Edinburgh Festival under pressure to disinvite ‘Brand Israel’ group 15Jul12 July 15, 2012

PACBI    -   14 July 2012

Edinburgh International Festival organisers are under pressure to withdraw an Israeli dance group from the 2012 programme, after receiving an open letter criticising Batsheva Dance Company’s sponsorship by the Israeli state.

Human rights organisations and supporters of Palestinian human rights from around the world endorsed the letter to Festival director Jonathan Mills in protest at how “Batsheva willingly collaborates with the propaganda exercise, known as ‘Brand Israel’, which was conceived by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA).  This cynically aims to present positive spin about Israel and whitewash its oppressive regime and human rights abuses”.

So far the open letter has collected endorsements from over seventy international organisations and from individuals such as journalist John Pilger.  The signatories reject the idea that culture is disconnected from politics and said that they were responding to a 2004 Palestinian call for a boycott of all cultural performers and exhibiters that are institutionally linked to the Israeli state.

The open letter also highlights the situation for Palestinians, including artists and performers, who face restrictions and harassment because of Israel’s occupation and system of “apartheid… an aggravated and state directed form of racial discrimination in which one group dominates and oppresses another”.

A coalition of Palestine solidarity organisations and activists coming together as ‘Don’t Dance with Israeli Apartheid’ are planning protests at all Batsheva performances at the end of August should the Festival go ahead with the scheduled programme.

The Edinburgh International Film Festival issued an apology after taking sponsorship from the Israeli Embassy in 2006 and again in 2009. After returning the money, then-chairman, Iain Smith, admitted that “our festival cannot keep itself entirely detached from very serious geopolitical issues and I am instituting a review of our procedures to ensure there can be no repeat incident”.

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