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Protests planned against Israeli dance company

Wellington-based supporters of Palestinian rights will protest against scheduled performances of the Israeli Batsheva Dance Company at the New Zealand Festival in Wellington later this month.

A newly formed organisation, Aotearoa BDS Network, is part of an international campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions [BDS] against Israel, because of its human rights violations against Palestinians.

“Batsheva is at the forefront of the Israeli cultural campaign to make a violent and racist state look benign and entertaining,” says spokesperson Nadia Abu-Shanab.

Abu-Shanab says that if the performances go ahead they will be met with a “vigorous and creative response from supporters of Palestinian rights in New Zealand.”

But Abu-Shanab says she hopes the Festival organisers will cancel the Israeli embassy-sponsored performances.

“The Israeli response to the campaign shows how well the campaign is working. Israeli public relations have gone into overdrive over the last few years.”

Abu-Shanab points to recent protests against Batsheva in Europe and North America as an indication of how the dance troupe is being used.

“The protests are against what is a deliberate diversion of international public attention from the continuing Israeli siege of Gaza, the ongoing occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, racial discrimination against Palestinians inside Israel’s 1948 borders and Israel’s outright refusal to allow the return of Palestinian refugees to their homeland,” she says.

“Batsheva dancers act as state-funded shock troops for Israeli diplomatic outreach. They are openly branded as an Israeli state institution.

“They tour the world at will in a way that Israel would never allow Palestinians to do.”

“Batsheva represent violence and repression built out of systematic and institutional discrimination, just as much as South African sports teams did in apartheid South Africa.”

Aotearoa BDS Network has written to the Festival organisers and the operators of the St James Theatre venue, as well as the two other sponsors, Wellington International Airport and the Dunedin-based Southern Trust, asking them to withdraw support for Batsheva’s performances.

The global campaign for BDS was launched by Palestinian civil society in 2005, since neither violence nor diplomacy have enabled Palestinians to achieve their recognised rights since Israel was established in Palestine in 1948.

ENDS

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