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Ambassadors of Apartheid: Batsheva Dance Company to tour San Francisco and New York

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(Image: Nigel Parry)

In the next few weeks the Batsheva Dance Company, will perform in San Francisco and New York City. The “critically acclaimed and popularly embraced” dance troupe is in part financed by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, making the ensemble ripe for protest from BDS groups.

In New York, Adalah-NY is staging a March 7 protest at Batsheva’s Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) performance, and in San Francisco the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network is staging a demonstration at the company’s February 23 Yerba Buena Center for the Arts performance.

Last month Adalah-NY sent a letter to BAM, calling on the academy to cancel Batsheva’s forthcoming performance. The letter highlights the dance company’s role as part of “brand Israel”:

[A]n Israeli government public relations initiative which seeks to use art, including dance performances, to distract from Israel’s human rights violations. Batsheva has done nothing to distance itself from the Brand Israel campaign, nor has it ever made a public statement against the oppression of the Palestinian people.

The letter goes on to say the dance company “whiteswashes” human rights abuses against the Palestinian people:

Brand Israel initiatives such as Batsheva’s tour are designed to distract from the facts, including: Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestinian lands, the longest in history; Israel’s 223 Jewish-only settlements and ‘outposts’ built on Palestinian land in violation of international law; Israel’s ‘Apartheid’ wall in the West Bank that further appropriates Palestinian land, also in violation of international law according to the International Court of Justice; Israel’s demolition of over 24,000 Palestinian homes since 1967; and Israel’s 2009 invasion of Gaza, which killed over 1400 Palestinians, prompting allegations of war crimes by a United Nations Fact Finding Mission. In addition, Israel has enacted over 20 laws that discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel and enshrine their status as second-class citizens.

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Mock Batsheva brochure (Image: Nigel Parry)
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Reverse of mock Batsheva brochure. (Image: Nigel Parry)

Protests against the dance company are not new for the Palestine solidarity community. In 2009 Nigel Parry designed a mock brochure for the group, and signs for the restroom where attendees were asked to “wash the blood off your hands” after viewing the performance.

The Israeli dance company will tour in the North America for five weeks this spring.


Allison Deger

Allison Deger is the Assistant Editor of Follow her on twitter at @allissoncd.

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6 Responses

  1. annie on February 18, 2012, 11:31 am

    i wish there was a way of blowing up the Mock Batsheva brochure or a link to see it in a larger format.

    the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network is staging a demonstration at the company’s February 23 Yerba Buena Center for the Arts performance.

    ok, have to remember this. that’s this thursday. nothing about it on ijsn website.

    i assume it is at the same times as the performance? 8 pm

    • Allison Deger on February 18, 2012, 3:51 pm

      Annie, use the link to Nigel Parry’s website and he has a downloadable PDF that is high quality.

      • annie on February 18, 2012, 6:35 pm

        thanks allison

  2. Philip Munger on February 18, 2012, 5:28 pm

    The Batsheva Dance Company has an interesting history. Founded by Bethsabée de Rothschild and initially run by Jeannette Ordman, Rothchild’s coming under the influence of the latter apparently got Rothschild to stop helping Martha Graham financially at a time when Graham was desperate for help:

    Rothschild also brought Graham to Israel and arranged for her to work as an artistic consultant and choreographer for Bat-Dor [dance company], but after she got to know Ordman, Rothschild apparently stopped supporting Graham. One of the film’s [the documentary Jeanette] achievements is the revelation of the correspondence between Graham and Rothschild, in which the high priestess of modern dance asks for financial support – and is refused. “I desperately need your help. Otherwise it’s the end for me,” Graham wrote to her. But the baroness responded coldly that she was committed to Bat-Dor and could not be of assistance.

    Since 1990 the Batsheva company has been run by Ohad Naharin, who is one of the most highly regarded choreographers alive. His concept of the movement language called “Gaga” is a very expressive post-Graham kind of gesture technique.

    The company draws soloists from around the world. Many are not Jewish.

    It is too bad that such amazing talent has to serve the purposes of apartheid propaganda. Hopefully, the demonstrations against them in the USA and Canada will be well-planned, meaningful and helpful in terms of raising awareness of why no Israeli government-funded touring arts group can or should escape fair scrutiny.

    • Robert Werdine on February 18, 2012, 7:38 pm


      I wanted to commend you on that excellent piece on Shostakovich’s Babi-Yar symphony that you wrote on your website. I have Bernard Haitink’s excellent recording on the Decca/London label. If you don’t already have this, I highly reccomend getting it. the first and final movements are particularly distinctive. I recently got the Heifetz/Barbirolli recording of the Glazunov concerto. also has the Sibelius and Tchaikovsky concertos.

      • Philip Munger on February 18, 2012, 10:09 pm

        Thank you, Robert

        Trying to locate the Haitink DSCH 13th. I conducted the Alaska premiere of Glazunov’s violin concerto two years ago, 106 years after it had been written.

        Glazunov was confronted by Czarist authorities after the 1905 revolution. Glazunov had expanded Jewish enrollment at the St. Peterburg Conservatory, which he then ran. Paraphrasing, the authorities asked Glaz, “How many Jews do you have enrolled here?” He replied, “I don’t count.”

        Can’t wait until the Batsheva Ballet Company has so many Palestinians on its roster it doesn’t bother to count.

        Not holding my breath, though.

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