Some 150 protesters picketed Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre on a cold and wet Tuesday evening calling for a boycott of Israel state-funded dance company Batsheva. Four Israel supporters attended a counter-demonstration. Batheva’s performance was interrupted by protests at least eight times while a good number who had bought tickets turned over their tickets to the protesters after learning of Batsheva’s link to the Israeli government.
In August, hundreds protested outside Batsheva’s Edinburgh International Festival performances over three nights and scores disrupted the performances inside Edinburgh Playhouse.
Batsheva is promoted by, and receives the bulk of its funding from, the Israeli State as part of their ‘Brand Israel’ project, which the campaign group Don’t Dance with Israeli Apartheid describes as an attempt to detract from Israel’s crimes. Campaigners are now raising questions about other sources of Batsheva funding, which include Israeli armaments companies Eastronics and IDB International. The Jewish National Fund, accused by campaigners of complicity with racist Israeli land policies and whose UK branch lost David Cameron’s patronage last year, is another donor.
Kate Logan of Don’t Dance with Israeli Apartheid said, “Batsheva is explicitly linked to the state of Israel, and the latest information we have on links to armaments companies and the JNF confirms our position. Our campaign engaged directly with Batsheva’s artistic direct Ohad Naharin in August and we’re disappointed that he has refused to continue that discussion. We now know that Naharin’s claim to be concerned with the situation of Palestinians and appeal to engage us in dialogue is not sincere.”
During the Q&A session following last night’s performance in Edinburgh an one audience member asked if the Batsheva representatives thought it was acceptable to tour using Israeli state funding in the same week that Israel is carrying out air strikes in Gaza. Logan reports that, “when the woman was shouted down by the audience, Naharin did not challenge this behaviour and declined to engage with the question. This casts serious doubt on Naharin’s so-called commitment to ‘dialogue’”.
Protests will continue tonight at the Festival Theatre and are expected across the country at all venues hosting Batsheva’s UK tour.