"The sad aspect is that Ohad Naharin sees the brutality of the Israeli military and its auxiliaries, the settlers. His reaction, however, is pathological, ostrich-like. “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.” While such a response to the horror of the Zionist enterprise is understandable, it is also no longer possible. The rising international movement of solidarity with the Palestinian people will not allow you, Mr Naharin... "
For the second night, about 150 supporters of Palestinian human rights demonstrated against Batsheva dance ensemble in Edinburgh, in answer to the appeal from Palestine for protests and boycott against all institutions linked to the Israeli state. Batsheva is financed by Israeli arms companies, the Israeli State, and the racist JNF (Jewish National Fund) which works openly to dispossess Palestinians and replace them with Jewish immigrants. Batsheva is thus linked to a body which admits to discriminating against Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel.
The vigorous protests outside and inside the Theatre were once again effective in highlighting the Israeli regime’s financing of Batsheva in order to shift attention away from its massive human rights violations.
The public and a number of ticket-holders reacted positively; tickets were handed back by people who had been unaware of Batsheva’s status. A few people from the Israeli Embassy handing out leaflets and the three-person group of Israeli flag wavers all looked dejected.
Batsheva Artistic Director Naharin later reacted to the press release issued by Don’t Dance with Israeli Apartheid – UK. In an article and an email to DDwIA, he is evasive, impertinent, attempts to besmirch the motives of the protestors, and suggests the motives of the Israeli state in financing Batsheva are entirely disinterested, purely cultural.
Naharin studiously ignores the crucial point that the BDS campaign is a world-wide response to an appeal from Palestine under Israeli military occupation. Instead, he claims protestors are motivated by “frustration and also a little bit of a sense of revenge”, and that this is only appropriate from people who “want to destroy something.” He contrasts protestors’ destructiveness with Batsheva’s drive “to build not to destroy”. Protesting inside his shows “really doesn’t help…the Palestinian cause.”
Naharin argues that we need “to try and create a dialogue” to replace “conflict” in a hugely complex situation. In any event, he writes, “yes we link to the state of israel, the royal ballet link to England, dose in means it support the policies of its government.”
It is noteworthy that Naharin does not dispute the tainted provenance of Batsheva’s finances – arms companies and the racist JNF as well as the Foreign Ministry currently run by a fascist, Lieberman. He also concedes DDwIA’s basic case when he writes,“It is true, Batsheva is here representing Israel” but this Israel is “creative” and “open”.
To deal with Naharin’s six main claims point by point:
1. Dialogue is the key
Far from supposed dialogue being his primary drive, Naharin did not even deign to reply to letters sent to Batsheva by US pro-Palestinian protestors during their tour there earlier in the year. Far from “conflict” impeding dialogue with protestors, it seems that only the fear of protests at all Batsheva performances induced Naharin to communicate in August, promising to discuss with his Board and get back to Don’t Dance with Israeli Apartheid. This budding “dialogue”, however, was still born, possibly because Batsheva hoped vainly that protests would fizzle out. They haven’t, they won’t, and we now receive another communication, but this is not the long-delayed response promised for it omits any mention of the commitment he made to report back on his discussions with his Board. On that pledge, only silence.
2. Dialogue while the crimes continue
The Israeli State has made something of an art form of calling for endless “dialogue”, a.k.a. “the peace process”, as a cover for ongoing colonisation and dispossession. What does Naharin want to “dialogue” about? Palestinians are engaged in a struggle for national, and often personal, survival against ruthless ethnic cleansers (who also pay his salary). We are working as auxiliaries in this Palestinian freedom struggle and we consciously strive to make Israel pay a price internationally for its criminality that will become so high that, as with apartheid South Africa, the racist programme of Jewish supremacy within Palestine will be abandoned. A part of that price will be determined opposition to any cultural or sporting group sponsored by the Israeli state or Zionist organisations.
We will discuss with anyone how to work together to contribute to the achievement of full human rights for the Palestinians and how to dismantle the apartheid structures which oppress them; we are unwilling to discuss whether Palestinians, or anyone else, deserve full human rights.
3. Protestors are motivated by frustration and revenge
The whole world is indeed frustrated with Israel’s dispossession of the Palestinian people, is angry at Israel’s sense of impunity, and is sickened by the complicity of our own government in the crimes. Increasing numbers are also aware of the racist ideologies common to both fascists like Foreign Minister Lieberman and the so-called Israeli Left which denies Palestinian human rights and ensures national consensus behind policies of periodic massacres of Palestinians.
Although revenge would be a quite natural human response from Israel’s millions of victims, we are focussed, in common with Palestinian civil society, on pressuring Israel to concede fundamental Palestinian human and national rights which are currently denied them by the brutal apartheid system enforced by the state that pays Naharin’s salary. The world has grown weary of Zionist smears of Palestinian people as a whole and Mr Naharin’s attempt to smear pro-Palestinian protestors is similar.
4. Boycott damages the Palestinian cause
It is impertinent for Naharin to tell Palestinians how to resist the state he “is representing”, which pays him and sends him round the world, while it massacres, destroys, burns and kidnaps the people of Palestine, executing its racist and illegal programme of dispossession. There is a long history of so-called “progressives” telling colonial peoples how to resist and even lecturing them that they do not understand their own best interest. The appeal for boycott comes from the entirety of Palestinian civil society; it is drawing all decent people around the world into support for its modest and just demands.
5. Batsheva promotes an Israel that is “creative” and “open”
Israel, surrounded on all sides by razor wire, minfields and electronic listening posts can never seem remotely "open" to the millions of Palestinians who are denied their legally enshrined right to return to the areas from which they were ethnically cleansed in 1948, 1967 or subsequently, and whose relatives were killed for trying. Batsheva's promotion of this utterly false image of apartheid Israel is precisely why Lieberman’s Ministry finances them. It is also one reason why Palestinians are calling on civil society worldwide to include Batsheva in the boycott campaign.
6. Why pick on Israeli state-funded institutions
The point that British cultural institutions receive funding from the British state is often used by Zionists as a supposed argument against boycott and Naharin joins in the effort; surely we are being hypocritical (or something more sinister?) in focussing on Israel. The clue is in the name, however, Palestine solidarity – we are supporting the Palestinians and working to end British Government and corporate complicity in Israeli crimes against them.
We can add that every single person supporting the Palestinian struggle for freedom also opposes the brutal and savage US-British invasions of other countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan. If Arab or Muslim civil society or democratic states were to call for mass boycott of all institutions linked to the British state until the London regime kicks its heroin-like addiction to aggressive militarism abroad, then many of us would endorse this initiative wholeheartedly and thank those who initiated and drove it forward.
The reason is simple; threat of peaceful boycott worldwide to punish British military aggression abroad would strengthen the hand of every determined opponent of British Government military aggression. Mr Naharin, however, doesn’t say “thank you” to the BDS campaign as a wake-up call to his fellow Jewish citizens who are increasingly voting for their own doom under leaders such as Lieberman and Netanyahu, and no doubt even more homicidal figures in the future. Instead he tries to get back to business-as-usual.
The sad aspect is that Ohad Naharin sees the brutality of the Israeli military and its auxiliaries, the settlers. His reaction, however, is pathological, ostrich-like. “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.”
While such a response to the horror of the Zionist enterprise is understandable, it is also no longer possible. The rising international movement of solidarity with the Palestinian people will not allow you, Mr Naharin, to detach yourself psychologically from the ethnic cleansing all around you, while you work around the world on behalf of the Israeli State, endorsed by its Ministers and Ambassadors who are executing the Zionist ethnic cleansing project. Batsheva and other cultural icons of the Israeli State will be vigorously contested wherever they appear in this country and internationally.
Or you can do the brave thing as all too few of your fellow citizens have done and join the struggle for freedom and human rights for all. But then Avigdor Lieberman would never agree to keep the cheques coming…
Full UK protests schedule here
Chair, Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign
1st November 2012