From Israeli citizens to Benjamin Millepied: Please cancel your dance performances in Apartheid Israel!

July 2018

Dear Benjamin Millepied,

We are a group of Israeli citizens, opposed to our government’s policies of oppression, occupation, apartheid, and ethnic cleansing against the indigenous Palestinian people [1]. We have learned of your upcoming dance performances in Israel, and are asking you to cancel them. Allow us to explain our reasoning.

As we speak, since late March, Israel is committing an ongoing massacre in Gaza, of unarmed protesters who are calling for an end to the siege that Israel has imposed on them, and demanding the right to return to their indigenous homeland. This siege renders them prisoners of the biggest open-air prison in the world. In the past three months alone, Israel murdered over 140 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, including children [2].

In the West Bank, Israel has been employing a brutal, belligerent military regime for the past 50 years, and expanding its colonial settlement project, which a recent report of The office of the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights has described as “pervasive and devastating [violations of human rights], reaching every facet of Palestinian life” [3].


Within Israel itself, Palestinian citizens are subjected to over 65 laws denying them basic equality, civil, and human rights [4] and Israel has just passed the Nation-State Law that enshrines Jewish supremacy over Palestinian citizens [5].


The Suzanne Dellal Center, which will be hosting your performances, was co-established by the Tel Aviv municipality and Israel's Ministry of Culture in the mid 1980's as a performative arm of the ministry, and is today part and parcel of Israel's PR efforts abroad, focusing on Tel Aviv as the 'liberal', 'cool', and 'cultured' face of Israel. In its self-authored history, the center is painted as a project to "revitalise" an "empty and derelict" neighborhood [6], but neglects to mention the Palestinian Manshiyya neighborhood, that was ethnically cleansed by Zionist militias on the 28th of April 1948 [7].


Almost every indigenous Palestinian in what is now Tel Aviv, was ethnically cleansed in the 1948 Nakba- The Catastrophe. Erasing the indigenous Palestinian people and history and replacing them with "modern" architecture and a "contemporary" dance theatre, is a colonial act, reflecting a colonial culture, as propagated by Israel’s Culture Ministry, and in our minds as the inheritors of this culture, this is nothing to be proud of.


Every international artist who performs in Israel, as well as dance performances or festivals that are partnered with, or sponsored by Israel’s leading governmental bodies, in fact serve the government’s explicit agenda of distraction from Israel’s war crimes against the Palestinian population. The Israeli government, its embassies, and Ministry of Culture are quick to celebrate artists with even a slight connection to Israel [8], as you surely know [9]. As was summed up by the former Deputy Director General of the Israel Foreign Ministry:  "We are seeing culture as a hasbara [i.e.propaganda] tool of the first rank, and I do not differentiate between hasbara and culture" [10].


In addition, when it comes to indigenous Palestinian culture, Israel has a long history of its destruction, as well as the persecution of artists:

In 1987, after the First Intifada broke out, Israel tightened restrictions on Palestinians, targeting the El Fanoun dance troupe, the foremost dance company of indigenous Palestinian folk dancing, Dabkeh.

"Many of the dancers were sent to prison without charge, where they were subjected to mental abuse and physical torture. During the intifada, dancers did not use their names publicly, and even getting up on stage was considered a heroic act. But the dancing went on. Much of El Fanoun’s choreography in that period was created inside Israeli prisons." [11]

Today the persecution of Palestinian traditional dance troupes continues, with military raids on performances, imprisonments of dancers, and shutting down of theatres under military order [12].


We don’t wish to intrude on your personal life, however, it is impossible not to address your partner, Natalie Portman's choice to reject the Genesis Prize, because she did not want to appear to endorse Benjamin Netanyahu [13]. We hope that we’ve managed to adequately show you, how your performances in the Suzanne Dellal Center are an endorsement of Israel’s erasure of the indigenous Palestinian people vis-a-vis its direct connection to the Tel Aviv municipality and the Culture Ministry. Such an endorsement is akin to endorsing Netanyahu.


Please don’t endorse Israel’s erasure of the indigenous Palestinian people. Please cancel your dance performances at the Suzanne Dellal Center.  


Boycott! Supporting the Palestinian BDS call from Within










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