The following is an open letter to the Batsheva Dance Company from two groups organizing a boycott of its upcoming shows in New York City:
Dear Batsheva Dance Company,
We are a group of New York-based human rights activists and artists calling for a boycott of your performances at the Joyce Theater in New York City due to your collaboration with the Israeli state and its Brand Israel campaign. Launched in 2005, Brand Israel is a government public relations initiative which uses cultural productions to distract from Israel’s daily human rights violations. In 2009 Arye Mekel of Israel’s Foreign Ministry stated, “We will send well-known novelists and writers overseas, theater companies, exhibits… This way you show Israel’s prettier face, so we are not thought of purely in the context of war.” While efforts to promote a positive image of Israel abroad persist, Palestinians continue to suffer from Israeli state policies.
Here are some of the realities the Brand Israel campaign would like to distract us from: Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestinian lands is the longest in modern history. 223 Jewish-only settlements and “outposts” on Palestinian land have been built in violation of International Law. Israel has built an “Apartheid” wall in the West Bank that further appropriates Palestinian land and separates Palestinian farmers from their land. The Israel Defense Forces have demolished over 24,000 Palestinian homes since 1967 and continue to do so. The 2009 invasion of Gaza killed over 1400 Palestinians, prompting allegations of War Crimes by UN Fact Finding Mission Justice Richard Goldstone.
Even Batsheva artist director Ohad Naharin said in a 2005 interview: “I continue to do my work, while 20 km from me people are participating in war crimes….” Batsheva continues to affirm its relationship with the Brand Israel campaign, as evidenced by the funding you receive from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the co-sponsorship of your New York performances by the Office of Cultural Affairs, Consulate General of Israel in New York. The Joyce Theatre website describes Batsheva as “Israel’s national dance company.”
Because of your ties to Brand Israel and in response to the Palestinian civil society call for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, we are calling for a local boycott of your performances at the Joyce Theater in New York (Sept. 21st-Oct. 3rd 2010). The cultural boycott is part of the growingBoycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement which calls for a boycott of complicit institutions and companies until demands for equality are met, including the end to the military occupation of Palestinian land, equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel, and the right of return for refugees, which is guaranteed by UN resolution 194.
Given the continued violation of human rights faced by Palestinians at the state’s hands, it is an immediate imperative that we stand in solidarity with Palestinians. As artists and cultural workers we must take steps to resist our complicity in the crimes being committed, and to publicly renounce the state violence and repression that Palestinians continue to be subjected to every day. While some may hide behind the excuse that art is somehow apolitical, many artists of conscience are taking a stand. This includes a growing number of musicians, such as Elvis Costello, Carlos Santana, the Pixies, and Gil Scott-Heron who have refused to play concerts in Israel, as well as a group of Israeli actors who recently refused to perform in illegal Jewish-only West Bank settlements.
We hope that one day soon Batsheva will take a strong, unequivocal stance against Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and in support of justice and equality for all. Until then, we will continue to urge a popular boycott of your performances in New York City and elsewhere.