Sairah Tariq makes the case for joining the protest against the Israeli state-sponsored Batsheva dance company this Thursday, Friday and Saturday
At this year’s prestigious Edinburgh International Festival (EiF) Israeli-state sponsored Batsheva Dance Company, who work within the Brand Israel project of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), will be performing over three nights from Thursday 30th August to Saturday 1st September and will then embark on a UK wide tour.
Art and politics are not separate in this case as the MFA has stated Batsheva is ‘the best global ambassador of Israeli culture’. The dance company receives funding from the MFA which tries to draw attention to Israeli arts as to negate the focus from conflict and occupation of Palestine. As Arye Mekel of Israeli’s MFA has said ‘We send well-known novelists and writers overseas, theatre companies, exhibits…This way you show Israeli’s prettier face, so we are not thought of purely in the context of war’.
The Jewish Chronicle has reported that an Israel’s Minister of Sports and Culture, Limor Livnat, will be attending one of the three performances, this politicises the Batsheva performances despite the director of EiF’s repeated attempts to deny the link between the dance company and the Israeli Government. An open letter was published in the Herald yesterday signed by writers and artists including Liz Lochhead, Iain Banks, Tom Leonard, AL Kennedy and Raja Shehadeh condemning Jonathon Mills, director of EiF, refusal to cancel the performances.
Hana Awaad of El Funoun, one of Palestine’s dance troupes, encapsulates Israel’s cultural apartheid well when she states:
‘While Israeli artists and performers have freedom to tour, exhibits and performances by Palestinian artists are systematically banned, sabotaged and closed down by the Israeli occupation. Artists themselves are targets of violence, arbitrary arrests and deportations. Israeli’s three-tiered system of occupation, colonisation and apartheid ruthlessly suffocates the livelihoods of Palestinian communities, including the right to artistic and cultural expression’.
The boycott of Batsheva is a response to The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) which calls for a boycott of all cultural performers and exhibiters that are institutionally linked to the Israeli state. It is part of a broader Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign called in 2005 by over 200 Palestinian civil society organisations. These campaigns allow individuals, organisations and festival organisers across the world to take a stand against Zionism. Israel has illegally occupied Palestine since 1948, with the Palestinians living under brutal conditions. We should not welcome Batsheva Dance Company who receives its funding from a state that practices apartheid and suppresses Palestinian culture. Challenge their presence and join the protests on the following dates to take a stand against Brand Israel.
6pm Thursday 30 August
7pm Friday 31 August
7pm Saturday 1 September at Edinburgh Playhouse on Leith Walk
From the ISG site