Boycott campaigners turned the empty Zionist slogan "Culture unites, Boycotts Divide" totally on its head in Edinburgh last weekend, drawing some of Scotland's best known cultural figures, many theatre–goers and Ohad Naharin, artistic director of Israel's world-renowned Batsheva dance company, into public dialogue about its role as a state-funded "cultural ambassador."
In an unprecedented encounter on Saturday Sept 1 with around 200 supporters of the Don't Dance with Israeli Apartheid campaign protesting against Batsheva's presence at the Edinburgh International Festival, Naharin insisted that the company was not part of the Brand Israel project, which misuses culture to deflect attention away from the Occupation and other injustices against the Palestinian people.
Naharin, who had initiated contact with BDS campaigners at a festival debate earlier in the day, told Scottish PSC chair Mick Napier that he was ready publicly to dissociate Batsheva from Brand Israel and to declare his opposition to the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.
As Napier handed Naharin a loud hailer for him to make his statement, Batsheva general manager Dina Aldor stepped in to prevent it. The campaign's demands are now on the table for the company's board in Tel Aviv to ponder as they prepare for an eight-city UK tour in two months time.
Alistair Burt, Minister for the Middle East at the UK Foreign Office, waded in with the dishonest allegation that protestors were "singling out institutions and individuals for no other reason than they are from Israel". The real reason for the protests – Batsheva's political links to the Israeli State – were highlighted by the presence of Culture Minister Limor Livnat who told the Jewish Telegraph she was "in Edinburgh because the Batsheva Dance Company is performing here" and "Batsheva Dance Company is one of our flagship cultural institutions". The political nature of the evening was again underlined when Minister and Israeli Ambassador Daniel Taub "went backstage to meet members of the Batsheva Dance Company after the show".
Batsheva's run of shows during the world's biggest arts festival came to an inglorious end on Saturday with the theatre less than half full, tickets having been given away to dance groups in an attempt to fill seats.
The few departing theatre goers at the end of the evening were greeted by the rhythmic chant 'Your tickets, were covered, in Palestinian blood'.
Full report at BIN (Boycott Israel Network) with video and photos