NOVEMBER 18 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ANGER AT GAZA SLAUGHTER TARGETS SADLER’S WELLS
- PROTEST OVER GAZA DEATHS MOVES TO THEATRE HOSTING ISRAEL’S BATSHEVA DANCE ENSEMBLE
- BATSHEVA ACCUSED OF ACTING AS CULTURAL FIGLEAF FOR ATROCITIES
- SADLER’S WELLS BEEFS UP SECURITY IN PREPARATION FOR PRO-PALESTINE PROTESTS
- ACADEMICS CONDEMN THEATRE MANAGEMENT REFUSAL TO ENTER DIALOGUE
November 18 - Protests
at the growing Palestinian death toll caused by Israel’s bombardment of Gaza will move from outside London’s Israeli Embassy to the city’s premier contemporary dance venue at Sadler’s Wells, Islington on Monday.
A nationwide campaign
, Don’t Dance with Israeli Apartheid
, has already interrupted 11 dance performances by Israel’s Batsheva Ensemble in six cities up and down the country and is now targeting the Israeli troupe’s three planned performances at Sadler’s Wells on Nov 19, 20 & 21.
Campaigners say their protest is not directed at individual Israeli artists, but at the government which deliberately uses culture as cover for its human rights abuses and violations of international law.
“We target artistic institutions which are intrinsically linked to the Israeli state through funding and the ‘Brand Israel ’ initiative,” the campaign leaflets say. They quote an Israeli Foreign Affairs ministry spokesman outlining, in the wake of the previous onslaught on Gaza which killed more than 1300 Palestinians, its explicit intention to send abroad cultural icons to “show Israel ’s prettier face, so we are not thought of purely in the context of war.”
It receives funding from the Israeli state, Israeli arms companies and the racist Jewish National Fund which works openly to dispossess Palestinians and replace them with Jewish immigrants.
“With Israel escalating its attacks
on Gaza, killing dozens including civilians, with children among them, we intend our protests to reclaim for the Palestinians a tiny piece of the cultural and physical space which Israel has stolen from them,” said Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, cultural working group coordinator for the Boycott Israel Network
, part of the UK Don’t Dance coalition. “We do not accept that art may be used as a figleaf for killings and collective punishment of a civilian population.”
Sadler’s Wells management has emailed ticket-holders telling them to expect “groups of peaceful demonstrators” at the Batsheva Ensemble performances, with the possibility of “some form of disruption inside the venue”. Bags will be searched on arrival and people should be ready for delays, the email said.
The theatre’s chief executive and artistic director Alistair Spalding refused to meet academics from the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP
) who had asked to discuss the invitation to Batsheva with him.
Spalding insisted the Israeli company was no different from other international institutions: “the vehicle for the creative expression of their artistic directors and not .. representatives of the governments of their countries.
“I have a firm belief in cultural engagement rather than exclusion and … will present the work of choreographic artists whatever theirnationality,” Spalding said.
Prof Jonathan Rosenhead, chair of BRICUP, said that Sadler’s Wells commitment to cultural engagement seemed not to extend to dialogue with principled critics. Spalding had failed to address any of the arguments BRICUP had made, said Rosenhead.
He referred in particular to the conditions under which Palestinian culture has to operate, described by a Palestinian dancer as “ Israel ‘s three-tiered system of occupation, colonisation and apartheid [which] ruthlessly suffocates the livelihoods of Palestinian communities, including our right to artistic and cultural expression.”
BRICUP has issued an open letter to Batsheva’s Naharin, even more relevant now that Gaza is under Israeli attack, asking “What does the artistic freedom of yourself and your dancers mean, when it’s used as international cover by a state that’s essentially trying to force out the indigenous Palestinian population?”
Don’t Dance with Israeli Apartheid began its campaign with protests at performances by the main Batsheva Dance company in the Edinburgh International Festival
at the end of August , winning support from considerable Scottish cultural figures including the national poet (Makar) Liz Lochhead.
Hundreds of campaign supporters have made their presence felt at every stop on the current tour by Batsheva’s junior Ensemble, beginning in Scotland
before moving on to Manchester and Bradford
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas wrote to the Dome Theatre management reminding them that: “Israel’s sponsorship of arts and cultural events is one deliberate way in which it is actively seeking to repair the reputational damage inflicted by its treatment of Palestinians, so Palestinian civil society has called for a full cultural boycott of all cultural performers and exhibitors that are institutionally linked to the Israeli state.”
There were more protests
on November 13 & 14 in Birmingham where five protestors disrupted the performance on each of the two nights, and on the second night they managed to drop a banner from the Circle.
Demonstrators massed outside the Leicester Curve on Friday Nov 16
A performance in Leicester on Friday night attracted a hundred or more local people angered by the assault on Gaza. As in every other venue, the show was interrupted on a number of occasions by protesters calling out pro-Palestinian slogans.
After Sadler’s Wells there are two more Batsheva Ensemble tour dates, in Plymouth on Nov 23 & 24.