Open letter to the Batsheva Dance Company

Twenty organizations from across Canada have sent an open letter to the Batsheva Dance Company demanding that it ends complicity with the Israeli government by disavowing its role as an Ambassador to the State of Israel.

The open letter follows a similar initiative earlier this year coordinated by Adalah-NY in the United States, and is the latest in a long campaign to encourage the company to end its complicity with the Israeli government. In 2016, Brian Eno denied permission for Batsheva to use his music during its performances, saying “To my understanding, the Israeli embassy (and therefore the Israeli government) will be sponsoring the upcoming performances, and, given that I’ve been supporting the BDS campaign for several years now, this is an unacceptable prospect for me.”

Below is the full text of the Canadian open letter.

March 3, 2017

To the Batsheva Dance Company:

We are writing from organizations across Canada calling on you to end your complicity with the crimes being carried out by the Israeli government against the Palestinian people by disavowing your role as Ambassador of the State of Israel.

Palestinian civil society has issued a call for the academic and cultural boycott of Israel, modeled on the call for the boycott of apartheid South Africa. Respecting that call, we as human rights defenders urge you to take a stand against the Israeli government’s violations of Palestinian rights. Until you do so, we will not welcome you in cities across our country and we will support a boycott of your performances due to your collaboration with the Israeli state.

Your choreographer and artistic director, Ohad Naharin, while on North American tour spoke about peace, a message that initially led some to hope that the company would finally take a stand for justice. He said that he wants to “help” the Palestinian people. However, he calls boycotts and protests pointless. He does not acknowledge that his dance company has consistently been identified by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs as one of Israel’s greatest cultural ambassadors.

Further, Batsheva’s 2017 North American tour was supported by the Office of Cultural Affairs at Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The 2017 North American Tour also received sponsorship for this year’s international tour from the Israeli Consulate Generals in Toronto and Western Canada, the Israeli Embassy in Canada and the Pacific Northwest in the United States. The 2014 US tour was supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Palestinian people, through the broadest coalition of Palestinian groups, have asked artists to support a cultural boycott of Israeli cultural institutions. Palestinian artists face daily humiliation, checkpoints, and imprisonment. Israeli forces often direct their attacks at cultural institutions and events.

If Ohad Naharin truly cares about the Palestinian people, he and Batsheva would support their boycott call not reject it.

If Ohad Naharin stands against the occupation, as he says he does, we ask him to show this by ending Batsheva’s complicity with it.

Batsheva’s position as an Israeli cultural icon gives you a platform to speak up for what’s right. We ask that that Batsheva disavow your role as Ambassador of the State. It is time to take a principled position by no longer allowing your government to use your name to whitewash occupation.

We hope Batsheva, like a growing number of Israelis, and people of conscience around the world, will take a strong, unequivocal stance against Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. Until then, we will continue to urge a popular boycott of, and protests against, any future Batsheva performances across Canada.

We ask you: to end your complicity with the crimes being carried out by the Israeli government; to disavow your role as Ambassador of the State of Israel; and to join the growing international BDS movement to increase the pressure on the Israeli government to end its violations of international law and to support freedom, justice and equality for Palestinians.

Respectfully submitted by:

Solidarity with Palestine, St. John’s, Newfoundland
Canadians, Arabs and Jews for a Just Peace, Halifax
Palestine Solidarity Working Group, Sudbury, Ontario
People for Peace, London, Ontario
Palestine House, Mississauga, Ontario
Actions4Palestine, Toronto, Ontario
Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid-Toronto, Ontario
Women in Solidarity with Palestine, Toronto, Ontario
Independent Jewish Voices-Winnipeg, Manitoba
Palestine Solidarity Network – Edmonton, Alberta
Justice for Palestinians, Calgary, Alberta
Barnard-Boecker Centre Foundation, Victoria, British Columbia
Canada Palestine Association, Vancouver, British Columbia
Mid Island for Peace in the Middle East, Vancouver Island, British Columbia
Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid Victoria, British Columbia
CODEPink
International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, Canada
Stop the JNF, Canada
Christian Peacemaker Team, Canada
Independent Jewish Voices, Canada
Canadian Unitarians for Social Justice, Canada

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