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.
©2009 Community News Group
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