Touring Israeli ballet company has no Palestinian dancers

on 28 Comments
Several BDS groups, including Adalah-NY here, have called for boycott of the Israel Ballet’s tour to Florida and the Northeast this month. The groups say that the ballet is part of the government’s rebranding campaign–
The Israel Ballet, which receives around $1 million annually from the Israeli government, is being advertised as a cultural ambassador of the state by the Israeli Consulate in New York. The dance group also boasts holding “special performances” for Israeli soldiers.

and say that the ballet never condemns the occupation, and also make this argument, which is especially compelling:

[Ballet founder Berta] Yampolsky continued, “We don’t care what religion or nationality you are, as long as you are a good person.” Yet none of the dancers, board members, or staff listed on the Israel Ballet website are Palestinian, though Palestinians comprise 20% of Israel’s citizenry. Furthermore, the Israeli government systematically discriminates against Israel’s Palestinian citizens, including providing less funding for Palestinian citizens’ cultural and educational activities. Palestinian artists in occupied Gaza and the West Bank fare even worse. The Ramallah-based Palestinian dance troupe, El-Funoun, must continuously contend with Israel’s ongoing occupation, and its members have faced military roadblocks, military curfews, random arrests, injury, performance closures and travel bans.

That’s not fair. That’s redolent of Jim Crow days. And certainly doesn’t seem very democratic.

28 Responses

  1. yonira
    February 8, 2010, 12:50 am

    This is like the “there are not enough Jews in the NFL” argument.

    • Chaos4700
      February 8, 2010, 12:57 am

      In what way does this resemble an absurd strawman argument that none of us are likely to have ever actually heard in our lifetimes?

      • Koshiro
        February 8, 2010, 4:43 am

        This actually piqued my curiosity now, though. How many Jews are there in the NFL (counting players, coaches, staff etc.)?
        I mean, Jews make up ~2% of the US population. So are there less than 2% Jews in the NFL? Less than one in 50, in other words?

    • Avi
      February 8, 2010, 5:00 am

      Perhaps no Palestinian is interested in joining an “Israeli ballet group” as such a group represents Israel, its government and its people, all of whom discriminate against the Palestinian minority and treat it as invisible. After all, Israel is a “Jewish state”, everyone else can go **** themselves.

      So, who would want to be on stage representing an apartheid/Jim Crow state?

      At least the US of yesteryear did not have a national anthem, a flag, and other official symbols that excluded African Americans by default.

      Do you think Palestinians will see the day when Israeli school textbooks mention massacres such as Deir Yassin, in the same way American school textbooks acknowledge massacres of Native Americans.

      And then Yonira can perhaps come back and wax poetic about Jews in the NFL.

      No Jews in the NFL, but there is 24/7 mention of the Holocaust on the History Channel and many school districts are closed on Jewish holidays.

      But, then again, no Jews in the NFL.

    • aparisian
      February 8, 2010, 5:43 am

      yonira, why do you constantly deny the reality of Apartheid Israel? Even Ehud Barak recognised Israel as an apartheid state. Yonira Support BDS now its all about ending Apartheid regimes!

    • potsherd
      February 8, 2010, 10:59 am

      Why, because Palestinian dancers aren’t good enough, of course! Good for you, yonira, you cut right to the quick with the first slice.

  2. Chaos4700
    February 8, 2010, 12:57 am

    Goebbels had nothing on what Israel’s PR machine does, had he? Imagine a professional sports team in the United States that had all white players. Would that fly?

    I continue to find it shocking that people who support Israel can’t be bothered to turn around and take a look at what they’re standing in front of and defending.

    • Avi
      February 8, 2010, 5:07 am

      The people who can’t be bothered to turn around and look are the same people who would love it if they could follow Israel’s suit and do the same in the North America or Europe, especially in North America.

  3. hanthala
    February 8, 2010, 1:23 am

    I read the press release – how about this comment from founder/director Berta shortly after the attacks on Gaza:

    “Luckily, right now we don’t have to worry about war: despite our problems, this is a safe place; there’s no crime, and you don’t have to be afraid at night.”

    ? I mean seriously…

  4. otto
    February 8, 2010, 2:59 am

    It’s the tour of the whites-only Cape Town ballet company circa 1977. Mixed in with the art, it’s also a festival of bigotry. Even if the dancers and organisers are ‘liberals’.

  5. Richard Parker
    February 8, 2010, 3:52 am

    Don’t let the niggers in.

    The Ramallah-based Palestinian dance troupe, El-Funoun, must continuously contend with Israel’s ongoing occupation

    • Avi
      February 8, 2010, 5:04 am

      It gets uglier than that.

      When Palestinian or Arab artists try to get their work and films into festivals like the New York film festival, Witty and his Brooklyn friends take to the streets of NY crying “anti-Semitism”, waving Israeli flags, and eventually succeeding in pressuring the organizers to prohibit any Palestinian or Arab from participating.

      • Cliff
        February 8, 2010, 6:43 am

        Wasn’t there a Palestinian female director who was strip-searched after she had won an award at some European film festival? The Israeli authorities even confiscated her award for a short time.

      • Richard Parker
        February 8, 2010, 9:59 am

        No that was probably Mohammed Omer
        read this: link to (all of it)
        and if you don’t get very angry indeed, then you shouldn’t be posting here.

      • Cliff
        February 8, 2010, 12:09 pm

        I’m aware of that story, but there was a female director. I’ve seen her picture with George Clooney at the film festival in question. On her way back home, she was harassed by Israeli authorities.

      • Cliff
        February 8, 2010, 5:49 pm

        Another example:

        link to

        From 1993

        At a National Press Club briefing just hours before Palestinian journalist Taher Shriteh was presented the club’s 1993 Freedom of the Press award, Executive Director Dana Bullen of the World Press Freedom Committee told journalists, ”Israelis in the U.S. tried to intimidate the National Press Club’s selection committee.”

        As it turned out, members of both the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). which nominated Shriteh, and the National Press Club’s Freedom of Information Committee, which selected him, were contacted by diplomats from the Israeli Embassy in Washington and Israel’s Consulate General in New York. They expressed concern that a Palestinian journalist might be selected for the award.

        Who is Taher Shriteh that he should arouse such admiration among American journalists and cause such consternation among Israeli officials? He is a 32-year old Palestinian Reuters correspondent. He also is a stringer (meaning he is paid for articles or reports actually used) for The New York Times, the Associated Press, the Voice of America. BBC, CBS, and the Jerusalem Post. Further, he was the only correspondent working during the first days of the intifada. in December 1987, in Israeli-occupied Gaza, where life is so difficult that Western journalists stay for only brief periods, if they visit at all.

        ”Taher Shriteh. . . is being recognized for continuing to report on the intifada despite harassment by the Israeli government,” the National Press Club’s release on Freedom of Information Day stated.

        ”Shriteh has been incarcerated by Israeli authorities at least twice in the past two years for his work: In 1991, he was jailed for reporting translations of handbills distributed by supporters of the intifada, and in December 1992 he was jailed and nearly deported for reporting an anonymous call from a terrorist group claiming responsibility for the killing of three Israeli soldiers.”

        Jon Healey, Chairman of the National Press Club’s Freedom of Information Committee, told the Washington Report that in early January 1993 he received a call from a woman who identified herself as an official of the Israeli Embassy’s press office. ”Is there a Palestinian who is getting an award?” she asked.

        Because he had not yet received the nominations for the award from the Committee to Protect Journalists, Mr. Healey was understandably taken aback that an Israeli official knew more about the progress of the nominations than did Press Club officials. Healey had heard, moreover, that a colleague on the Press Club “Morning Newsmaker” committee had received a similar call from an Israeli official.

        When Mr. Healey expressed some irritation to his Israeli caller, however, she replied, ”We are not trying to interfere.”

        “We felt somebody was trying to interfere in the process,” Mr. Healey said, in describing his reaction and that of other committee members. “We thought it was very inappropriate.”

        At about the same time, Avner Gidron, Research Associate for the Middle East and North Africa department of the Committee to Protect Journalists, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization founded in 1981 to monitor and promote freedom of the press, also received a call from an Israeli official.

        “They expressed concern,” Mr. Gidron told the Washington Report. “They wanted to know the reasons why we’d nominated him. They implied they were upset. I clarified the reasons.”

        Two days later, the man called Mr. Gidron again. During that call, Gidron said, ”He did begin to convey that there is cause for Israel to be concerned.”

        The Israelis apparently had learned that Shriteh was under consideration when he applied for a permit to travel to the U.S. to accept the award in the event that he was chosen. When asked whether CPJ had ever received calls like this before, Gidron replied, “The Israelis usually have a better sense of PR than this.”

        At a briefing before he received the award, Taher Shriteh described to Washington reporters how Israeli occupation officials tried to snuff out his career. In the early days of the intifada, an Israeli commander saw him standing with CBS Television correspondent Bob Simon. The commander asked Shriteh, ”Are you a journalist?”

        When Shriteh answered yes, the commander responded, “How dare you?” and arrested him on the pretext that he had been telling shopkeepers to close their shops. Soon after, the Israelis raided his home and confiscated his papers, including his contact list. They also smashed his camera.

        During the Gulf war, the Israelis arrested him again in his home. This time they threw a burlap sack over his head and took him to the Gaza Central Prison, known by Palestinians and Israelis alike as ”the slaughterhouse.” There he spent 38 days in solitary confinement. During the first days he was systematically deprived of sleep and not allowed to use the bathroom. He lost 33 pounds.

        He was charged with four crimes: 1) possession of a fax machine; 2) use of a fax machine; 3) publishing a book without a license; and 4) failure to report to the Israelis on Palestinian activists. He was released on $5,000 bond only after pressure was applied by foreign media organizations and Israeli human rights groups.

        I wonder how many of these incidents have happened?

        Israel reminds me of that creepy father from Germany, who shut his daughter in the basement for 25 years.

        Just like how they purposefully de-developed Gaza’s economy – Zionists WANT Palestinians to stay oppressed and suffering.

        I think Amira Hass summed the situation up perfectly as an on-going rape, that began with the Nakba.

      • Eva Smagacz
        February 8, 2010, 7:33 pm

        You probably think of Cherien Dabis who’s film Amreeka won FIPRESCI award at Cannes Film Festival in 2009. It was first ever Arab-American film to be distributed in USA. She was first strip searched as an eight year old when visiting family in West Bank.

        Or you could be thinking of AnneMarie Jacir, who was not allowed to participate in screening of her own film in Ramallah, and was refused permission to get home via Allenby Bridge with the reason stated that “she was spending too much time there”.

        Or it could have been Najwa Najjar…..

      • Cliff
        February 8, 2010, 8:14 pm

        not sure, i recall seeing a picture of her and George Clooney.

        She had won an award, and on her way back to Israel, it was taken away by Israeli authorities for a time.

  6. jimby
    February 8, 2010, 9:34 am

    Daniel Barenboim and the late Edward Said sponsored music camps for Israelis and Palestinians. It is a successful venture and the kids learn about each other through mutual endeavor. I imagine it would be a huge step to have such a dance camp. Dancing is about physical touching. I imagine the Orthodox would go postal over such a project. Think of the US pre equal rights and try to imagine a male dancer holding a “white” woman.

  7. Richard Parker
    February 8, 2010, 10:20 am

    jimby Daniel Barenboim and the late Edward Said sponsored music camps for Israelis and Palestinians.

    This kind of thing is nice, but doesn’t do much. Israeli and Palestinian kids wouldn’t hate each other so much, if their parents could talk to each other

    • jimby
      February 8, 2010, 10:47 am

      Richard P, these young adults grow up. Yes it is nice and not enough, but it is something. Since Said died, I understand Daniel Barenboim is continuing the program. He has great long time standing in the classical music world and I only hope that so many Jews are aware of this.

      “The West-Eastern Divan was established in 1999 as the product of Barenboim’s deep friendship with Said. It takes its name from a cycle of poems by the 19th-century German poet Goethe, which were inspired by – and modelled on – Persian verse forms. A fusion of idealism and music, it brings together young musicians from Israel, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt to create one harmonious whole. After Edinburgh, Barenboim will take it to perform in Ramallah, the West Bank town besieged by Israeli forces in 2002, for another public performance. Although he refuses to believe in hope, his belief in the power of music to transcend the limitations of humanity is unconquerable.

      “There is so much lack of understanding in the world,” he says. “The future of the two peoples, Israelis and Palestinians, is connected, and it is a symmetrical problem: they do not understand each other’s narrative. They have to know the future is living side by side. There is no way the Israelis can make the Palestinians disappear; nor can the Palestinians make Israel go away.”

      • Walid
        February 9, 2010, 10:36 am

        Jimby, Richard Parker is maybe on to something that you missed in your admiration of Barenboim. It seems that there is more to the apparent glitter and humanism of this great musician. Barenboim has been been making some creepy declarations in the past few months that are exposing him as less of a friend to the Palestinians. Here are some extracts from a Jews Sans Frontières Blog article by Raymond Deane, a composer and political activist that show Barenboim and the venerated Edward Said in a different light:

        … Unfortunately, while Barenboim professes faith in the axiom that “everything is connected”, the score written by Zionism is premised on “estrangement and alienation”, in the words of the anti-Zionist eco-socialist Joel Kovel.[7] Barenboim buys into the Zionist narrative all along the line. “The Arab population of Palestine had been unsympathetic toward Jewish immigration from the very beginning”, he tells us, as if the indigenous Jewish population hadn’t been equally suspicious of Zionist colonisation – to call it by its proper name. The totalitarian “military rule” imposed by Israel on its Palestinian minority during the early years of statehood was “abominable”, admittedly, but “necessary for its self-preservation”. The renaming of Arab streets after Israeli generals represents “at best thoughtlessness and insensitivity… and at worst an utter lack of strategy in dealing with the question of Arabs in Israel”, rather than a symbolic linchpin of Zionist conquest and dispossession…

        …In the midst of Israel’s “Operation Cast Lead”, the onslaught on Gaza beginning in December 2008 that led to the killing of some 1400 Palestinians, Barenboim wrote a newspaper article that, while critical of the carnage, similarly repeated a number of Zionist propaganda tropes.[8] Hamas is “a terrorist organisation”, rather than a legitimate resistance movement, and must “realise that its interests are not best served by violence”, although this offensive followed the Israeli breach of a ceasefire long maintained by Hamas. The war in Palestine is “a conflict between two peoples who are both deeply convinced of their right to live on the same very small piece of land”, not a brutal colonial assault by a powerful state on a virtually imprisoned civilian population. Of course “it is self-evident that Israel has the right to defend itself”, a truism that, except possibly for the 1973 “Yom Kippur” war, has never had any bearing on Israel’s relentlessly belligerent actions against its neighbours…This article almost certainly played a role in causing the cancellation of Barenboim’s projected attendance at an opera performance in Ramallah in July 2009, lest it be disrupted by demonstrations. Once again Amira Hass had her finger on the pulse: “The bulk of dissent across Ramallah was not just over the performance, but over the very existence of the Barenboim-Said Foundation”.[9]

        …Already in 2004 Barenboim stated that “[a]n hour of violin lessons in Berlin is an hour where you get people interested in music. But an hour of violin lessons in Palestine is an hour away from violence and fundamentalism…”[10] This insulting formulation led the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music (ESNCM) to decline any further funding from the Foundation.

        Full article:
        link to

      • Tuyzentfloot
        February 9, 2010, 4:55 pm

        jimby, I think it’s misleading to describe the problem as one of mutual misunderstanding or as a symmetrical conflict. It’s a kind of safe golden mean position newspapers like to take. But there is no symmetry.

        I will accept that Baremboim means well and does well for those directly involved, but the political message is counterproductive.

  8. Walid
    February 9, 2010, 9:42 am

    We are making an issue out of nothing. Until a qualified Palestinian ballet dancer gets rejected by the Israeli ballet company, there is nothing to discuss here. The only Google trace of any Palestinian remotely interested in ballet is of a talented teenager in the Galilee, Ayman Safieh that got to dance with the Russians. CNN did a piece on him and his Jewish coach a few months back: link to

    Regrettably in the report, he is not referred to as a Palestinian-Israeli but as an Arab; clearly a political statement endorsed by CNN.

    • Cliff
      February 9, 2010, 9:49 am

      The point should be whether Palestinians are allowed to move freely without Israeli harassment. In that case, this article is relevant.

      Who cares about the semantics of the issue?

      The point is whether Palestinians can have a normal life. They can’t. Israelis can. Israel prevents Palestinians from developing.

  9. Walid
    February 9, 2010, 11:04 am

    Cliff, no argument on that from me; Palestinians are prisoners in their own land. I was only stressing that we are discussing the unfairness of not having Palestinian-Israeli dancers in an Israeli national ballet companywithout having considered whether or not there are any Palestinian ballet dancers around and if they are interested in dancing for the company but are being barred from joining. We could just as well be discussing why there aren’t any Palestinians in the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. I just checked the names of the current 100+ members in it and none had a Palestinian-sounding name.

  10. Cliff
    February 11, 2010, 5:16 pm

    Hey guys, I was looking for a BDS thread to bump with this important quote from MLK…

    I think it sums up the ‘liberal’ Zionist mentality perfectly and refutes a lot of the mounds of hasbara verbiage devoted to Palestinian non-violent resistance. BDS, for example.

    I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;” who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.”

    Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

    — Martin Luther King, Letter from Birmingham Jail, 16 April 1963.

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