‘Dance’ line! Palestinian protesters object to high-stepping Israeli troupe at BAM

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There’s a new front in the fight over the Gaza Strip — the doorstep of the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

About 15 pro-Palestinian demonstrators gathered across the street from the venerable Fort Greene music hall last Thursday to protest the Israel-based Batsheva Dance Company, calling for a boycott over the Jewish state’s actions in Gaza.

Some ticketholders for the show by the well-regarded modern dance troupe argued that political protests should be reserved for political events — not artistic performances.

“They have the right to protest if they want to, but I don’t think this should be boycotted,” said Lindsay Weiner. “Dance is art, and artists should be allowed to express themselves.”

Ticketholder Gerald Walts said that arts groups could actually be the key to finding peace in the Middle East.

“It’s somewhat inappropriate to be boycotting a cultural group,” he said. “During the Cold War, developing positive cultural relations [between the United States and the Soviet Union] was considered a really important thing to do — I don’t see why it shouldn’t be the same in this case.”

But protester Ryvka Barzohar disagreed.

“Cultural events are political too — especially if they are being promoted and funded by the Israeli government,” she said. “They are trying to use culture as a way of whitewashing Israel. That makes this a very political event.”

The protest, filled with flag-waving, dancing and an a capella rap performance — was peaceful. There was a brief moment of tension when protesters stood in front of BAM’s doors and distributed leaflets to ticketholders that looked like show programs, but were in fact pro-Palestinian pamphlets.

The brochure included a composite image of a dancer’s ballet shoes superimposed atop a photograph of a bomb crater in Gaza.

The pamphlet irked some of the visitors, who asked police to move the protestors to their barricaded pen across the street.

“They shouldn’t be allowed to stand here,” said Elyse Aronoff. They’re handing out this thing that looks like a program, when in fact it’s propaganda. They shouldn’t be allowed to be so close — it’s not fair.”

After a discussion with police, the pamphleteers returned to the protest area across the street — where demonstrators held signs reading, “Palestine — peace not ethnic cleansing,” and chanted, “Our only course of action: boycott, divest and sanction.”

There were no arrests at the protest, according to BAM spokeswoman Fatima Kafele.

“There were no altercatio­ns,” she said. “Everything was by the books.”

The protest comes just days after a rumored boycott of Israeli products at the Park Slope Food Co-op sparked a controversy that was reported worldwide.

A spokesman for the Batsheva dance troupe did not respond.

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Reader Feedback

Raija from Brooklyn Heights says:
I think that if Batsheva is sponsored by the Israeli government that killed 400 children in Gaza recently, and which considers this dance company its "best ambassador to the world", then it should definitely be boycotted! As artists, one expects them to raise the flag against these crimes not whitewash them. It's really sad to use art to promote war crimes and apartheid.

I also read the members of this dance company serve in the Israeli reserve force that was heavily deployed in the war on Gaza. I don't understand this! How can they kill children and then get on stage to dance as if nothing happened?
March 6, 2009, 3:16 pm
Jeff from FT Greene says:
I'm honestly not surprised. Naharin's a joke, calling their work apolitical and then he's the same guy who during an interview I read a few weeks ago said that 20km from where he (rehearsed?) war crimes were happening... If war crimes are happening nearby you, and they're being committed by soldiers (who these guys apparently employ as dancers - check it out), then where's your public outrage or statement of solidarity with the Palestinian people being occupied?

Not only that, but why is it such a shocker that an organization funded by the Israeli government is being boycotted? These guys are written up all over as the "cultural ambassadors" from Israel and Israel calls them among their best. Well it's only right then that the people in the US calling for boycott give Israel's best their BEST shot!

These guys are being protested everywhere they go (check the news - in the midwest, on the east coast... everywhere) - they should start to think about why that's the case. And for those who are members and also in the military, maybe think about what those white phosphorus shells did to Palestinian kids, and why 400 Palestinian kids are now dead... not to mention a death ratio of 100 to 1 (Palestinians to Israelis) is really sick. There's no "war" in Gaza... just a massacre my friends.
March 6, 2009, 4:17 pm
Michael from Bay Ridge says:
Protesting is certainly their right, but I don't see a clear relationship between this dance group and isreali politics.
In any case, I think that a carefully written letter explaining why they believe the group shouldn't have been allowed would give more insight than sound bites at a protest. For someone like me who doesn't really know much about this group, it's hard to see what a bunch of dancers have to do with domestic politics. The fact that they are funded by isreal means nothing because most government subsidize the arts, and to call them ambasadors was probably meant as cultural ambasadors - not state ambasadors.
Though perhaps I am mistaken.
March 9, 2009, 10:17 am
Thomas from Rutherford, NJ says:
Michael, who should the letter have gone to? Do you think the Brooklyn Paper would have published it in full?
March 9, 2009, 5:56 pm
Michael from Thomas says:
I don't know if they would, but I imagine they might have.
I think that the letter should have been sent to BAM and the Brooklyn Paper, yes. They could judge if it was worth publishing in full, assuming of course that it was concise and factual.

Right now I don't see how you can form an opinion on this matter without having to speculate.
March 10, 2009, 12:52 pm
Marc van de Mieroop from Columbia University says:
Raija and Jeff, is it possible to be more stupid that both of you guys? You pathetic comments proves that indeed there is no limit for stupidity. I wish I was able to take a part in Israeli operation against Islamonazis in Gaza. Unfortunately for all decent people around the world they didn't finally crashed these animals, but it's coming. I couldn't attend Batsheva's performance, but I shall certainly donate some money to this troupe (especially if some of them indeed have served in the Israeli reserve forces during the last operation).
March 13, 2009, 12:15 am
John from Ft Green says:
'These guys are being protested everywhere they go' in the biggest city in America by 15 people. 15. 1-5.

If the Muslims want to poke the Israelis in the chest, they are eventually going to get punched in the face. You can —— and moan until you are blue in the face, and how does that work out? ——ing and moaning doesnt stop bombs. Never has. Its kinda not a fair fight. And thats the point. Did you learn nothing? 100-1. Next time it will be 1000-1. Go ahead, poke them again. I dare you.
March 23, 2009, 5:25 pm
Dave from Brooklyn says:
Raija and Jeff, Muslim and bleeding heart liberal are joining together. Nothing new. 400 dead children in Gaza? If there be even something close to that, it would be only good reason for celebration of martyrdom in Gaza. Read their books and TV plays. They teach kids to become a martyr. And you know it.
A couple days ago in Germany, Muslims youths stoned another Israeli dance group.
I guess next time you- Raija and Jeff will do the same here. Yes, good people you are.
June 28, 2010, 4:47 pm

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