Tony Greenstein | 23 November 2012 | Post Views:


Dancing to the Rhythms of Palestinian Blood Spilling

NOVEMBER 21 – For the third consecutive night, pro-Palestinian protesters evaded enhanced security checks to mount demonstrations inside Sadler’s Wells theatre where the Batsheva dance ensemble from Israel was performing the last of three London shows. Its tour continues on Friday and Saturday in Plymouth where campaigners have pledged to mount further protests.

 Audience members waiting to have their bags and tickets checked were channeled into the theatre in two queues, hemmed in by metal barriers reminiscent of the Israeli checkpoints that restrict movement of Palestinians around the occupied West Bank.  

The current Israeli onslaught on besieged Gaza, killing  more than 160 Palestinians in little more than a week, reinforced protesters’ determination to show their support for Palestinians whose rights have been denied for more than 60 years.

 Around 20 minutes in to Wednesday’s performance a Palestinian student from Ramallah, who gave his name as Wael, unfurled a green, white, red and black Palestinian flag and called out: “Stop the ethnic cleansing cleansing of Palestinians.”  He said he acted on behalf of people of all faiths living in the territories illegally occupied by Israel.

 A second protester, Londoner Georgie Stagg, said she had held up a banner declaring: “Israel dances while Gaza burns”.

 “People were sitting watching dancers while the country that sends them is slaughtering innocent Palestinians, stealing their land and bulldozing their homes,” she said.

  As on Monday and Tuesday, the performance was halted as security staff removed protesters who were greeted with cheers and congratulations by supporters of the Don’t Dance with Israeli Apartheid campaign outside the theatre.

 Deborah Fink, a trained soprano and leading member of Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, interrupted Tuesday’s performance around 7.50 pm, singing to the tune of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, “Israel end your occupation, there’s no peace on stolen land.”

 Ten minutes layer two more women emerged having unfurled a colourful banner bearing the words, “Israel dances while Gaza burns.”

 Teresa Webb from Hackney, northeast London said, “I took this action to give a voice to the Palestinian people whose culture is silenced.”

 Fellow Londoner Anne Gray said her message was, “Remember the blood of Gaza” and “Brand Israel off the stage.

 “Israel seems able to carry out any number of atrocities against Palestinians and yet be treated by British and other western governments as an entirely normal, civilised state with no sanctions applied,” said Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, cultural working group coordinator of the Boycott Israel Network. “Our message to Israel, on behalf of Palestinians whose voices are silenced, is that institutions linked to the state, including cultural bodies like Batsheva, cannot expect to be welcomed as if they represented normalcy when they patently do not.”

Debbie Fink – Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods








November 18 – Protests at the growing Palestinian death toll caused by Israel’s bombardment of Gaza will move from outside London’s Israeli Embassy to the city’s premier contemporary dance venue at Sadler’s Wells, Islington on Monday.

 A nationwide campaign,  Don’t Dance with Israeli Apartheid, has already interrupted 11 dance performances by Israel’s Batsheva Ensemble in six cities up and down the country and is now targeting the Israeli troupe’s three planned performances at Sadler’s Wells on Nov 19, 20 & 21.

 Campaigners say their protest is not directed at individual Israeli artists, but at the government which deliberately uses culture as cover for its human rights abuses and violations of international law.

 “We target artistic institutions which are intrinsically linked to the Israeli state through funding and the ‘Brand Israel ’ initiative,” the campaign leaflets say. They quote an Israeli Foreign Affairs ministry spokesman outlining, in the wake of the previous onslaught on Gaza which killed more than 1300 Palestinians, its explicit intention to send abroad cultural icons to “show Israel ’s prettier face, so we are not thought of purely in the context of war.”
 Although Batsheva’s artistic director Ohad Naharin has publicly opposed Israeli policies towards the Palestinians, his company is embraced by Israel ’s far-right government as their finest cultural ambassador.
 It receives funding from the Israeli state, Israeli arms companies and the racist Jewish National Fund which works openly to dispossess Palestinians and replace them with Jewish immigrants.

“With Israel escalating its attacks on Gaza, killing dozens including civilians, with children among them, we intend our protests to reclaim for the Palestinians a tiny piece of the cultural and physical space which Israel has stolen from them,” said Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, cultural working group coordinator for the Boycott Israel Network, part of the UK Don’t Dance coalition. “We do not accept that art may be used as a figleaf for killings and collective punishment of a civilian population.”
 Sadler’s Wells management has emailed ticket-holders telling them to expect “groups of peaceful demonstrators” at the Batsheva Ensemble performances, with the possibility of “some form of disruption inside the venue”. Bags will be searched on arrival and people should be ready for delays, the email said.
 The theatre’s chief executive and artistic director Alistair Spalding refused to meet academics from the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine  (BRICUP) who had asked to discuss the invitation to Batsheva with him.
 Spalding insisted the Israeli company was no different from other international institutions: “the vehicle for the creative expression of their artistic directors and not .. representatives of the governments of their countries.
 “I have a firm belief in cultural engagement rather than exclusion and … will present the work of choreographic artists whatever their nationality,” Spalding said.
 Prof Jonathan Rosenhead, chair of BRICUP, said that Sadler’s Wells commitment to cultural engagement seemed not to extend to dialogue with principled critics. Spalding had failed to address any of the arguments BRICUP had made, said Rosenhead.
 He referred in particular to the conditions under which Palestinian culture has to operate, described by a Palestinian dancer as “ Israel ‘s three-tiered system of occupation, colonisation and apartheid [which] ruthlessly suffocates the livelihoods of Palestinian communities, including our right to artistic and cultural expression.” 

 Don’t Dance with Israeli Apartheid began its campaign with protests at performances by the main Batsheva Dance company in the Edinburgh International Festival at the end of August , winning support from considerable Scottish cultural figures including the national poet (Makar) Liz Lochhead.
 Hundreds of campaign supporters have made their presence felt at every stop on the current tour by Batsheva’s junior Ensemble, beginning in Scotland  before moving on toManchester and Bradford .
 In Brighton Green Party MP Caroline Lucas wrote to the Dome Theatre management reminding them that: “Israel’s sponsorship of arts and cultural events is one deliberate way in which it is actively seeking to repair the reputational damage inflicted by its treatment of Palestinians, so Palestinian civil society has called for a full cultural boycott of all cultural performers and exhibitors that are institutionally linked to the Israeli state.”
 There were more protests on November 13 & 14 in Birmingham where a letter from a Palestinian Christian organisation questioning the hosting of Batsheva at the Hippodrome was presented to the Bishop of Birmingham, the Right Rev. David Urquhart, who is one of the theatre’s directors. Kairos Palestine, which sent the letter, has received no reply. 

 A performance in Leicester on Friday night attracted a hundred or more local people angered by the assault on Gaza. As in every other venue, the show was interrupted on a number of occasions by protesters calling out pro-Palestinian slogans.

Batsheva Dance Company braces for Gaza protests in London

Sadler’s Wells theatre steps up security ahead of performances by Israeli dance troupe

Plagued by protests … Batsheva Dance Company. Photograph: Gadi Dagon
Sadler’s Wells has increased security in advance of pro-Palestinian protests planned to coincide with the arrival of Israel‘s Batsheva Dance Ensemble.

The company, who have been touring in the UK since August, when they performed at the Edinburgh international festival, have faced a series of protests en route, with 11 performances disrupted in a nationwide campaign called Don’t Dance With Israeli Apartheid. The most recent, in Leicester on 16 November, drew 100 protesters, according to a statement sent out by the campaign.

Sadler’s Wells, numbers are expected to swell as protesters are joined
by those who have been voicing dissent over Israel’s recent military
strikes on Gaza at the Israeli embassy in London.
at the London dance theatre have emailed ticket-holders for the
three-night run telling them to expect “groups of peaceful
” and the possibility of “some form of disruption inside
the venue”.
A bag search will be in operation at the theatre.

insist that the protests are not directed at individual Israeli
artists, but at the government’s use of culture to cover human rights
abuses and violations of international law.
However, Sadler’s Wells artistic director and chief executive Alistair Spalding
said: “Batsheva Ensemble are the youth company of one of the world’s
most accomplished and innovative dance companies and therefore it is
absolutely right that they should be presented within our artistic

“Sadler’s Wells would never prevent a company
performing because of their nationality. We believe in engagement, not
disengagement or boycott. Cultural isolation is not a policy that
Sadler’s Wells believes in.”

Batsheva’s artistic director
Ohad Naharin has publicly expressed sympathy with the Palestinian
people, but in March he dismissed previous protests against the company
in the US. “I felt that people were using us as a symbol,” he told the New York Times. “It’s a publicity stunt for their agenda.”

Spalding added: “We are taking every precaution necessary to ensure the smooth running of the performances.”

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Tony Greenstein

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