New York, NY, September 22, 2010 – About 40 protesters gathered this evening to call upon New Yorkers to boycott the Israeli dance troupe Batsheva Dance Company during their performances at the Joyce Theater in Manhattan. Backed by the music of the radical marching band, Rude Mechanical Orchestra, demonstrators handed out programs to dancegoers and pedestrians explaining the reasons for the boycott. At least one dance patron heeded the call, giving his ticket to a protest organizer saying he was no longer comfortable seeing the performance.
In an open letter addressed to the dance company, protest organizers explain:
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.
The letter goes on to point out that Batsheva’s performances at the Joyce are co-sponsored by Office of Cultural Affairs, Consulate General of Israel in New York and that they receive money from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Joyce Theatre website describes Batsheva as “Israel’s national dance company.”
The boycott of Batsheva is a response to the Palestinian civil society call for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel which is part of the growing Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement calling for a boycott of Israeli 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.
Tonight’s demonstration comes as growing number of musicians, such as Elvis Costello, Carlos Santana, the Pixies, and Gil Scott-Heron have refused to play concerts in Israel, and just after a group of Israeli actors recently refused to perform in illegal Jewish-only West Bank settlements.
Batsheva is scheduled for a two week engagement at the Joyce from September 21 – October 3 and protest organizers say they will continue to flier outside the theater as long as Batsheva is performing. Riham Barghouti, an organizer with Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel, commented, “instead of concealing the ‘ugly’ side of Israel, artists should be protesting it. Groups like Batsheva conceal the harsh reality of Israeli Apartheid. New Yorkers should know that they are paying money to support a dance troupe that is attempting to whitewash Israel’s image, which makes them complicit in the ongoing violations of Palestinian human rights.”