US: Protestors halt Israeli Ballet performance – UPDATED

National Ballet Company’s show in Vermont interrupted by pro-Palestinian protestors who force their way into theater.

UPDATED: Statement by one of the protesters — consisting of a performer of Yiddish music and actor, a theater artist and high school teacher, a filmmaker, and a musician and former Israeli Air Force pilot — correcting the Ynetnews report and presenting a strikingly different picture of the protest.


By Merav Yudilovitch, Ynetnews.com – 20 Feb 2010
www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3851815,00.html

Pro-Palestinian groups headed by Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, staged a protest rally outside an Israeli Ballet performance in the Flynn Theater in Burlington, Vermont, on Friday.

According to an Israel Radio report, four demonstrators eventually forced their way into the theater, waving signs saying that anyone who watched the performance was “supporting Israel’s apartheid policy.”

Company director Dan Rudolf alerted the theater’s security personnel, as well as the local police, who promptly arrived at the scene and escorted the demonstrators outside.

The show resumed after a short intermission.

The Israel Ballet Company is currently touring the US as part of an official state campaign, and is scheduled to perform in Buffalo, Brookline and Washington.

Over the weekend, the New York Times reported that several Palestinian rights groups called for a mass boycott of the shows.

Friday’s demonstration coincides with pro-Palestinian groups’ prompting of an academic and cultural boycott of Israel.


FOLLOW UP FROM ONE OF THE PROTESTERS

21 Feb 2010

Dear Israeli Occupation Archive,

Why are you helping to disseminate this fraudulent article? I was one of the four people who planned and carried out the action at the Israel Ballet performance in Burlington. Almost every bit of information in this article is incorrect. I understand why the so-called “pro-Israel” websites would reuse and even further falsify the article, after all, their whole business is lying, but shouldn’t our side have higher standards?

Here is the response I wrote to Ynet:

Thanks for reporting on the protest at the Israel Ballet performance in Burlington. While I appreciate the mention, I feel obliged to make a few factual corrections, as virtually all of the details in the article are incorrect. As I was one of the protesters, I am able to give a more accurate representation of what happened than a writer apparently working with fourth or fifth hand information.

First of all, the protest was not headed by Adalah. I’ve never even heard of that organization. We were simply acting as individuals of conscience, 3 Americans and 1 Israeli. The group that was leafleting outside the theater is called Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel, and has no connection with Adalah, or with the action that took place inside the theater.

Second, we never “forced our way into the theater” as you rather slanderously reported. In fact, though we support boycotting Israel as a non-violent pressuring tactic, we did the opposite on this occasion and paid $50 apiece for tickets (no small expense for a professional klezmer musician in Vermont, believe me).

Third, we were not “waving signs saying that anyone who watched the performance was ‘supporting Israel’s apartheid policy'”. We unfurled two banners which read “Sponsored by Apartheid Israel” and “No tutu is big enough to cover War Crimes”. It is irresponsible reporting to place in quotation marks something which is not a quote, but a re-imagining or, to put it charitably, a paraphrase of what was actually said.

To continue, we were not escorted out by police, but rather left of our own volition before the police arrived. The dancers continued their performance professionally without missing a beat. In light of your journal’s careless treatment of basic facts, which is sadly typical of the Israel-apologist press, I am compelled to view all other articles published therein with a good dose of skepticism.

The article did get at least one important fact right, which is that the Israel Ballet is touring the US as part of an official state campaign. Called “Brand Israel” by the government, this campaign is an effort to resuscitate, using cultural figures and institutions, Israel’s image as a civilized nation in the eyes of the world, in the wake of its decidedly uncivilized recent conduct in Lebanon and Gaza, and its subsequent condemnation by virtually the entire human rights and international community.

Our decision to disrupt the performance was the result of a long debate about the morality and efficacy of such an action. As performers and people in the Arts ourselves (our group consisted of a performer of Yiddish music and actor, a theater artist and high school teacher, a filmmaker, and a musician and former Israeli Air Force pilot) disrupting a ballet was not something we took lightly. It was ultimately decided that there is always a price to pay when one wishes to change the status quo and, in light of Israel’s outrageous and unacceptable behavior toward Palestinians and Lebanese, and its attempt to distract attention from its crimes with brightly-colored artistic and cultural products, the price, in this case, was worth it.

We are not going to let people forget the 1,400 people killed in Gaza last year, 4/5 of whom were non-combatants. We will not let people forget the 5,000 who were wounded, many who lost limbs, or who are now paralyzed for life. We will not let people forget the 6,000 homes that were completely destroyed by Israeli bombs and bulldozers in Operation Cast Lead. We were brought up to be polite and gentle people, and we don’t relish rudeness, but there is nothing defensible about remaining silent while Israelis behave like savages, committing massacres and imprisoning a whole population, while coating themselves in the veneer of civilization.

David Symons

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