Monday, February 22, 2010

Israel Ballet Runs into “ResisDance” in Brooklyn

By Alex Kane
February 22, 2010 | Posted in Alex Kane , Gaza , IndyBlog , Palestine | Email this article

PHOTO:  Desertpeace/Bud Korotzer.  Mock ballet street theater is performed by Palestine solidarity activists outside the Israel Ballet's performance in Brooklyn
PHOTO: Desertpeace/Bud Korotzer. Mock ballet street theater is performed by Palestine solidarity activists outside the Israel Ballet's performance in Brooklyn

Over 40 Palestine solidarity activists demonstrated, performed street theater, and handed out mock programs outside of the Israel Ballet’s Brooklyn performance Feb. 21.

Protesters from Adalah NY, a local group fighting for justice in Palestine, said they were there to heed a call put out by members of Palestinian civil society in 2004 to boycott Israeli cultural and academic institutions.  Modeled on the South African struggle to end apartheid, the global boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement demands that Israel withdraws from the occupied territories, dismantles illegal settlements, and implements the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

The Israel Ballet is currently on a tour of the United States, and has also been met by protests in Worcester, MA and Burlington, VT.  Outside of the Brooklyn Center for Performing Arts at Brooklyn College, some demonstrators contended with hostile remarks from ballet goers, including comments like “go to hell,” and people spitting near them. 

“A lot of cultural institutions in Israel are complicit with Israeli war crimes, as well as the fact that there’s a sort of normalization, the attitude that as long as cultural institutions continue to function, everything’s okay,” said Andrew Kadi, a spokesperson for Adalah NY.  “We’re stepping it up to say business as usual is not acceptable.” 

Outside the performance, solidarity activists chanted ballet-themed slogans like “Pas de deux or arabesque, the occupation is grotesque” and “A little tutu cannot hide, your support for apartheid!”

The Israeli dance tour is part of an “official state campaign,” according to the Israeli news outlet Ynet.  It comes in the midst of intense anxiety in the Israeli government about Israel’s damaged image, especially after the early 2009 Gaza onslaught that killed over 1,400 Palestinians, the vast majority of them civilians.  Recently, the New York Times reported that the Israeli government has begun a campaign “to turn every Israeli — and ultimately every Jew — into a traveling public relations agent.” 

In October 2006, Israel launched an initiative called “Brand Israel,” meant to “bridge the gap between the real Israel and its international image. Israel has much to offer to the world,” as former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, a suspected war criminal, put it. 

The Israel Ballet also reportedly receives $1 million a year from the Israeli government and has an active relationship with the Israeli Defense Forces.  And in the wake of the Gaza onslaught, the ballet’s founder told a publication that in Israel, “luckily, right now we don’t have to worry about war: despite our problems, this is a safe place.” 

Before the Israel Ballet’s performance began, mock ballet street theater was performed. Activists dressed up in Israeli-colored tutus and Israeli Army war paint and announced they were performing “for apartheid,” which got confused responses of support from ballet goers, according to Ayesha Hoda, one of the performers. 

The Israel Ballet’s “purpose being here is to hide all the horrors that are going on [in Palestine,]” said Hoda.  The demonstration was also accompanied by the feisty tunes of theRude Mechanical Orchestra.

Two days ago, in Vermont, human rights activists interrupted a performance by the Israel Ballet by holding up a banner at the front of the stage that said, “No Tutu is Big Enough to Cover Up War Crimes.” 

“We wanted to call attention to how culture and arts in this case can be used to mask the crimes of apartheid and occupation,” said Brian Pickett, a member of Adalah NY who participated in the demonstration in Brooklyn and was one of the activists who interrupted the ballet performance in Vermont. 

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Saturday, February 6, 2010

Protesting the Israel Ballet's performance in Brooklyn

We will be protesting the Israel Ballet's performance in Brooklyn
WHEN: February 21st, 2010
WHERE: Brooklyn College's Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts for more information

Feb 5, 2010
Don't let the Israel Ballet tip-toe around Apartheid!

Adalah-NY, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, Boycott! Supporting the Palestinian BDS Call from Within, and American Jews for a Just Peace call for a boycott of and protests against the performances of the Israel Ballet during their February, 2010 US tour, due to the Israel Balletís complicity in whitewashing Israeli apartheid.

The Israel Ballet will perform from February 8 ñ 27, 2010 in Panama City (FL), Ft. Myers (FL), Sarasota (FL), Bunnel (FL), West Palm Beach (FL), Gainesville (FL), Newport News (VA), Burlington (VT), Worcester (MA), Brooklyn (NY), Morgantown (WV), Buffalo (NY), Elmira (NY) and Rockville (MD). We call on individuals and groups to mobilize to boycott and protest against these performances.

The Israel Ballet comes to the United States as part of the ongoing effort to ìre-brandî Israelís image in the West as an enlightened center of arts and technology, to conceal the facts about its occupation, racial discrimination and grave violations of international law and fundamental Palestinian rights. The Israeli government-sponsored campaign to promote cultural performances is a result of the steady decline of Israelís standing in international public opinion. Consistent reports by the UN and leading human rights organizations have revealed the extent of Israelís colonial oppression, gradual ethnic cleansing and even war crimes against the Palestinian people, as pointedly revealed in the UNís recently published Goldstone Report on Israelís war of aggression on Gaza.

The Israel Ballet, which receives around $1 million annually from the Israeli government, is being advertised as a cultural ambassador of the state by the Israeli Consulate in New York. The dance group also boasts holding ìspecial performancesî for Israeli soldiers.

Arts and culture have become an important weapon in the Israeli governmentís public relations campaign, and in 2006, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs launched an initiative called ìBrand Israel,î to salvage Israel's deteriorating image abroad. Arye Mekel of Israelís Foreign Ministry has stated that, ìWe will send well-known novelists and writers overseas, theater companies, exhibits... This way you show Israelís prettier face, so we are not thought of purely in the context of war.î

Rather than distancing itself from the Israeli stateís cynical use of the arts to whitewash its apartheid and colonial policies, the Israel Ballet has embraced its ties with the state and proudly proclaims on its website that it is ìearning recognition and bringing honor to the state of Israel.î Israelís Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in turn, affirms the troupeís service to the state, calling them ìa valued cultural representative.î

Rather than denouncing the Israeli armyís commission of well-documented human rights violations against Palestinians, the Israel Ballet solicits funds for ìspecial performancesî for Israeli soldiers, makes use of a special army program to keep an active duty soldier as an intern, and performs an encore to the tunes of the Israeli army bandósaluting ìwith a smile the achievements of the state, Zionism and the art of classical ballet."

In the press, the Israel Ballet actively obfuscates Israelís regime of racial discrimination and segregation and shows complete disregard for Palestinian suffering. In late January, 2009, as Palestinians reeled from Israelís assault on Gaza that indiscriminately killed 1400 residents, mostly civilians, Israel Ballet founder Berta Yampolsky told TimeOut Beijing, ìLuckily, right now we donít have to worry about war: despite our problems, this is a safe place; thereís no crime, and you donít have to be afraid at night.î

Yampolsky continued, ìWe donít care what religion or nationality you are, as long as you are a good person.î Yet none of the dancers, board members, or staff listed on the Israel Ballet website are Palestinian, though Palestinians comprise 20% of Israelís citizenry. Furthermore, the Israeli government systematically discriminates against Israelís Palestinian citizens, including providing less funding for Palestinian citizensí cultural and educational activities. Palestinian artists in occupied Gaza and the West Bank fare even worse. The Ramallah-based Palestinian dance troupe, El-Funoun, must continuously contend with Israelís ongoing occupation, and its members have faced military roadblocks, military curfews, random arrests, injury, performance closures and travel bans.

To combat Israelís denial of Palestinian rights, in 2004, Palestinian civil society, led by the newly formed Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), called on colleagues in the international community ìto comprehensively and consistently boycott all Israeli academic and cultural institutions until Israel withdraws from all the lands occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem; removes all its colonies in those lands; agrees to United Nations resolutions relevant to the restitution of Palestinian refugees rights; and dismantles its system of apartheid.î A year later, the Palestinian Civil Society Call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) was issued, endorsed by over 170 NGOs, trade unions, political parties, networks and campaigns representing Palestinians inside and outside Palestine. The Palestinian boycott campaign advocates a nonviolent form of resistance to oppression that is inspired by the historic role played by people of conscience in the international community who have shouldered the moral responsibility to fight injustice, as exemplified in their struggle to abolish apartheid in South Africa through diverse forms of boycott.


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