Italian press reports opposition to state-sponsored Israeli dance performance, citing letter from Brian Eno
Artists for Palestine, Sep 5 2016
Dancers from the Batsheva Dance Company rehearse at the Jerusalem Theater, May 26 2015. Led by Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin, the ensemble is comprised of Israeli and international dancers. (Photo: Abir Sultani/EPA)
Italian newspapers are reporting opposition to Israeli state sponsorship of a performance by Batsheva dance company, due to take place tomorrow in Turin. La Republica has published in full a letter sent in June to Batsheva’s artistic director Ohad Naharin by composer Brian Eno, explaining why he has withdrawn permission for his music to be used in the performance. La Stampa has quoted from it and the story has been picked up by Italian news agency ANSA. First is a translation by Stephanie Westbrook of BDS Italia of the Republica article, and below the text of Brian Eno’s letter.
FROM LA REPUBLICA
The case of Israel-Palestine has erupted at TorinoDanza, the show dedicated to dance in all its forms that opens tomorrow at the Teatro Regio as part of the MiTo (Milan-Turin) festival. Brian Eno, musician and world-renowned composer, wrote to the Batsheva Dance Company, which will inaugurate Torino Danza, to deny the use of his music for the piece “Three” due to “sponsorship by the Israeli Embassy.” Eno has long been a supporter of “BDS,” the Palestinian-led campaign for “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” against Israel. He is also a signatory, along with 1,700 (actually 1,200) artists in Britain , of the declaration “Artists for Palestine” pledging not to maintain relations with the Israeli government. On the Torino Danza web site, in fact, the name of Eno has recently been removed, and the music for “Humus”, the second act of “Three,” created by the director of Batsheva, choreographer Ohad Naharin, has been replaced with another piece. In his letter, while declaring to be “flattered” by the choice of his music for the work, Eno says that its use creates “a serious conflict” for him, since according to the composer, “the Israeli government uses art to promote ‘Brand Israel’ and divert attention from the occupation of Palestinian lands.”
Dear Ohad Naharin and the Batsheva company,
It has recently come to my attention that you have been using a piece of my music in a work called HUMUS. I was not aware of this use until last week, and, though in one way I’m flattered that you chose my music for your work, I’m afraid it creates a serious conflict for me. To my understanding, the Israeli Embassy (and therefore the Israeli government) will be sponsoring the upcoming performances, and, given that I’ve been supporting the BDS campaign for several years now, this is an unacceptable prospect for me. It’s often said by opponents of BDS that art shouldn’t be used as a political weapon. However, since the Israeli government has made it quite clear that it uses art in exactly that way, to promote ‘Brand Israel’ and to draw attention away from the occupation of Palestinian land, I consider that my decision to deny permission is a way of taking this particular weapon out of their hands. Only a couple of days ago an Israeli army officer murdered 15 year old Mahmud Badran and it isn’t clear if he’ll even be criminally charged for it, let alone punished. And hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank are expected to go through another summer without reliable water services, while the demolition of Palestinian homes and confiscation of Palestinian land goes on without interruption, as it has done for many years now. There is no sign of any attempt to limit settler activity in any way. I am trying to understand the difficulties that must face any Israeli artist now, and in particular ones like yourselves who have shown some sympathy to the Palestinian cause. I feel that your government exploits artists like you, playing on your natural desire to keep working, even if it does mean becoming part of a propaganda strategy. Your dance company might not be able to formally distance itself from the Israeli government but I can and will: I don’t want my music to be licensed for any event sponsored by the Israeli embassy. I discussed this with my friend Ohal, an Israeli artist and another supporter of BDS, and I know that she and her Israeli BDS colleagues can understand the need for a boycott. As artists we should be free to choose to respond to the injustices of governments, yours or mine.
Yours sincerely, Brian Eno