Tell Batsheva Dance Company There's No Art in Apartheid

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.

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.

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.”

PROTEST BATSHEVA AT BAM, FEBRUARY 4, 2017
6:30 to 8 p.m., BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, 30 Lafayette Ave., Brooklyn

Join us as we tell Batsheva their range of motion cannot hide their support for apartheid! With music from the Rude Mechanical Orchestra and a special performance by NYC’s own Freedom Dabka Group, we'll celebrate art for liberation – not occupation.

Batsheva director Ohad Naharin says that he believes in social justice and supports Palestinian rights, but he also calls boycotts and protests pointless, and doesn’t acknowledge the role of his dance company in the Israeli government's Brand Israel campaign, which uses art and culture to whitewash the structural realities of apartheid and occupation. 

Like Brian Eno, who recently denied Batsheva the use of his music for its Israeli embassy-sponsored performances in Italy, we cannot accept this whitewashing. If Naharin really stands against the occupation, we invite him to show us by dismantling Batsheva's complicity with it. Until then, we will be in the streets with music and dance for liberation. They whitewash, we protest – boycott, sanction, and divest!

Read our open letter to Batsheva, signed by 20 organizations in cities on Batsheva's North American tour, asking the dance company to disavow its role as a cultural ambassador of the Israeli state.

Spread the word on Facebook!

Event Location: 

Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM)
30 Lafayette Ave outside the Howard Gilman Opera House
Brooklyn , NY

Event Date: 

Saturday, February 4, 2017 -
6:30pm to 8:00pm

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