by Eric Herschthal
Ticket holders for Batsheva Dance Company”s show in Brooklyn last Thursday got another dance for free. More than twenty protestors staged an Arabic folk dance called dabke, chanted anti-Israel slogans, and held up signs with phrases like “Batsheva, Proud Ambassador of War Crimes” as part of a new focus to boycott Israeli cultural groups.
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, or PACBI, shifted its focus to Israeli cultural organizations from its usual focus on universities as part of this year”s Israel Apartheid Week, which ended on Sunday.
Batsheva, Israel”s premier dance company, was a convenient target since the company”s four-day stay at the Brooklyn Academy of Music overlapped with the weeklong event. Israel Apartheid Week is now in its fifth year with over forty cities participating. But protests have followed Batsheva since it began its North American tour in January, with anti-Israel events held outside performance spaces from Los Angeles to Ann Arbor, Minneapolis to Houston.
Batsheva”s artistic director, Ohad Naharin, said that he disagrees with Israel”s policies in the Palestinian territories, but that his work is apolitical. “I oppose the violence and in my work I think I teach something else,” Naharin said in a press statement last week. “I think artists represent something that is usually missing in politics, which is the search for solutions. So I recommend to leave the artists alone.”
Despite similar declarations made by Naharin in the past, protesters have adopted PACBI”s line, which is that by not explicitly condemning Israel he and his troupe are complicit. “They actually are political,” said Lubna Ka”aabneh, an organizer of the protest at BAM. “They are Israel”s best ambassadors. They can say they”re apolitical all day, but they are supported by the Israeli government.”
The protests began about an hour before Batsheva”s Thursday night performance, with blue wood-plank police blockades set up across the street from the entrance to the BAM opera house, where Batsheva performed. Several protesters waived large Palestinian flags while a speaker blared pulsating Arabic dance music.
Protestors locked arms and skipped back and forth as part of the dabke dance, with others simply holding up placards or joining in a chant led by a rapper. “Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions, say!” the rapper shouted in a call-and-response. Other lyrics included “Israel you should be ashamed” and “AIPAC”s lobbyists are robbin” us.”
While the Brooklyn protests were linked to Israel Apartheid Week, PACBI began targeting Batsheva in December, when Israel invaded Gaza. Omar Barghouti, a Palestinian, PACBI founder, and choreographer himself, began circulating articles online, which said dance companies were just as complicit in Israeli wars even if their individual members personally denounced them.
In an interview with the dance writer and boycott supporter Paul Ben-Itzak, published in the online magazine Dance Insider, Barghouti said that the company operated on “an even deeper level of complicity. Those same dancers are part-time occupation soldiers…killing children and letting pregnant women die at checkpoints.”
The PACBI boycott call quickly circulated on the Internet and helped initiate grassroots protests at Batsheva shows across the country. At a University of California, Los Angeles performance two weeks ago, for instance, 50 protestors reportedly showed up for a silent vigil. Protestors wore all black, spray-painted baby shoes red, and held signs that said: “400 Children of Gaza will not dance, because Israel killed them.”
According to Arye Mekel, Israel”s former consul general in New York and now deputy director general for cultural and scientific affairs at Israel”s foreign mnistry, “The Batsheva tour was very successful, and sold out, many weeks in advance. The “boycott” had no effect at all.”
In New York, Israel-related cultural events have increasingly drawn controversy . In 2006, “My Name is Rachel Corrie,” a play critical of Israel, was canceled by its original host, the New York Theater Workshop, after a public outcry over its content. The same theater announced last month, however, that it may now stage another play critical of Israel, “Seven Jewish Children: A Play for Gaza,” by the noted British playwright Caryl Churchill.
When asked if Palestinian artists should be subject to the same scrutiny as Israeli ones, a protestor at BAM, Ryvka Bar Zohar, said the comparison was unfair. “Palestinians don”t have a chance to make a political stance, because they don”t have a chance to be a part of the political process.” She said that Hamas, which was voted into power in Gaza, could not be considered legitimate because the group has been ostracized by Western governments.
One ticket holder expressed bewilderment as to why anyone would protest a dance show. “I mean it”s an arts organization. You”d think they would be the best ones for a cross cultural dialogue,” said Nell Breyer, standing outside in the cold, wet night just minutes before the show. Another guest, Elyse Aarnoff, took issue with the protesters after one of them handed her a glossy pamphlet she thought was a program. “They have every right to protest,” she said, defiantly. “They can”t do it where they”re from.”
LA Times Photo of USACBI Protest of Batsheva at UCLA
USACBI’s Batsheva Protest at UCLA
Photographs from the protest at UCLA. The posters and banners on clothesline were made by Edie Pistolesi, with the help of her students; these b&w posters were made by Emma Rosenthal of Cafe Intifada, a cultural group. All the photos were taken by Marvin A. Gluck, except one, which was taken by Samir Twair for Washington Report for Middle East Affairs.
Protesters speak out against Israeli incursion into Gaza
Published: Monday, March 2, 2009
Approximately 50 people protested outside Royce Hall at the performance of Israel”s Batsheva Dance Company on Saturday night in hopes of drawing attention to the recent Israeli incursion into Gaza.
The protest was organized by the recently created U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, which saw its membership rise from 15 to more than 230 academics since its inception in January. The demonstrators were mostly professors, but many students participated as well.
“There were repeated efforts to initiate the boycott, but it was not taking off. This last Gaza incursion pushed people over the edge,” said Sherna Berger Gluck, an organizing committee member and professor emeritus of women”s studies and history at California State University, Long Beach.
“I believe that this was a massacre. A horrible, huge, monstrous massacre,” said Edie Pistolesi, an organizing committee member and art professor at Cal State Northridge, referring to the most recent activity in Gaza.
According to Palestinian officials, some 1,300 Palestinians – at least half of them civilians – were killed in the Israeli military incursion that began in late December. Thirteen Israelis were also killed, three of them civilians.
Organizing committee member Dennis Kortheuer, who is Jewish, of Cal State Long Beach said that during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War he thought Israel was “a David against a Goliath.” It was not until 1991 when he visited the Palestinian territory as a student to assess the situation for himself that his opinion changed when he encountered many roadblocks and saw that some of the villages were closed off to any access at all.
“It was like a siege,” Kortheuer said.
While some of the concertgoers expressed sympathies with the Palestinian position, many still disagreed with the dance concert as a forum for a protest.
“There”s not a black or white view on this. They”ve both wronged each other horribly on this. But (the dancers) don”t have anything to do with government officials making decisions,” said concertgoer Emmaly Wiederholz.
Wiederholz said the protest just appealed to people”s emotions without actual substance. She questioned the accuracy of the protesters” claim that 400 children died.
Others expressed frustration with the protesters.
“It really pisses me off as a Jewish girl,” said Judith Flex, a concertgoer. “If the Palestinians were the performers here, Israelis won”t be demonstrating against their culture. If they”d stop doing things like this they”d have their country by now,” Flex said.
Protesters disagreed that the dance performance was an inappropriate place to express their opinions.
“People feel that you can separate art and politics. But you can”t,” said Christine Browning, a program assistant at USC.
Many of the protesters maintained that the Batsheva Dance Company described themselves as Israel”s leading ambassador.
Ohad Naharin, artistic director and choreographer of Batsheva Dance Company, recently told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that if the protests are “against the abuse of power by the Israeli army in the (Gaza) war,” and “the occupation … I agree … on both of those things.”
Pistolesi said she thought the protest was actually true public art and a visual expression of a tragedy.
“Art is about culture, politics and life,” Pistolesi said, “whether you”re looking at a Vermeer or a peace poster.”
Some protesters saw the demonstration not only as a political statement but also as the beginning of a dialogue and forum for discussion.
“The American public has a lot to learn. People are starting to understand that something is not right,” said Paul Hershfield, assistant director of the Campaign to End Israeli Apartheid.
Several of the protesters insisted that Israel acts outside of international law.
“We want to let the Batsheva group know that we”re not going to treat Israel as a civilized country. Israel is a rogue state,” said Yael Korin, a pathology researcher at UCLA who is also an endorser of the campaign.
Korin, who was born in Israel and has family members who are Holocaust survivors, said it is very difficult for her family to come to terms with her political views.
“My mother is 92, and it”s hard for her to understand why I”m doing this. She is a victim of history,” Korin said. While understanding the history, Korin said Palestinians should not have to pay for what happened.
On Friday, Judea Pearl, a UCLA computer science professor and father of slain journalist Daniel Pearl, told reporters at a news conference that Jewish students and faculty at California universities fear for their safety on campus because of threats aimed at them over the Middle East conflict.
Korin disagrees that there is a rise of anti-Semitism but said she is very pleased anti-Zionism is on the rise.
“People are intelligent in the peace community. They know the difference,” Korin said.
Charla Schlueter, a prospective UCLA graduate student from North Carolina, complained that she had been attacked and called anti-Semitic for expressing her political views.
“That sort of automatic response doesn”t work anymore. The whole world sees what the massacre was,” Schlueter said.
This protest took place amid preparations for a Gaza reconstruction conference in Egypt scheduled for today, which Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to attend.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned Sunday as Clinton arrived in Egypt that Israel”s retaliation would be painful, harsh and strong if the rocket fire from Gaza continues.
Updated: Art vigil will protest Israeli dance troupe’s L.A. show
The first planned action from a newly organized U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel is an ad-hoc display of political art protesting another presentation of art: the performance Saturday night at UCLA’s Royce Hall by Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company.
Edie Pistolesi, an art professor at Cal State Northridge, said she has been busy spray-painting baby shoes and booties red in her backyard and fashioning posters out of baby blankets that she and other protesters aim to hang from a clothesline outside Royce Hall before the performance. The aim: a “Silent Visual Vigil” to protest Israeli policy toward the Palestinians and the recent invasion of Gaza.
“I’ve decided to keep the same message, like a mantra” in the posters, Pistolesi said: “400 children of Gaza will not dance, because Israel killed them.”
Ohan Naharin, artistic director and choreographer of Batsheva Dance, which was co-founded by Martha Graham in 1964, recently told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that “my work stays away from any religious, national, political and ethnic connotation.”
Naharin added that if the protests are “against the abuse of power by the Israeli army in the [Gaza] war,” and “the occupation … I agree on both of those things.”
Nevertheless, protests have been mounted in several cities, including Pittsburgh, Minneapolis and Vancouver, British Columbia, on a current North American tour that began in late January and ends Wednesday at New York’s Brooklyn Academy of Music.
UPDATE: On Friday afternoon David Sefton, UCLA Live”s artistic and executive director gave this statement about the silent vigil and suggested boycott of the Batsheva Dance Company performance:
I certainly respect the right of protestors to express their opinions on the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. At the same time, I am disappointed that they would, by advocating a boycott of Batsheva”s performances at Royce Hall, attempt to silence he artistic voice of this outstanding dance company.
It is the mission of UCLA Live to present the finest performers from all parts of the world to Los Angeles” cosmopolitan audience. We do that because we believe in the power of culture to communicate and the need for cultural dialogue over cultural boycott.
Sherna Berger Gluck, a professor emeritus of women’s studies and history from Cal State Long Beach who is on the academic and cultural boycott group’s organizing committee, said it’s not Batsheva’s content, but its context, that makes it fair game.
Batsheva Dance, whose performers are not all Israeli, gets government funding, Gluck said, and is commonly viewed and promoted as a “cultural ambassador.”
“You can’t … dissociate yourself” from policies that the academic and cultural boycott group and seven other organizations joining in the UCLA protest consider war crimes, Gluck said. “Six of our endorsing groups are mainly Jewish groups; I am Jewish myself, but our [academic] group is very diverse.”
Gluck said there had long been talk of forming a U.S. academic and cultural boycott of Israel along the lines of boycotts in Europe and Great Britain, aimed at pressuring Israel over its policies toward the Palestinians. “It was difficult to get started, but the assault on Gaza pushed it over the edge.” The 13 organizing committee members are academics from eight California campuses, including UCLA, USC, Cal State Northridge and Cal State Long Beach, as well as professors from Antioch University in Seattle and an American teaching at An-Najah National University in the West Bank.
Naharin Naharin recently told the Georgia Straight, a Vancouver publication, that although he can “totally forgive and totally understand the frustration” leading to protests of Batsheva performances, “the boycott is just preventing something that is good to come out of Israel, something that opposes the violence…. Artists represent something that is usually missing in politics, which is the search for new solutions.”
Pistolesi, the Northridge art professor, has a different view of the artist’s role in a charged debate: “It’s very hard or impossible to extricate yourself from the real world…. The ideal and belief that art is all about itself and nothing else, I think that’s over. Art is always about culture and what’s happening to real human beings.”
Pistolesi and Gluck said they don’t expect dancegoers to stop in their tracks outside Royce Hall and refuse to attend because they see protesters holding posters. “But if people sit in the audience and the images stay with them while they’re there, maybe that will change some minds,” Pistolesi said.
Dispensing with typical protest chants and slogans and using an art vigil instead made sense, Gluck said: It’s less likely to lead to “people shouting at each other…. And if you have very strong images, each one is worth a thousand words. And these are going to be powerful images.”
— Mike Boehm
Dancing on the Graves of Gaza: Boycott the Batsheva Dance Company
Protesting Israeli government-funded Batsheva Dance Company’s tour of dancing soldiers, February 18th
PROTEST THE FEBRUARY 18TH BATSHEVA DANCE COMPANY PERFORMANCE AT NORTHROP AUDITORIUM IN THE UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA!
Showtime starts at 7:30 PM Wednesday February 18, 2009.
Facebook Event Page: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=60709223693
Northrop Auditorium, 84 Church St. SE, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis/Dinkytown
Event page on the Northrop website: http://www1.umn.edu/umato/dance_2008/index.html#batsheva
Be there 6:45 PM, 45 minutes before showtime.
The University of Minnesota is bringing the Batsheva Dance Company of Tel Aviv to Minneapolis for one performance. This is a violation of the 2004 Palestinian call to “comprehensively and consistently boycott all Israeli academic and cultural institutions”and the 2005 call of 171 Palestinian civil society organizations for broad boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.
This dance company is funded by the Israeli government and is considered a “leading ambassador” of the Israeli government, by the Israeli government.
Several of Batsheva’s members are serving Israeli reservist soldiers. An atypically high number of reservist units in the Israeli army were deployed in the Gaza Strip–where an indisputable slaughter was carried out, with terrible stories published even in mainstream sources.
Bringing Israel government-funded, dancing Israeli soldiers to town after the gratuitous massacre of innocents in Gaza is utterly unacceptable.
ISRAEL’S BIG PIMPIN’
Other recent examples of Israel pimping out its female soldiers like fashion models on the images on its army’s website, and also half-naked in Maxim magazine, have underlined that Israel is trying very hard to draw our attention away from what the “Israeli Defense Forces” are doing in their spare time these days with white phosphorus:
Here’s the New York Times blog post about the sex-heavy graphical banners on the IDF’s website:
That one picture of the eyes and colored bullets say it all. Creepy!
And finally–well–some things just have to be seen for themselves. The Maxim feature:
INSULT TO INJURY… THE WALKER ARTS CENTER
The event at the Northrop is co-presented with the Walker Arts Center who apparently now co-sponsor Israeli government-funded propaganda, and have apparently never heard of a woman in the arts called Leni Riefenstahl, who also cavorted with war criminals.
In the horrific, despair-drenched aftermath of the Christmas invasion of the Gaza Strip, and the relentless and self-defeating, ongoing occupation of Palestinian land, it is time to honor the call for a boycott of Israel made by Palestinian civil society and solidarity groups around the world, including South Africa.
The challenge posed to us today in ending the apartheid policies of the State of Israel is no different than the challenge that people of good faith faced in the 1980s in responding to calls to boycott the white supremacist government in South Africa. We urge you to join us as we nonviolently oppose this performance, as part of building a sustained BDS campaign, and refusing to allow our fellow Twin Cities neighbors and businesses to implicate us in Israel’s attempts to whitewash its very intentionally-created, total human misery. Enough is enough.
Bring banners calling for and end to war, justice for the oppressed, genuine peace, cultural boycott until Israel complies with international law, calls for one state, calls for two state, bring down the wall, sanctions against Israel, boycotting Israeli exports, calls for UN forces on the ground, US to stop sending M… whatever… anything you think will help is welcomed.
An emphasis on artistic banners and posters is a good idea for this event, as the audience is going to be dance buffs.
Recent flyer options
And make/post links to your own below.
Make your own
Go hunting on Google Images for Large photos of what is happening in Gaza. Get a friend with Photoshop to mash them up, add captions/statements, and save as a large as possible JPG.
Visuals are important, so try to spot cheaper printing offers in stores, and have CD ROMs or saved JPGs of protest stuff ready to go. E-mail them to friends.
For example, Wallgreens is currently offering 25% off its already do-able $11.99-20.99 poster-sized enlargements. You can go in with the image saved on a mobile phone and beam it to the Kodak enlargement counter. Or do it via the Internet. These large protest props can be laminated at an office services place and used again at future demonstrations.
20″x30″ = about 3×2 (landscape orientation) or 2×3 (portrait orientation) feet. $22.99
16″x20″ = still pretty respectably-sized. $17.99
12″x18″ = good if you want to stick four images to a larger poster board. $14.99
11″x14″ = ditto, with more images. $11.99
You can even upload stuff online and pay for it over the counter.
The code COLLEGE25 at checkout takes 25% off poster prices quoted above until Feb 14th: http://photo2.walgreens.com
Be creative. Axe-man probably has some stuff that would make good props.
STAY ON MESSAGE
“The latest Palestinian Call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) – supported by a large majority of Palestinian civil society – does not target Jews or Israelis qua Jews; on the contrary, it actually addresses conscientious Israeli Jews, urging them to support efforts to bring about Israel”s compliance with international law and fundamental human rights, both necessary elements in reaching true peace based on justice. Many around the world recognize the extent of Israel”s breach of international law. The real challenge now is to do something about it.
Only by applying effective international pressure against Israel similar in scope and comprehensiveness to that successfully used to end apartheid in South Africa will intellectuals and academics be fulfilling their moral obligation to stand up for right, for justice, for equality and for a chance to validate the prevalence of universal ethical principles. By doing so, they will also serve in the most effective manner the cause of coexistence and real peace.”
— Omar Barghouti (a founding member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel)
ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE BEFORE THE SHOW
1. Call, write, or send an e-letter to Ben Johnson, Director of Concerts and Lectures, asking him to cancel the show and honor the boycott against Israel:
Department of Concerts and Lectures
109 Northrop, 84 Church St. SE,
Minneapolis, MN 55455
2. Write letters to the editor of the Minnesota Daily and local media (Star Tribune, City Pages).
3. Ask the Walker Arts Center why the hell they’re sponsoring Israeli government-funded propaganda, and if they’ve ever heard of a woman called Leni Riefenstahl and if they need you to spell her name for them.
4. Don’t buy tickets to the Batsheva performance. If you already have tickets, then exchange them for another show. Tell them why.
5. Please join us in peacefully protesting the Batsheva performance.
The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee”s call to boycott is supported by The Middle East Committee of WAMM, Coalition for Palestinian Rights, Middle East Peace Now, Jewish anti-Zionist Network-Twin Cities (IJAN-TC), the Palestinian Institute of Minnesota, the Anti-War Committee and other people of conscience who are taking a moral stand against Israel”s oppressive policies.