipman, October 18, 2012
The Brighton Dome

The Brighton Dome

A performance by an Israeli dance group in Brighton next month has been cancelled amid security concerns, in a decision that anti-Israel campaigners are hailing as a victory.

The Batsheva Ensemble, the youth company of the internationally acclaimed Batsheva Dance Company, has been invited to perform Deca Dance in Bradford, Salford, Birmingham, Brighton, Plymouth, Leicester and London in a tour organised by Dance Consortium.

But the tour has been targeted by supporters of a cultural boycott of Israel, who disrupted all three of the Batsheva Dance Company's performances at the Edinburgh International Festival earlier this year.

Although two dates were initially announced for the dancers to perform at the Brighton Dome, they will now only be able to be seen on the Friday night.

A spokesman for the Brighton Dome said the reason for the cancellation was to concentrate all security resources on one evening, in order that at least one show would go ahead smoothly with a "higher level of security". He said that the decision had been made following discussions about security with Sussex Police, and with awareness about the disruptions and protests at the Edinburgh shows.

Andrew Comben, the venue's chief executive, said that freedom of expression was vital and that he supported Batsheva's inclusion on the tour. "We support the right to protest and encourage debate but we welcome artists from all over the world and will continue to do so," he said. "However, we have a duty to ensure that our audiences have a safe and enjoyable experience and are disappointed that their enjoyment of this company's work may be disturbed."

The cancellation has been greeted with delight by anti-Israel activists. In an item on the Boycott Israel Network website, activists wrote: "It's hats off to Brighton… we are on the way to winning a breakthrough victory for the BDS movement."

Protesters are still planning strategies for the rest of the tour including buying tickets and shouting "Free Palestine" during the performances. "Following this breakthrough in Brighton – thank you, Brighton activists! – we all need to appeal for a big turnout at each protest and internal protests every five minutes during each performance," they said.

A spokesman for the Dance Consortium said other dates on the tour had not been affected.

Earlier this year, activists from the Brighton and Hove Palestine Solidarity Campaign managed to disrupt a concert given by The Jerusalem Quartet as part of England's largest arts festival.

An Israeli Embassy spokesman: "When the threats of violence at a cultural performance become so grave that the performance has to be canceled, this is clearly not just a problem for Israel but for any thinking person in Britain.

"Israel is committed to continuing to encourage cultural and artistic visits in order to deepen understanding between Britain and Israel."

Last updated: 3:55pm, October 18 2012