Monday, February 22, 2010

Activist Coalition Tells Israel Ballet: Don’t Tiptoe Around Apartheid!


 Report by Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions (BDS) Activists, Boston, MA

Worcester, MA, February 20, 2010 – The Israel Ballet’s recent performance of Don Quixote was protested by a  coalition of activists who sought to highlight the troupe’s role in the Israeli government’s attempt to whitewash its record of war crimes, violations of international law, and other atrocities through promotion of its country’s artistic and cultural workers.

Approximately 34 students, workers, activists, and people of faith gathered in front of the Hanover Theatre, holding signs ranging from the playful to the direct.  Representatives from the Worcester area Catholic Workers displayed an image of Don Quixote with the slogan, “Dream A Possible Dream.”  Students from Clark University asked “Where Are the Arabs in Your Arabesques?”  And Boston area activists held a banner proclaiming “Tutus Can’t Cover Israel’s War Crimes.”

Other demonstrators posed as ushers, distributing alternative programs to those attending the ballet.  Appearing on the outside to be a regular performance program, inside it detailed the Israel Ballet’s role as an “Ambassador of Apartheid,” explaining how arts and culture are used by the Israeli government to promote a friendlier image of the country so as to distract from its ongoing system of apartheid, colonial occupation, and violations of human rights and international law.  Activists succeeded in handing out all 200 programs they brought with them.

Video (vimeo): http://vimeo.com/9629470 

At the conclusion of the 1-hour action, Israel Ballet Associate Director Dan Rudolf came out to address the protesters.  Rudolph insisted that anyone who claimed the Ballet received money from the Israeli government was a liar, despite the fact that Ha’aretz has reported it receives over $1 million from Tel Aviv annually (http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/815228.html).  In response to questions from demonstrators asking “What happened in 1948?” Rudolf replied, “You know what was in Israel before 1948?  Nothing.  Nothing was.”  When protesters cited Israeli historians Ilan Pappe’s and Benny Morris’s documentation of the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians displaced, exiled, and killed in 1948 and the destruction of  500 Palestinian villages, Rudolf stated, “That belongs to the tale of 1001 Arabian Nights, to the tale of Ali Baba.”

The Massachusetts activists were pleased to be part of a larger, multi-city campaign that refuses to let the Israel Ballet “tiptoe around apartheid,” a campaign that is part of the larger movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel (see http://adalahny.org/ for more information).  Only two days prior, activists in Burlington, VT succeeded in disrupting the Israel Ballet’s  actual performance with a banner:  http://vimeo.com/9594080

The BDS movement is an international response to the call from Palestinian society to boycott, divest from, and sanction the Israeli government until it ends its occupation and dismantles the wall, recognizes the equal rights of Palestinian citizens, and respects the right of return of Palestinian refugees.  To learn more about the call for BDS, and to read about other organizations engaged in BDS work who also support the protest of the Israel Ballet, see:
http://www.bdsmovement.net/ - site of the global BDS movement; you can read the call for BDS here
http://www.pacbi.org/ - site of the Palestinian campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel
http://www.endtheoccupation.org/ - site of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation