Cultural Boycott

Tamar-kali with her band and special guest Sonny Singh at "Palestine Calling"
Brooklyn vocalist and composer Tamar-kali with her band and special guest Sonny Singh at our "Palestine Calling" event on November 14th, 2015.

Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 23, New York, NY—Human rights advocates welcome the decision by PEN America to hold PEN’s annual World Voices literary festival without funding from the Israeli government.
The decision followed a campaign and a call supported by leading literary figures asking the organization to reject Israeli government sponsorship. PEN America accepted Israeli government support for the World Voices Festival four of the previous five years, and despite writers’ opposition in 2016. The leading US free expression and literary organization announced its program last week for the May 2017 World Voices Festival in New York.

PEN America did not, however, offer a reason for the absence of Israeli government support for World Voices in a February 2017 email exchange with Adalah-NY and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP).

Document

February 6 Email from Adalah-NY and JVP to PEN America

Dear Ms. Nossel,

We are writing to reiterate the call made almost a year ago by over 100 well-known writers, poets, publishers, and other members of the literary community for PEN America to reject sponsorship from the Israeli government for the annual World Voices Festival. Twenty-two of those writers explained in more detail why they supported that call.

All of them agree that it is wrong for PEN America, an institution with the stated aim of defending writers' freedom of expression, to accept sponsorship from the Israeli government. PEN International has criticized the Israeli government for "the killings and the reported deliberate targeting of certain journalists, media organizations, and their infrastructures” and “the practice of administrative detention against journalists and other writers."

In an April 2016 meeting, you told us that being responsive “may take time and space.” Also in April, PEN International President Jennifer Clement wrote to Adalah-NY that, “PEN International shares your concern. At present we are formalizing our recommended guidelines for the world’s PEN Centres regarding funding from countries with a poor record on freedom of expression."

Press Coverage

Electronic Intifada

Abstract: 

PEN America is no longer accepting funding from the Israeli government, after five years of accepting such sponsorship for the literary group’s annual World Voices festival in New York, the activist group Adalah-NY has learned.

PEN America came under heavy criticism last year for accepting funding from the Israeli government, which jails Palestinian journalists and writers in Israel and the occupied West Bank for their work.

Press Coverage

Mondoweiss

Abstract: 

As the Batsheva Dance Company winds its way across North America, the media has clamored to laud the show on its artistic merits, glossing over the political implications of the group’s visit. Articles in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and The Chicago Tribune offer timid critiques of the show but fail to mention politics altogether.

But the irony of showcasing uninhibited movement on stage as a product of a country where the every movement of the occupied Palestinians is restricted was not lost on the hundred or so protestors outside BAM on opening night of “Last Work.”

Press Coverage

Newsweek

Abstract: 

The yelling and cheering could be heard more than a block away from the Brooklyn Academy of Music on Saturday evening. For an hour and a half before Batsheva Dance Company performed at BAM’s Howard Gilman Opera House, protesters gathered in support of a cultural boycott of Israel, part of the larger Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement against the country. The protesters’ signs, held high around a Palestinian flag waving in the frigid wind, featured slogans like “Don’t dance around apartheid” and “Batsheva proud ambassador of racism.”

Press Release

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. 

Document

We welcome any organizations in cities where Batsheva will be performing to endorse this letter. Please contact us.

To the Batsheva Dance Company:

We are writing as activists and artists from the North American cities you are visiting on your current tour. Palestinian civil society has issued a call for the academic and cultural boycott of Israel, modeled on the call for the boycott of apartheid South Africa. Respecting that call, we urge you to take a stand against the Israeli government’s violations of Palestinian rights. Until you do so, we will not welcome you in our cities and we will support a boycott of your performances due to your collaboration with the Israeli state.

Pages