Activists urged to protest at Israeli dance group’s shows

'Campaign is tip of iceberg of calls to ' what amounts to ' censor art work'

'Campaign is tip of iceberg of calls to ' what amounts to ' censor art work'

0
Have your say

HUNDREDS of pro-Palestinian activists have been urged to disrupt a Festival performance by an Israeli dance troupe.

The Batsheva Dance Company is due to hold three shows at the Playhouse this summer, having enjoyed a successful run in the Capital four years ago.

The Scottish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, which has contacted hundreds of its members, has said it will demonstrate outside the venue on each night from August 30 to September 1.

The group has written to Jonathan Mills, director of the Edinburgh International Festival, demanding that the dance company is removed from the programme.

Scottish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign chair Mick Napier said: “Palestinian cultural initiatives are repeatedly suppressed by the Israeli forces so why shouldn’t Israeli initiatives suffer the same treatment?

“We wish to raise awareness of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and support justice and equality for all and urge a popular boycott of, and protests against, these performances.”

The British Israel Coalition said protests outside the Playhouse during the performances would be an “act of vandalism”.

Both of Batsheva’s 2009 and 2010 US tours were met by pro-Palestinian protests.

The organisation’s director, Ari Soffer, said: “Such visceral hatred does nothing to further peace, but rather it exacerbates conflict, increases anti-Semitism and works to polarise Israelis and Palestinians.

“The proposed acts of vandalism by the Scottish PSC are typical of a group that has a history of extremist action. This anti-Israel obsession of theirs has a noticeably harmful effect.”

He added: “If the Scottish PSC were truly on the side of the Palestinians, they would be welcoming Israeli cultural ambassadors as a means by which we can transcend conflict and hatred.

“A great deal of artistic programmes help to bring Israelis and Palestinians together. Batsheva’s own artistic director has often been rather critical of the Israeli government’s policies.

“If the Scottish PSC disagree with the actions of a democratically-elected government, then protest them, not the Israeli people. Their proposed protest stinks of bigotry.”

Festival bosses said they had received the letter of protest, but that the dance company would be welcomed to the 
Capital.

A spokesperson said: “We have received a letter suggesting there may be a protest.

“The Edinburgh International Festival was founded in the belief that bringing artists and audiences together was an important way to enable cultural exchange between people. That remains a guiding principle. It is part of the mission of the Festival to promote discussion, debate and cultural understanding.”

Asked whether Batsheva had asked for additional security during the Festival, the spokesperson added: “The Festival does not comment on security matters.”

In May 2009, the Edinburgh International Film Festival returned £600 funding from the Embassy of Israel after event organisers said it had been a “mistake” to accept the money.

The decision came after Ken Loach, the renowned Scottish film director, issued a statement through the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign urging people to “stay away” from the Festival.

david.oleary@edinburghnews.com