Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Israeli Apartheid Institutions: The Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra & the Batsheva Dance Company

Reposted from Next Year in al-Quds:

The Middle East Task Force of Ann Arbor, Michigan is organizing a nonviolent protest outside the Hill Auditorium on Sunday, November 16, 2008, at 3:00 PM in support of the boycott of two Israeli cultural organizations touring the US. Both organizations will be hosted by the University Musical Society (UMS), based in Ann Arbor. The rationale for the boycott is adequately developed in the letter to UMS President Ken Fischer here. The purpose of this post is to provide more information about the two organizations in question, the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra (JSO) and Batsheva Dance Company (BDC).

According to a recent article on the ardently pro-Israel web site, ISRAEL21C:
The orchestra was founded in the 1940s as an adjunct to BBC radio in Mandatory Palestine, and became the Kol Israel (Voice of Israel) national radio orchestra with the establishment of the State of Israel. In the 1970s, it was expanded and became the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA).
In the same article it is revealed that the "IBA now provides NIS 6 million of the JSO's annual NIS 9 million budget, with the remainder coming from the Friends, the Municipality of Jerusalem, the Ministry of Science, Culture and Sport, and independent income." Elsewhere, it is stated that "the Friends" provide 15% of the JSO budget, indicating that Israeli government agencies provide somewhere between 66.7% and 85% of the JSO's budget.

JSO Conductor Leon Botstein brags that the JSO is, "very international, with a very wide age range and a very wide political span - from extreme left to extreme right - and I admire the civility with which it handles itself". Oddly enough for an orchestra that hails from Jerusalem, a city where Palestinians make up about one-third of the population, there are, apparently, no Palestinians in the orchestra. As ISRAEL21C reports, "About 40% of JSO's players come from the former Soviet Union, 25% are native-born Israelis, 10% come from the US, a significant contingent from Romania, along with Greece, Germany and Japan." Of course, it may be that some of the "native-born Israelis" are Palestinians.

No matter, though, it's clear from its history and funding that the JSO is a creature of Zionism and the Jewish state. As the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) has declared, "Since the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra is one of the primary promoters and exporters of Israeli cultural life, one of its functions is to boost Israel's image on the world stage. In this way, the truth about the Israeli occupation of Palestine becomes suppressed, and its institutionalized attacks on Palestinian cultural heritage are ignored."

Likewise, the Batsheva Dance Company is an Israeli apartheid institution. An October 26, 2008, article in The Independent of London reports:
On Tuesday night at Sadler's Wells, secret service officers were seen checking under the seats. The next night outside Riverside Studios, protesters tried to persuade punters to boycott the show. What contemporary dance company could possibly merit such attention? An Israeli one, apparently. Batsheva is hardly a political entity, but it's funded by Israel's government, its performers include none of Arab extraction, and it is "proud to be considered Israel's leading ambassador".
According to a 1998 article in Dance Magazine, the BDC was founded 1964 by Batsheva de Rothschild of the wealthy banking family. Although she "was born in London in 1914" and "grew up in Paris" she settled in Israel the same year she started the BDC. Rothschild also "served in Israel as a driver when her car was mobilized for the Yom Kippur War of 1973" and supported "housing for [Jewish] newcomers [to Israel] in the early 1950s". According to Dance Magazine, the BDC "has relied on public financing" since the 1990s.

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