On Saturday, February 4, New Yorkers will protest Batsheva Dance Company’s evening performance at Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) due to their role as a cultural ambassador for the Israeli government. The protest will call for a boycott of Israeli cultural institutions like Batsheva that are complicit in Israel’s human rights violations.
Human rights advocates will celebrate Palestinian cultural resistance with a street performance of Palestinian folk dance by the Freedom Dabka Group. Other dancers will explore the themes of the Last Work, the piece Batsheva will be performing that evening. The Rude Mechanical Orchestra will provide musical accompaniment to songs and chants.
Batsheva is part of “Brand Israel,” an Israeli government initiative to use art and culture to show “Israel’s prettier face,” and divert attention from Israeli repression. Batsheva Dance Company has consistently been identified by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs as one of Israel’s greatest cultural ambassadors. Their 2017 North American tour is supported by the Office of Cultural Affairs at Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and sponsored by Israeli Consulate Generals in Toronto and Western Canada and the Pacific Northwest, and the Israeli Embassy in Canada. Batsheva’s 2014 US tour was also supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Khaled Qatamesh, the Director of El-Funoun, one of the best-known Palestinian dance troupes, explained, “We are asking the international community to support the rights of Palestinians artists struggling under an apartheid regime by upholding the boycott of Israeli cultural institutions like Batsheva that are part of Brand Israel.”
In addition to the New York protest, the US Palestinian Community Network in Chicago and its allies protested Batsheva’s January 27 performance there. Human rights advocates fromVoices for Palestine and NorthWest BDS Network plan to protest Batsheva’s February 11performance in Seattle. QUIT (Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism) will protest at a Batsheva performance in San Francisco. Batsheva has been protested in New York and other cities in years past, and in 2016 musician Brian Eno told them to stop using his music due to their partnership with the Israeli government.
Twenty-one groups from cities on Batsheva’s current North American tour have signed onto a January 19 open letter to Batsheva, calling on it to cut its ties with the Israeli government and refuse to participate in Brand Israel The letter states, “If [Batsheva artistic director and choreographer] Ohad Naharin stands against the occupation, as he says he does, we invite him to show this by ending Batsheva’s complicity with it. We ask that you disavow your role as Ambassador of the State.” Batsheva did not respond to the letter.
The New York protest is organized by Adalah-NY: The NY Campaign for the Boycott of Israel, which supports the Palestinian civil society call for people of conscience to use boycott, divestment, and sanctions to pressure Israel to comply with international law. The action is part of Adalah-NY’s cultural boycott campaign, which also includes a letter to PEN America, signed by over 200 notable literary figures, calling on it to reject Israeli government sponsorship for its World Voices Festival in April.