Protests dog Israel's Batsheva Dance Company

A local video artist calling for a boycott of Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company (at the Vancouver Playhouse February 20 and 21) said she’s concerned that her career may take a hit as a result of her political actions. On January 26, jamie griffiths sent an e-mail to DanceHouse Productions, copied to numerous members of the dance community, stating she was “calling for a boycott of Israeli cultural events due to the illegal military and civil actions occurring at this time in Israel”.

Griffiths, who has travelled to Israel and the West Bank three times, is a frequent dance collaborator. “These are all my clients,” she said. “I was concerned about it before I hit ”˜send’. I sat and hovered over it for an hour after I’d written it. I kept thinking, ”˜Am I really going to do this?’”

Griffiths explained that she decided to boycott the production, which has been the target of similar protests and demonstrations during its current North American tour, after reading an article by Naomi Klein that endorsed Palestinian calls for a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

The world-famous Batsheva is funded by the Israeli government and is often seen as the nation's biggest cultural ambassador. But reached in Tel Aviv, Batsheva's artistic director Ohad Naharin said his work transcends political, ethnic, or religious content. He personally opposes the violence in Israel and said he understands the frustration of people who want to fight for human rights. However, he adds: "I think it's not really going to make a difference to boycott a dance company. I'm thinking, where else can they channel their energy? It should be to get moderate powers and people on both sides to talk to each other.

"The boycott is just preventing something that is good....I think artists belong to a group of people who don't represent the ugly side of Israel. They represent people who have compassion and who are willing to give up a lot for peace. And artists everywhere usually represent something missing from politics: the search for new solutions."

Read a more extensive interview with Naharin in next week's Straight.