Monthly Archives: November 2012

FOOTBALL STARS RALLY IN SUPPORT OF PALESTINE

As Israel prepares to announce the draw for UEFA’s under-21 football finals in June next year, the Red Card Israeli Racism campaign has put out the following news release.
FOOTBALL STARS RALLY IN SUPPORT OF PALESTINE
+ FREDERIC KANOUTE, MOUSSA SOW, DEMBA BA, JACQUES FATY SAY UEFA IS REWARDING ISRAEL FOR “ACTIONS CONTRARY TO SPORTING VALUES”
+ MPS AND OTHER EMINENT BRITS SAY ISRAEL MUST NOT HOST UEFA UNDER 21 FINALS
Nov 27 – On the eve of the announcement in Tel Aviv of the draw for the Euro 2013 under-21 finals next June, some of the biggest names in European football have condemned Israel ’s military attack on Gaza which killed 170 people, including Palestinian boys playing football, and destroyed vital sports infrastructure.
Former Tottenham and Sevilla striker Frederic Kanoute is among those signing a statement referring to Israel’s hosting of the U-21 championship as rewarding it “for actions that are contrary to sporting values”.   (See full statement below)
On November 8, 13-year-old Ahmed Younis Khader Abu Daqqa was shot in the abdomen by the Israeli military while playing football with his friends in ‘Abassan village, east of the southern Gaza Strip town of Khan Yunis . He died in hospital shortly afterwards. Four other boys were also killed.
The Palestinian Paralympic Committee offices, along with a stadium and sports complex where the Palestine team prepared for London 2012, were among facilities wiped out by Israeli bomb attacks in the days that followed.
A number of football fixtures and gatherings have been moved because of the violence.
Pressure on UEFA to change the venue for the 2013 u-21 finals is mounting as 20 British Members of Parliament have signed a motion (EDM 640) in the House of Commons  stating:
” That this House congratulates the Football Association for its Kick It Out campaign against racism in football; registers with profound disapproval, however, that the FA is prepared to participate in the European Under-21 football tournament to be played in Israel in June 2013, even though Israel is geographically not in Europe and is a country which has policies of racial apartheid against Palestinians.”
Campaigners in a number of European centres are marking the draw in Israel on Wednesday.
Red Card Israeli Racism in Britain has handed in a petition of several thousand signatures.  along with a statement from public figures including filmmaker Ken Loach, calling on the Football Association to support a change of venue for the 2013 tournament. (Text and signatures attached).
UK campaign coordinator Geoff Lee said, “ In addition to the increasing racist violence against Arabs in Israel which is well known to UEFA , the latest attacks by Israel on the besieged people of Gaza must make the UEFA delegates rethink this issue.”
In Italy, a letter has been delivered to the Italian Football Federation calling for withdrawal of the Italian national team from the competition unless there is a change of venue. On themorning of Wednesday, November 28 a protest will be held outside the nationalheadquarters in Rome during which activists have requested a meeting with management.
NOTES FOR EDITORS:
1. ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF FRENCH LANGUAGE STATEMENT SIGNED BY :
Frederic Kanoute, Moussa Sow, Demba Ba, Jacques Faty and others
The horrific situation faced by Palestinian civilians in recent days is deeply concerning. We have learnt that on November 10 the Israeli army bombarded a sports stadium on Gaza . Four young people who were playing football were killed. Mohamed Harara and Ahmed Harara (16 and 17 years old), Matar Rahman and Ahmed Al Dirdissawi (18 years old).
We are also aware that since February 2012 two footballers with the Al Amari team, Omar Rowis (23) and Mohammed Nemer (22) are still imprisoned in Israel without trial or charge.
In the run-up to Israel hosting the UEFA Under-21 European Championship, which will reward Israel for actions that are contrary to sporting values, we as European sportspeople wish to express our regret the turmoil of recent days, the primary victim of which has been the Palestinian people.
We express our solidarity and our support for the civilian causalities. All people have the right to a life of dignity, freedom and security. The Palestinians must be protected by the rule of international law. We hope that a just peace will finally emerge – it is simply unacceptable that children are killed while they are peacefully playing football.
  2. THE STATEMENT IN FRENCH
Palestine , le sport au pied du mur
La situation subie par les civils palestiniens ces derniers jours est plus que préoccupante. Nous avons appris que le 10 novembre, l’armée israélienne a bombardé un terrain de sport à Gaza . Quatre jeunes qui jouaient au football ont été tués : Mohamed Harara et Ahmed Harara (16 et 17 ans), Matar Rahman et Ahmed Al Dirdissawi (18 ans).
Nous savons en outre que depuis février 2012, les deux joueurs de football de l’équipe d’Al Amari, Omar Rowis (23 ans) Mohammed Nemer (22 ans) sont toujours emprisonnés en Israël sans procès et sans jugement.
À la veille où Israël doit accueillir l’Euro des moins de 21 ans, se voyant ainsi récompensé alors qu’il commet des actes qui restent contraires aux valeurs du Sport, nous, sportifs européens, regrettons la situation d’embrasement de ces derniers jours qui a pour première victime le peuple palestinien. Nous exprimons notre solidarité et notre soutien aux victimes civiles. Tout peuple a le droit de vivre dignement, dans la liberté et la sécurité. Les Palestiniens ne peuvent en ce sens être exclus du droit international. Nous espérons que le droit et la justice règneront enfin, parce qu’il est inadmissible que des enfants meurent alors qu’ils jouent paisiblement au football.
Premiers signataires: Kanoute, Moussa Sow, Demba Ba, Jacques Faty
4. Events in Israel cancelled because of the violence:

5. England could host u-21 in 2013 instead of Israel

5. Statement from Ken Loach and other eminent figures calling for UEFA to move under-21 finals from Israel .
 
STATEMENT IN SUPPORT OF PALESTINIAN FOOTBALL
As football supporters we hear with concern an appeal from Mahmoud Sarsak,http://www.bdsmovement.net/2012/mahmoud-sarsak-uefa-appeal-9826 a young Palestinian national team player whose career was cut short by three years’ detention without trial in an Israeli jail.
We are aware that he regained his freedom last July 10, only after a three month hunger strike won him sympathy and support from influential voices in the football world.
Sarsak is asking us now to show our support for all Palestinians who love the beautiful game but who suffer the impact of discriminatory Israeli policies on Palestinian football and the life of the community in general.
We are disturbed by the myriad ways in which the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian West Bank and the siege of  Gaza  prevent both the development of Palestinian sport at grass roots level and its representation in international competitions. These include:
  • regulations and checkpoints that block the movement of players between Palestinian towns and villages and between  Gaza  and the  West Bank ;
  • official interference preventing the Palestinian national team from travelling abroad to train or compete and making it virtually impossible for foreign teams to attend fixtures in Palestine ;
  • restrictions on the importation of equipment, even when donated by international footballing organisations;
  • prevention of the construction of facilities.
In addition to these impediments, life under occupation entails the constant threat of detention or even death. Two  West Bank footballers, Mohammed Saedy Ibrahim Nemer and goalkeeper Omar Khaled Omar Abu Rowis, were detained in February and have been incarcerated ever since.
Four footballers were among the 1,400 Palestinians killed during the Israeli assault on  Gaza  in December 2008 – January 2009.   Even children are not exempt. On June 20 this year, twelve-year-old Mamoun Zuhdi al-Dam was killed by an Israeli warplane as he played football on land near his family home in  Gaza .
Against this background, Sarsak has drawn our attention to Palestinian dismay at UEFA’s insistence on having  Israel  host next year’s under-21 finals.
He says that staging this, or any other UEFA competition, in  Israel “is legitimising  Israel ’s continued occupation, oppression and apartheid policies. There can be no place in football for segregation and oppression so prestigious tournaments cannot be allowed to take place in  Israel .”
Taking into account the high profile given in European football to combating racism wherever it appears, we agree with Sarsak that it is inappropriate for European football’s governing body to be staging international competitions in a country responsible for systematic discrimination against Palestinians.
We therefore call upon UEFA to move the 2013 U21 finals away from  Israel  and to assure Palestinians that  Israel  will not be granted such an honour as long as its discriminatory practices continue.
Signed:
John Austin
Dr. Salman Abu Sitta
Stephen Cavalier
Jeremy Corbyn MP
Bob Crow
Rev. Garth Hewitt
Ghada Karmi
Bruce Kent,
Ken Loach
Paul Laverty
Kika Markham
Karma Nabulsi
Prof. Steven Rose
Keith Sonnet
David Thompson
Jenny Tonge
Advertisements

BRAND ISRAEL EXPOSED AS PLYMOUTH PROTESTS ROUND OFF BATSHEVA UK TOUR

One of many posters used around the country contrasting Israeli freedom of cultural expression with the injustices inflicted upon Palestinians.

The last of two nights of peaceful but noisy protest at the Theatre Royal in Plymouth, southwest England, on Saturday, rounded off almost a month of action  directed at Israel’s Batsheva Ensemble – the junior arm of world renowned Batsheva Dance Company which is hailed by Israel’s right-wing leaders as its best “cultural ambassador”.

Rain-soaked but exuberant in Plymouth.

 
Like previous protests in Edinburgh, Salford, Bradford, Brighton, Birmingham, Leicester and London, the Plymouth actions were coordinated by the Don’t Dance with Israeli Apartheid campaign, part of the cultural boycott movement which aims to expose Israel’s deliberate deployment of art as a political weapon. Israel’s slaughter of more than 160 Palestinians in Gaza as Batsheva’s tour drew to a close gave the campaign added momentum.Plymouth’s small band of Palestine solidarity activists was reinforced by others from nearby Exeter and further afield, mounting demonstrations of at least 40 outside the theatre on both nights, despite vile weather on the Saturday. There were also protests inside the venue. The demonstrations were covered by the local Evening Herald .
 

At least one prospective audience member tore up his tickets after reading a campaign leaflet

 
One local activist said Christians, Jews, Muslims and Atheists, drenched by pouring rain, all stood and shouted together for a common purpose.  “It was
joyful and spirited,” the activist said.  “The beaming face of a friend from Gaza, who was with us, was reward enough. I asked how his family were. ‘Strong’, he said. They will know in Gaza that we support them.”
 
Earlier in November organisers of protests at the Salford Lowry received a message of support and encouragement “from youth in Gaza.”
 “We in Gaza salute your tremendous efforts confronting any group supported by the Israeli apartheid regime,” the message said.  “You are our voice and you give us real hope. Please do everything to grow the movement. No longer can we entertain anyone in the name of brand Israel while the ethnic cleansing, racism and sheer brutality against our people persists everyday of our lives.”
 
During three days of protest at Batsheva’s Sadler’s Wells performances in London Nov 19-21, the company’s artistic director Ohad Naharin  was quoted in Israeli newspaper Haaretz saying he sympathised with protestors but Batsheva did not deserve to be targeted.
 

Zionists in Manchester showed that they see Batsheva as an icon for their Israeli nationalist views.

 However, indications of involvement by some pro-Israel members of the fascist English Defence league, vociferous counter demonstrations by flag-waving Israel supporters and the presence of a high proportion of Zionists in Batsheva’s audiences at every venue testify to the truth of the cultural boycott analysis – whatever the views of individuals associated with an Israeli cultural institution, as long as it does not formally renounce state funding and the cultural ambassador role, it will continue to be treated as an icon by  the state which is repressing Palestinians and will consequently encounter protests.
 
The Don’t Dance with Israeli Apartheid campaign began in Edinburgh in August when the Batsheva Dance Company appeared at the Edinburgh International Festival. The no2brandisrael website was set up and creative banners, leaflets and artwork were developed to get the Palestinian boycott message out all around the country. There was high-level support from Scottish cultural figures and excellent news coverage.
 
With the appearance of the Batsheva Ensemble, also in Edinburgh, at the end of October, the Don’t Dance coalition moved into action mobilising Boycott Israel Network and Palestine Solidarity Campaign supporters, and members of  a range of local and national faith-based, community and human rights organisations, to protest the entire tour.  
Photos: Rada Daniell
Protesters singing, handing out leaflets and engaging in conversation  with ticket holders generated considerable debate among audiences in every centre. Most were hostile but a significant number asked questions which were respectfully answered and went away better informed than before about Israel’s denial of equality, justice and freedom to Palestinians.
Interventions inside the venues have given theatre managements huge headaches and are bound to make them review any future plans to book cultural groups linked to the Israeli state.
Sadler’s Wells saw five interventions each on Monday and Tuesday, and another two on Wednesday. Security staff were often heavy-handed, dragging, grabbing, carrying and pushing people. This behaviour was reproduced in some other venues but not all.

Organisers in several centres reported positive experiences working with police, although this was not entirely true in Bradford where the Batsheva protests became  the focus for a remarkable expression of community solidarity with the people of Palestine.

 The Sadler’s Wells protests – although no bigger or more effective then elsewhere -attracted the most media interest.

This was probably partly because Sadler’s Wells is London’s prime contemporary dance venue, and partly due to the connection with protests over the Gaza onslaught.

Remarkably, BBC Radio 4 devoted 12 or more minutes of its iPM slot on Saturday afternoon to discussing cultural boycott, initially with a listener who claimed to be baffled and upset by protests targeting Batsheva, and then with Liz Lochhead, Scotland’s national poet (Makar), who has publicly backed the boycott since before the Israeli company’s appearance at the Edinburgh International Festival.
Campaign news releases sent out in advance of the Sadler’s Wells dates were quoted by the Guardian and by the London Evening Standard, which said: “The spectacle begins even before you get inside the theatre — a vocal anti-Israeli picket line against this contemporary dance company because it takes financial support from the Israeli state. “
The Evening Standard headlined its editorial comment on Nov 20  “Israel’s Gaza war and a protest too far,” echoing its own report on the same day referring to Zionist actress Maureen Lipman’s “anger after protestors disrupt show”.
This Guardian review referred to demonstrations outside and inside the performance spaces.
A BBC arts report was reasonably fair and other dance reviewers also covered the protests. 

Many pictures and YouTube clips appears on activist blogs, websites and Facebook pages.  
 
 

ANGER AT GAZA SLAUGHTER TARGETS SADLER’S WELLS

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.
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.”
Although Batsheva’s artistic director Ohad Naharin has publicly opposed Israeli policies towards the Palestinians, his company isembraced by Israel ’s far-right government as their finest cultural ambassador.
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 .
In Brighton 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.
ENDS
 
 

HUMANISING THOSE ISRAEL SEEKS TO DEMONISE

Click the caption to read the names and ages of the victims of Israel’s current assault on Gaza.
The letter below has appeared in the Guardian newspaper, along with several others commenting on the attacks. Initiated by Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, it has been signed by the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network and more than 30 individuals including actress Miriam Margolyes, comedian, author and actor Alexei Sayle, writer/musician Leon Rosselson and author Mike Marqusee. (Not all the names appear in the Guardian).

Letter to the editor
As Jewish supporters of Palestinian rights, we have once again watched in horror as Israel escalates its lethal bombardment on the civilian population of Gaza.  Numerous people including children are being killed or wounded.  Israeli casualties came only after Israel, having started the slaughter by killing a 13-year-old boy in Gaza on November 8, shattered a truce by assassinating the Gazan military leader who had negotiated it. So who is the terrorist and who wants peace?

Israel’s political-military leaders cynically escalate the conflict, trying to justify their blockade on Gaza and acting tough in the run-up to government elections. Having turned Gaza into an open-air prison, they again punish the Palestinians for electing leaders who attempt to resist the illegal Occupation.

Too much of our media, the BBC in particular, collude with the official Israeli version: that the attacks are ‘targeted’ retaliation for rockets launched from Gaza. Despite hand-wringing by some Western governments, they encourage Israeli belligerence by labelling Hamas as a terrorist organisation, supporting the Gaza siege and denying Palestinian rights, both within and outside Israel. We support the peaceful campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) designed to help achieve those rights.

UK-WIDE PRO-PALESTINE DANCE PROTEST REACHES SADLER’S WELLS AS GAZA CASUALTIES MOUNT

NEWS RELEASE
UK-WIDE PRO-PALESTINE DANCE PROTEST REACHES SADLER’S WELLS AS GAZA CASUALTIES MOUNT
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
  • ISRAEL’S BATSHEVA CHALLENGED IN ITALY AS WELL AS ALL UK VENUES
  • SADLER’S WELLS BEEFS UP SECURITY IN PREPARATION FOR PRO-PALESTINE PROTESTS
  • ACADEMICS CONDEMN THEATRE MANAGEMENT REFUSAL TO ENTER DIALOGUE
 November 15 – A nationwide campaign which has already interrupted 10 dance performances by Israel ’s Batsheva Ensemble in five cities up and down the country reached London ’s Sadler’s Wells this week, with activists saying mounting Palestinian deaths in Gaza added urgency to their protests.
Supporters of the Don’t Dance with Israeli Apartheid campaign handed leaflets to audience members entering the theatre for this week’s evening shows, explaining why there will be protests when the Israeli troupe performs there on Nov 19, 20 & 21.
“We target artistic institutions which are intrinsically linked to the Israeli state through funding and the ‘Brand Israel ’ initiative,” the leaflets said. They quote an Israeli Foreign Affairs ministry spokesman outlining 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.”
Although Batsheva’s artistic director Ohad Naharin has publicly opposed Israeli policies towards the Palestinians, his company is embraced by Israel ’s far-right government as their finest cultural ambassador.
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.
Campaigners say their protest is not directed at individual Israeli artists, but at the government which deliberately uses art as cover for its human rights abuses and violations of international law.
A group of Italian artists has written in similar vein to the artistic director of the Turin Dance festival, which is due to host the Israeli company, and there were demonstrations at Batsheva performances in Rome on November 8 & 9.
“With Israel escalating its attacks on Gaza, killing at least a dozen civilians in recent days including two little girls and a number of boys on a football field,  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.
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 their nationality,” 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,  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 inScotland  before moving on to Manchester and Bradford .
In Brighton 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 a letter from a Palestinian Christian organisation questioning the hosting of Batsheva at the Hippodrome was presented to the Bishop of Birmingham, the Right Rev. David Urquhart, who is one of the theatre’s directors. Kairos Palestine, which sent the letter, has received no reply.
.
The next  Batsheva Ensemble tour date is in Leicester on Nov 16, followed by Sadler’s Wells on November 19 to 21. The tour ends in Plymouth on Nov 24.

ISRAELI DANCE TROUPE ENCOUNTERS NATIONWIDE BOYCOTT PROTESTS

 

Posters used by Manchester campaigners at the Salford Lowry on November 2 and 3

 

Israel’s Batsheva dance company, the focus of vociferous pro-Palestinian boycott activity during the Edinburgh International Festival two months ago, continues to attract protest during a UK tour by its junior ensemble.

 

Although its artistic director Ohad Naharin is a critic of Israeli policy towards Palestine, Batsheva is hailed by the current right-wing government as its “best global ambassador” and the company is financed by Israeli arms companies, the Israeli State, and the racist Jewish National Fund which works openly to dispossess Palestinians and replace them with Jewish immigrants.

 

This is why the Don’t Dance with Israeli Apartheid campaign has mounted protests at Batsheva Ensemble shows in Edinburgh, Manchester and Bradford, with more to come in Brighton, Birmingham, Leicester, London and Plymouth. There will also be protests in Italy later this week when the Batsheva Dance Company is due to perform in Rome.

 

Every performance has met with lively demonstrations outside the theatres as well as short but effective interruptions inside. This is despite extravagant attempts by venue managers to weed out Palestine sympathizers, covertly aided – or more likely pressurised – by zealots of the StandWithUs pro Israel  propaganda outfit.

The latest protests occurred on Tuesday and Wednesday in Bradford where 100 or more Palestine sympathisers gathered outside the Alhambra theatre on each night. A member of the Green Party explained their involvement in the protests in eloquent detail.

Demonstrators have written to the West Yorkshire police complaining of unnecessarily heavy-handed policing, but there have been no arrests. There has, however, been at least one assault on a peaceful protester by a pro-Israel audience member. Campaigners are considering bringing charges.

Such is the level of Zionist exasperation at the growing support for the boycott movement, modeled on the campaigns which helped end apartheid in South Africa, they have resorted to bringing charges of “racially aggravated conduct” against protest organisers. These have been justly brushed aside by the authorities in Edinburgh but have surfaced again in Brighton where Batsheva is due to perform next week.

This is clearly part of a campaign of intimidation against people of conscience trying to draw attention to Israel’s human rights abuses and violations of international law. Having no arguments to counter their critics, Israel’s apologists take refuge in smear tactics, ignoring the fact that throwing around the charge of antisemitism where it has no foundation devalues it and desensitises the public to genuine anti-Jewish racism when it arises.

 


Norma Turner who helped organise protests at Manchester’s Lowry on November 2 and 3, said there had been many Jewish people among those on the protests there. This had defused the usual “antisemite” slurs and facilitated a great deal of positive dialogue between campaigners and people entering the theatre. Attendance seemed to be low and discounts were on offer.

 

“A number of ticket holders decided against attending the performance after hearing us explain about the cynical Brand Israel project,” said Turner.

 

Brand Israel is a PR exercise started in 2005 by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs deliberately using culture as mask to beautify Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people. The boycott divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign is Palestinian’s non-violent response.

 

Activists have been accused of behaving like hooligans but this was clearly not the view of the Lowry management, who handed out hot drinks to protesters braving a rainy and windswept November night. This was despite the fact that managers had previously refused to engage with campaigners about Batsheva’s presence.

 

In London too, where the Israeli ensemble is due to perform at Sadler’s Wells on November 19/20/21, the venue management has so far refused to engage with  academics from the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP) who have requested a meeting. BRICUP has also issued a powerful open letter to Batsheva’s Naharin.

Naharin has emailed the Don’t Dance campaign and been quoted arguing that boycott action is of no benefit to the Palestinian people. He said it was motivated by “frustration and revenge” whereas Batsheva aimed “to build not to destroy”. We need “to try and create a dialogue” to replace “conflict” in a hugely complex situation, he said.

Mick Napier, chair of Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, wrote in response  “Far from ‘conflict’ impeding dialogue with protestors, it seems that only the fear of protests … induced Naharin to communicate in August, promising to discuss with his Board and get back to Don’t Dance with Israeli Apartheid. This budding ‘dialogue’, however, was still born, possibly because Batsheva hoped vainly that protests would fizzle out.” Napier said the Don’t Dance campaign has still not had a report-back from the Batsheva board.

 

In recent correspondence with one campaigner, Naharin wrote sarcastically that people in the West Bank must be celebrating because someone shouted out during a quiet part in one of the Batsheva Ensemble performances. The truth is that yes indeed, they are. Palestinians are so desperate for the world to take note of the injustices they suffer that a voice calling out on their behalf in a dance theatre in Scotland is something to celebrate.

 

Evidence of this can be seen in a YouTube clip from a group of young women in Gaza, not a slick, professional piece of Hasbara (propaganda), such as we are constantly fed by Israel’s foreign policy and media outlets, but a heartfelt statement of stifled Palestinian cultural expression contrasting bleakly with the freedom of Batsheva’s pampered dancers.

 

For more Palestinian cultural voices speaking for themselves, see:

 

Images and sounds of Gaza’s vibrant subculture in “Not a dreamland”

Remi Kanazi video debuts blistering new poem against the injustice of normalization

 

RAFEEF ZIADEH performs “Shades of Anger” and “We Teach Life, Sir”

 

There have been a few media reports of the Batsheva protests.

 Morning Star

Salford Star

This one avoids the underlying issues entirely:

 

 

 

 

TRAUMA IN THE DRESS CIRCLE – WHY BATSHEVA BOYCOTT CONTINUES

Cultural boycott is controversial, sensitive and difficult, there is no doubt about that. So when a member of the public – a drama teacher who was intending to take a group of students to one of this month’s performances in the UK by Israel’s Batsheva dance ensemble – wrote to campaigners pleading that protesters should “stay away from this dance performance” and “not scare and scream in the faces of these young people”, we were at pains to give a full and respectful answer.

Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi replied as follows:

Thank you for contacting us regarding your concerns about planned protests focusing on Israel’s Batsheva Ensemble.

I am responding as the Boycott Israel Network’s cultural working group coordinator and national secretary of Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, as well as someone who loves and regularly attends dance performances.

I do not know what your sources are for your reading about our campaign, but we are not, as you suggest, people “who could not care less about dance”. On the contrary, we care very much about dance being used cynically to cast a veil over the actions of a government which is anything but artistic in its discriminatory violence against Palestinians. Israel runs a well-funded campaign called Brand Israel which is specifically designed to exploit culture as a distraction from its crimes. The intended message is “Look at our beautiful dancers, ignore our bombs and tanks.”

It’s good to know that you agree with the “basic human right of being able to protest and voice an opinion.” I applaud the fact that you have looked into the appalling situation of the Palestinian people and that you appreciate that they are victims of many atrocities. In that case you must surely know that Palestinian artists and performers suffer from these atrocities at least as much as other members of their community.

Their ability to express themselves through art and culture is severely curtailed – indeed it is deliberately suppressed by the Israeli authorities who use every measure from administrative regulation to extreme violence to prevent Palestinian self-expression. I attach some references pertaining to this (*).

You may also wish to look at the website of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) which explains their call for people of conscience around the world to mount solidarity campaigns such as ours.

Let me assure you we have no wish to deprive GCSE students of the chance to “see a piece of excellent dance so that they can write about it for their GCSE exam”. There are, fortunately for us, untold opportunities in the UK for dance-lovers to have such experiences. This is not the case for Palestinian young people, although Israeli youngsters do not lack for such opportunities.

If you are worried about the trauma your students might suffer by being exposed to someone unfurling a banner or calling out a slogan at a Batsheva performance, may I suggest you give them access to the ample materials explaining why the people of Palestine have called for such actions – not least the daily trauma experienced by Palestinian children such as the students of Hebron attacked by stone-throwing fundamentalist Jewish settlers acting under the protection of Israeli troops, or the children of Bedouin families in the Negev whose homes are constantly being demolished, or the children of Gaza, under siege since 2006 and at the mercy of Israeli bombing raids.

You ask why we do not protest at a Russian ballet performance. I might ask you the same question, but to respond seriously – if an oppressed people comparable with the Palestinians, with no other non-violent means of drawing attention to 60 years of dispossession and injustice, were calling on us to adopt this form of protest on their behalf against cultural institutions linked to the Russian state, we would have no hesitation in doing so. Maybe you are not aware that supporters of Israel adopted just such tactics against the Bolshoi Ballet and other Soviet cultural institutions as part of their campaign to persuade Moscow to let dissident Jews emigrate to Israel in the 1970s and ’80s.

We are thoroughly well acquainted with the personal views of Ohad Naharin, the artistic director of Batsheva, but these do not prevent the most right-wing government Israel has ever had embracing Batsheva as “our best global ambassador”. You can see an analysis of Batsheva’s position here.

If you wish to explore these issues further, and give your students an unprecedented opportunity to consider the many complex ways in which art and politics interact, I would be happy to introduce you to well-informed human rights campaigners in your area who they could meet for a discussion.

(*) Palestine, culture and politics – questions for students of the performing arts to consider (Suggestions from Miranda Pennell)

1) Can ethics be separated from aesthetics?

Consider the early European modern dance of Kurt Joss (The Green Table) and Mary Wigman, or the post-modern works of Yvonne Rainer (Trio A: The Mind is Muscle) to the ‘politics of perception’ attributed to Merce Cunningham by dance scholar Roger Copeland.

2. Examine the two essays on Palestine in:

Dance, Human Rights, and Social Justice: Dignity in Motion [Paperback]

Naomi Jackson (Editor), Toni Shapiro-Phim (Series Editor)

The first essay, ‘Roadblock’ by Maysoun Rafeedi, is short, direct and perhaps suitable for evoking for a young person the context of dance in Palestine from the perspective of a young dance teacher.

3. Explore Israel’s appropriation of Palestinian ‘Dabke’ folk dance in the 1940s and 50s as a Jewish Israeli dance, ‘Debke’. It has now been reclaimed with a popular resurgence of Dabke in Palestine, transforming a simple wedding dance into a form of cultural resistance in the face of decades of dispossession.

4. Read and discuss:

Raising Dust: A Cultural History of Dance in Palestine, by Nicholas Rowe

HERE IS THE TEXT OF THE LETTER TO WHICH THE ABOVE IS A REPLY, WITH IDENTIFYING FEATURES REMOVED.

I am a Head of Drama … planning a school trip to see the Batsheva dance company. Whilst I completely agree with the basic human right of being able to protest and voice an opinion, I believe your protests are so far removed from what is acceptable for this performance.
I am taking 30 young students (between 13 and 16) to see what is going to be an outstanding piece of dance and from what I have read, we should be preparing ourselves for a night of constant interuption from members of the audience who could not care less about dance.
You may call us ignorant for not fully understanding the situation. However, I am fully aware that the Dance company has received money from the Israeli government and, having visited and done extensive research on the atrocities on the Palestinians, I believe I am in a situation where I can safely say that what you are about to stage at Brighton is
appaulling.
These students I am taking are young, impressionable people who want to see a piece of excellent dance so that they can write about it for their GCSE exam. Who are you to deprive them of this? By scaring them with your banners and loud shouts, you are not only jeopardising their experience, but you are using the wrong platform to express your opinion.
This is DANCE- a piece of excellently choreographed physical theatre from dancers from all around the world. Why not protest at Miriinski’s ballet? Surely you have heard of Putin’s human right abuse in Russia?!
The director of Batsheva (if you had bothered to read anything at all about the Dance piece) isn’t even in agreement with his Israeli government.
 To conclude, I urge you to please stay away from this dance performance. To let us watch and enjoy the show so that the students can write about it afterwards. To not scare and scream in the faces of these young people, who will not support you, but will be quite frightened of the commotion.
END OF LETTER