Category Archives: batsheva


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.


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


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
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.