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Palestinian solidarity: withhold visas for Israeli dancers

27 January 2014

Palestinian solidarity groups call on government to withhold visas for Israeli Dance troupe

A wide range of Palestinian solidarity groups active in New Zealand have called on the government to withhold New Zealand visas from the Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company which is scheduled to perform in the New Zealand Festival of the Arts in Wellington next month.

We wrote to Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse last November making this request and received a non-committal response. We followed up with a letter to Foreign Minister Murray McCully on 15 January this year but have yet to receive a reply. (The letter to Mr McCully is available below.)

We pointed out the Batsheva Dance Company is part of the Israeli propaganda effort to deflect criticism of its appalling policies towards Palestinians.

The Batsheva troupe is largely funded by the Israeli Ministry of Culture & Sport, the City of Tel Aviv and the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs who praise the troupe as “ambassadors of Israeli culture”. The troupe's participation in the NZ Arts Festival is also partially sponsored by the Israeli Embassy in Wellington.

Israel is subject to an international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign because of its unashamedly racist treatment of its Arab-Israeli citizens; the construction of illegal Jewish-only settlements on Palestinian land; its brutal military occupation of the West Bank Palestinian territory and its inhuman blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The BDS campaign was called for launched in 2005 by some 260 Palestinian civil society organisations as the best way for the international community to support the Palestinian struggle for justice and human rights and the organisations writing to you here are working in support of this campaign.

For the same reasons New Zealanders called for the end to rugby links with apartheid South Africa we are calling for the cutting of ties with apartheid Israel.

We hope the government will respond because last year, by overwhelming popular vote, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed “2014 the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People”. If the government wants to gain the respect of other countries in its bid for a seat on the UN Security Council then cancelling visas for this troupe as a way of providing practical solidarity to the Palestinian struggle would be a big help.

The National government of the 1980s was on the wrong side of history in the struggle against apartheid South Africa. This issue is an opportunity get on the right side of history with the Palestinian struggle.

We have also written to the festival organisers called for Batsheva’s participation in the New Zealand Festival of the Arts to be cancelled and have requested a meeting to discuss the issue.

John Minto
On behalf of
New Zealand Palestine Solidarity Network
Palestine Human Rights Campaign
Global Peace and Justice Auckland
Kia Ora Gaza
BDS Wellington
Canterbury for Justice in Palestine
Auckland University Students for Justice in Palestine

LETTER TO FOREIGN MINISTER MURRAY MCCULLY SENT ON 15 JANUARY

From:
New Zealand Palestine Solidarity Network
New Zealand Palestine Human Rights Campaign
Global Peace and Justice Auckland
Kia Ora Gaza
BDS Wellington
Canterbury for Justice in Palestine
Auckland University Students for Justice in Palestine
To:
Murray McCully
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Parliament buildings
Wellington

15 January 2014

Email: m.mccully@ministers.govt.nz

Kia ora Mr McCully,
Proposed visit by Batsheva Dance Company

We are very concerned to read that the Batsheva Dance Company is scheduled to visit New Zealand in February this year to take part in the 2014 New Zealand Festival programme in Wellington.

This group is largely funded by the Israeli Ministry of Culture & Sport, the City of Tel Aviv and the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs who praise the troupe as “ambassadors of Israeli culture”. The troupe's participation in the NZ Arts Festival is also partially sponsored by the Israeli Embassy.
You will know that Israel is subject to an international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign because of its unashamedly racist treatment of its Arab-Israeli citizens; the construction of illegal Jewish-only settlements on Palestinian land; its brutal military occupation of the West Bank Palestinian territory and its vicious blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The BDS campaign was launched in 2005 by some 260 Palestinian civil society organisations as the best way for the international community to support the Palestinian struggle for justice and human rights and the organisations writing to you here are working in support of this campaign.

You will also be aware that last year, by overwhelming popular vote, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed “2014 the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People”.

You would no doubt be well aware of New Zealand’s commitment under statute as a state party to ensure Israel’s compliance with international humanitarian law, and in particular the Fourth Geneva Convention. The International Court of Justice has made it quite clear that Israeli settlements in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights are illegal.

Only last Friday the government of Israel announced the construction on 1400 more illegal housing units in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

We suggest New Zealand could make some response as a step towards fulfilling its obligations.

As part of providing practical solidarity to the Palestinian struggle we request the government refuse visas to this dance group to enter New Zealand. Such a decision would be welcomed by Palestinians as part of the international pressure to bring change to the policies of the Israeli apartheid state as well as by those countries thinking of supporting New Zealand’s bid for a UN Security Council seat.

It’s appropriate here to quote the late Nelson Mandela who said “we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians” and important to acknowledge South Africa’s Bishop Desmond Tutu who is on record as saying the situation for the Palestinians today is much worse than it was for black South Africans under apartheid.

We look forward to your reply.

Regards,
John Minto
on behalf of the above groups

ENDS

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