I remember the magnificent 1998 Jubilee celebration of Israel’s independence. One of the reasons that it will be remembered is because of the planned performance of Batsheva which didn’t take place, because it was perceived to be provocative and offensive towards the religious and orthodox population in Israel (the performance included music from the Hagada with the dancers taking off their clothes as part of the dance). It was a terrible mistake to cancel that performance and it will be a dreadful mistake to cancel a performance of Batsheva in Scotland because it’s an Israeli dance company.
Batsheva has always been an excellent dance company with a strong artistic say, not afraid to challenge the consensus, be it social or art. The bunch of weirdos who call for boycotting Batsheva do not even try to understand that the band doesn’t represent the policies of Israeli government. The band has an independent artistic say and anyone who’ve heard about Ohad Naharin, the artistic director of Batsheva, will know that he will never make compromises in his dance because some people didn’t like it or against it, and he is right in his stance.
The band believes that ‘Humaneness, tolerance and creativity’ are strengthened by its art. It’s saddening therefore that some people whose whole focus is anti-Israel hatred and bigotry, ignore such important principles. Are they really interested in peace and co-existence? Those who genuinely interested in peace and appreciate art do not seek to censor it by seeking to boycott a dance or theatre band.
Will the boycotters dare to call to boycott the legendary Mariinsky Ballet (who performs Cinderella at the festival) because the freedom of speech situation in Russia? Of course not, because it is stupid to censor art, and because the boycotters are hypocrites who single out one country in their pathetic crusade, thus exposed as abusing art to push their hateful agenda. As their lame attempts failed miserably in May when Habima came to London and gave two superb performances, I’m absolutely sure that the current attempt of cultural terrorism will be an epic fail of the BDS movement.
Tal Ofer is a London-based Member of the European Jewish Parliament