February 5, Brooklyn, NY – On Saturday evening, February 4, about 100 New Yorkers braved an icy wind to protest the appearance of Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company, and to do some dancing themselves, as part of a North American campaign for a boycott of the group’s tour.
Batsheva is being boycotted by advocates for Palestinian rights due to its role as what Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs calls one of Israel's greatest cultural ambassadors. Batsheva’s North American tour is supported by the Ministry. The dance company is part of the Israeli government’s “Brand Israel” initiative that uses art and culture to “show Israel’s prettier face” and divert attention from Israeli repression.
The street dancing attracted attention from ticket-holders and passersby. It featured a brass band, Palestinian dabka dancers, and a dance parody based on the current repertoire of Batsheva. The radical marching band the Rude Mechanical Orchestra and the Freedom Dabka Group brought arts out of the theater and into the wintry street, infusing bodily movement with a political movement sensibility.
A small group of protesters from the anti-Arab hate group the Jewish Defense League (JDL) protested in support of Batsheva, shouting “there’s no such thing as Palestine,” "settlements will rise," "terrorist Arab monkeys,” and "Isis wants you” at those who came to support Palestinian rights.