An Israeli apartheid dance troupe started its North America tour in Houston on Wednesday, January 28, 2009. Between then and March 1, 2009 it will go to fourteen more American and Canadian cities. That troupe, the Batsheva Dance Company, is currently scheduled to perform in Purchase, NY on January 30-31 and then it’s on to (in order): Princeton, NJ; Philadelphia, PA; Pittsburgh, PA; Chicago, IL; Columbus, OH; Ottawa, ON; Ann Arbor, MI; Minneapolis, MN; Vancouver, BC; Santa Barbara, CA; San Diego, CA; Los Angeles, CA; and New York, NY.
As I wrote in The Electronic Intifada last November, the Batsheva Dance Company has been a recipient of Israeli public financing since the 1990s. According to a report in The Independent of London, the dance company has no Arab performers and is “proud to be considered Israel’s leading ambassador.” As I also wrote, “Ohad Naharin, the dance company’s current Director, served in the Israeli army. In a 2005 interview with a Canadian newspaper, Naharin stated that ‘I continue to do my work, while 20 km from me people are participating in war crimes … the ability to detach oneself from the situation – that is what allows one to go on.’ Needless to say, the victims of Israeli ‘war crimes’ cannot avail themselves of the luxury of detachment.” It is particularly egregious that the Batsheva Dance Company is scheduled to perform in Vancouver, British Columbia as part of the 2009 Cultural Olympiad in the run up to the 2010 Olympic Games. Since when is polishing the image of a violent, racist state part of the Olympic spirit?
As Omar Barghouti, a Jerusalem-based freelance choreographer, cultural analyst, and founding member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (www.PACBI.org) said last month in The Dance Insider: No Israeli dance company “has ever taken a position calling for an end to the occupation, not to mention recognizing UN-sanctioned rights of the refugees or ending racial discrimination against the state’s ‘non-Jewish’ citizens … none of [the dance companies] has ever challenged reserve service in the occupation army, despite the fact that punishment for doing so is minimal in Israel (unlike Germany in the ’30s, say). … Those same dancers are part-time occupation soldiers, manning roadblocks, protecting colonies, evacuating homes and demolishing them, killing children and letting pregnant women die at checkpoints by preventing ambulances [from passing through], letting young bleeding youth bleed to death without medical aid, etcetera. What a bunch of liberal dancers! And what do their institutions do? Nothing.”
I urge American and Canadian Palestinian solidarity activists to use letters, petitions, leaflets, demonstrations, signs, and other nonviolent means to encourage cultural organizations and their patrons to boycott the Batsheva Dance Company and to raise awareness of Israel’s crimes and the BDS campaign to liberate the Palestinian people. Local campaigns are already well underway in Ann Arbor, Pittsburgh, Chicago, and other cities, plus the newly formed U.S. Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel is spreading the word, too. As Desmond Tutu used to say during the struggle against South African apartheid–which also employed BDS, including cultural boycotts–it’s time join the winning side, the side of justice. Today, that side is the side of the Palestinian people.
Michelle J. Kinnucan is a member of Middle East Task Force of Ann Arbor. Click here to contact her. Her writing has previously appeared in CommonDreams.org, Critical Moment, Palestine Chronicle, Arab American News, and elsewhere. Her 2004 investigative report on the Global Intelligence Working Group was featured in Censored 2005: The Top 25 Censored Stories (Seven Stories Pr., 2004) and she contributed a chapter to Finding the Force of the Star Wars Franchise (Peter Lang, 2006).