The state of Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. Surrounded by Arab enemy neighbors, the country doesn’t have it easy. Yet despite it all, this oasis in the desert has grown an Israeli culture which has created many wonderful artists – from singers to fashion to dancers like those of the Batsheva Dance Company, which according to its website has been “embraced as one of the most exciting contemporary dance companies in the world.”
Artists worldwide tend to be quite liberal, and this dance group isn’t any different: the troop has had full nudity in their routines, and to protests in Israel, dancers performing in their underwear. The troupe has made fun of Judaism, with dancers mocking prayer by men in black suits, and used music by an Israeli Arab to dance a “dream of peace” again and again. Despite accepting government funds Batsheva regularly criticizes Israeli government policy. Many (myself included) often find the dance company’s activities abhorrent, but that’s what democracy is about – many voices speaking out.
Batsheva Dance tours internationally, and now, during their tour of the US, activists from the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement against Israel are protesting against the company’s performances in America. They are calling for a boycott of Batsheva due to supposed “complicity with Israeli human rights violations,” and requesting that venues cancel their appearances. They blame Batsheva for being quiet; as activist Hanaa Awwad put it, “Exhibits and performances by Palestinian artists are systematically banned, sabotaged, and closed down by the Israeli occupation. Artists themselves are targets of violence, arbitrary arrests, and deportations.”
Of course, what Awwad and the BDS movement fail to mention is that artists in Israel are free to perform as they wish – as long as they aren’t terrorists. The BDS movement boycotts Israel and Israeli products by placing pressure until Israel “complies with international law and Palestinian rights.” I think it means until Israel ceases to exist.
Amazingly, no one from BDS has spoken out about how a Palestinian Heritage Museum opening didn’t allow girl dancers, as AK-47-wielding Hamas members didn’t permit them to dance. Across Palestinian-controlled Gaza, dancing is forbidden. And one wonders what would happen in any Arab country if a dance troupe dared to criticize the government – let alone a dance company that receives so much government funding. BDS hasn’t spoken out about how Arab nations and Hamas in the Gaza Strip won’t even permit dance troupes.
Just as so many protested against Israel with the Gaza-bound flotilla, but have yet to send a peace flotilla to Syria — where thousands are being butchered in the streets — so, too, this action against Batsheva indicates a blatant anti-Israel bias.