BROOKLYN, NY, February 21, 2010 (WAFA)- Human rights activists will call upon New Yorkers to boycott the Israel Ballet at their Sunday afternoon performance at the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts at Brooklyn College. The protest will include contemporary and folk dance, anti-apartheid ballet-themed chants, and more.
Organizers of the protest affirmed the boycott call by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel and stated that Israeli cultural and academic institutions that do not openly denounce Israeli crimes against Palestinians and dissociate themselves from Israeli policy should be subject to a popular boycott.
Allison Brown of Adalah-NY comments, “Rather than distancing itself from the Israeli state’s cynical use of the arts to whitewash its apartheid and colonial policies, the Israel Ballet, which receives around $1 million annually from the Israeli government, has proudly embraced its ties with the state. We call upon New Yorkers to reject the Israel Ballet’s cynical tip-toeing around Israeli apartheid.”
The Israel Ballet website states that the troupe is “earning recognition and bringing honor to the state of Israel.” Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in turn, affirms the troupe’s service to the state, calling them “a valued cultural representative.”
With growing criticism of Israeli state policies, arts and culture have become important weapons in the Israeli government’s public relations campaign. In 2006, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs launched an initiative called “Brand Israel” to salvage Israel's deteriorating image abroad. Arye Mekel of Israel’s Foreign Ministry has stated, “We will send well-known novelists and writers overseas, theater companies, exhibits... This way you show Israel’s prettier face, so we are not thought of purely in the context of war.”
Dave Lippman of Adalah-NY explains, “The Israel Ballet comes to the US in the midst of an ongoing effort to ‘re-brand’ Israel and to conceal facts about its occupation, racial discrimination and even war crimes against the Palestinian people, as pointedly revealed in the UN’s recently published Goldstone Report on Israel’s war of aggression on Gaza.”
Following fifteen years of fruitless negotiations, supporters of a regime of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israeli institutions and businesses argue that only a moral campaign of non-violent public pressure like that used to topple Apartheid in South Africa will work to change Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.
To combat Israel’s 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 “to 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.”
The call to boycott the Israel Ballet has been endorsed by 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. The Israel Ballet will be met with protests across the East Coast leg of its 2010 US tour, with additional protests planned for its Burlington, Worcester, and Buffalo performances.