The above headline appeared in the Scotsman on Tuesday, above an article on the performances by Israeli State-financed Batsheva Dance Company, who work within the Brand Israel project of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. To underline the role of such events in whitewashing the Apartheid State, the Jewish Chronicle reports that an Israeli Government Minister will be attending one of Batsheva’s three Edinburgh performances from Thursday 30th August to Saturday September 1st. This explicit politicisation of Batsheva’s performances pulls the rug from under the EIF’s Jonathan Mills’ preposterous effort to deny the link between Batsheva and the Israeli Government.
Mills was an organiser and speaker at the International Culture Summit, where several key speakers and commentators referred to the value of culture in the projection of the state’s “soft power”. Behind the innumerable vague platitudes, the fundamental working assumption of the Culture Summit was that the business of culture is a very political affair. Paul Docherty of the British Council noted “a strong sense that culture is moving up the political agenda, notions of soft power and all that” and his boss, the British Council CEO, Martin Davidson, offered Libya as an example of his organisation’s work to shape social development.
Harvard’s Joseph Nye, a former US Assistant Secretary of Defence who coined the term “soft power”, explains that military conquest is essential, but not sufficient; soft power is the key to winning the ideological battle in places such as the Middle East. “It’s not just whose army wins; it’s whose narrative wins,” he says. Israel, though, is a partial exception; it’s narrative has little chance of winning among the great majority of people. Brand Israel, therefore, works to change the focus of international attention away from Israel’s massive human rights violations, and cultural tours are a key component of this strategy.
Participating in the Brand Israel effort, Jonathan Mills and the EIF are silent on Israel’s often violent breaking up of Palestinian cultural events in the territories it illegally occupies, reject the Palestinian appeal for cultural boycott of Israeli State-funded companies, and invited Israel to attend the International Culture Summit.
When dealing with protests against Israel’s brutal human rights violations, Mills sticks, however, to the mantra that culture and politics must never be linked. Specifically, he also denies any link between Batsheva and the Israeli State, but the EIF Director made a similar untruthful denial in the past: a letter (28.08.2008) from the EIF to numerous people who wrote to complain about the 2008 EIF invitation to the Jerusalem Quartet, boldly claimed that “They have no current military connections.” This despite the Israeli Press Service reporting that, “For the three immigrants [to Israel from Russia], carrying a rifle in one hand and a violin in the other is the ultimate Zionist statement”. Similarly, their record label hyped their status within the army: “They now enjoy the status of Distinguished IDF, playing for troops thrice weekly when the JQ is in Israel.”
Jonathan Mills has warned you not to respond to the appeal from Palestine to actively protest Brand Israel cultural events. So see you at the 3-days of Batsheva protests at the Edinburgh Playhouse, Thursday – Saturday 30 August to 1st September. 6.00pm each night.
Go to http://ddwia.volunteerlocal.com/volunteer/?id=1175 and let us know you are coming.
For the record:
- Batsheva’s own website states that the Dance Company’s foreign touring is financed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the State of Israel.
- This same state’s record of serial war crimes and crimes against humanity, not to mention violent attacks on Palestinian cultural events, is well-documented.
Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign
Edinburgh 14 August 2012