From Israeli citizens to the Ravenna Festival:
DON'T DANCE WITH BATSHEVA AND ISRAELI APARTHEID!
To: Organizers of the RavennaFestival
Dear Organizers of the Ravenna Festival,
We are Israeli citizens, active against our government’s policies of occupation, colonialism and apartheid. We have learned that you wish to dedicate this year’s festival to the legacy of Nelson Mandela. We would like to congratulate you for this decision, but we must add that the participation of Israeli dance company, Batsheva, contradicts this legacy. Our explanation, as well as our call not to host Batsheva, follow.
Nelson Mandela led the fight against the apartheid regime in South Africa. It should come as no surprise that Mandela supported the rights of the Palestinian people. His statement that ''Our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians'', reflects the direct connection between the struggle for justice and equality in South Africa and the same struggle here in Israel/Palestine.
As you may know, the Batsheva dance company’s performances in Italy are sponsored by the Israeli government, by way of the Israeli Embassy in Italy. Thus, the performance is financed by the Israeli Ministry Foreign Affairs. This creates an immediate connection between Batsheva and the propaganda arm of the Israeli government, whose purpose is to whitewash and legitimize Israel’s violations of human rights and international law, which amount to war crimes against the Palestinian population.
As we write this, millions of Palestinians all over the world are commemorating Nakba day, 68 years since the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. Hundreds of thousands of people were forced to flee by Zionist militias and Israeli forces. Many were killed, and more massacres have been discovered in recent years. Thanks to historical research, we know now that this ethnic cleansing was perpetrated as a policy adopted by the highest levels of power in Israel at the time.
Israel imposes a brutal military occupation on millions of Palestinians living in the besieged and occupied Gaza strip and in the occupied West Bank. Millions of Palestinians have been living with no citizen rights for almost 50 years.
Israel’s Palestinian citizens within the 67 borders suffer from violent discriminatory policies, which are based on the constitutional foundations of the state. For example, the Palestinian Bedouin inhabitants of the village of Um Hiran in the Negev/Naqeb (Southern Israel), who had been violently uprooted by Israel in the Nakba, from their former village of Wadi Zabale, are now facing another round of ethnic cleansing, as the State is about to remove them and build a new community for Jewish Israeli citizens, by the name of Hiran.
Batsheva is a central figure in a propaganda campaign called Brand Israel, launched in 2009. Brand Israel has the explicit goal of diverting global public attention away from ongoing human rights' violations by the Israeli government. One should also quote Nissim Ben-Sheetrit of the Israeli Ministry of the Foreign Affairs who stated in 2005: "We see culture as a hasbara [propaganda] tool of the first rank and I do not differentiate between hasbara and culture".
The direct ties between Batsheva and the Israeli government means that the ensemble is at the service of occupation, colonialism and apartheid. This contradicts the values which the Ravenna Festival claims to be promoting,.
More than 170 Palestinian civil society groups have launched the movement for Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel in 2005, as an effective and nonviolent means of struggle for freedom and equality. We would like to point out that the campaign of cultural boycott against Israel, on the basis of the guidelines of PACBI does not target Israeli artists on an individual basis. but rather Israeli institutions, as well as the mechanisms by which Israeli artists become complicit in the regime's propaganda.
Dear organizers of the Ravenna Festival, in the spirit of the struggle against apartheid in south Africa, please withdraw the invitation to the Batsheva Dance Company. Please sever ties with the Israeli embassy in Italy, and say no to their funding and their propaganda.
We will gladly address any comments you may have.
Boycott! Supprting the Palestinian BDS Call from Within (Israeli citizens for BDS)