We would like to explain our point of view with reference to the request from the Israeli theatre world to invite Les Ballets C. de la B. to Israel.
Due to the outbreak of the second intifada in September 2000, we felt it would be wise not to accept any more of these invitations for several reasons.
Since November 2004 (a.o. since the death of Arafat) the situation in Israel and the Occupied Territories seems to be evolving in a positive way. There is the so-called dismantling of the settlements in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian prisoners are being released and – very important: the number of deadly bomb attacks has dropped considerably. Nevertheless, our collaboration with Palestinian artists in Ramallah tells us that reality for the Palestinians is as poignant as ever. The occupation of the Palestinian territories still persists, as does the repression and discrimination of the Palestinian people, and new Jewish settlements are still being erected in Palestinian territory. To top it off, the ‘Wall of Shame’ is there in plain view and can hardly be ignored.
To this date we consider the situation and the treatment of the Palestinian people in Israel and the Occupied Territories to be fundamentally unjust. As long as the Israeli government – in consultation with the Palestinian authorities – doesn’t take adequate measures to put an end to what we call the repression, the humiliation and the racist treatment of the Palestinian people, we consider any performance of our company in Israel to be an indirect support of that occupation and repression.
We believe that the citizens of Israel and the artists and people working in the Israeli cultural sector in particular, should undertake overt actions to denounce and counter the wrongs caused by their government.
In our opinion, a cultural boycott is a legitimate, unambiguous and nonviolent way of exerting additional pressure on those responsible. This being said, we obviously wish to continue working with Israeli artists to reflect on how we can support their actions and we also wish to keep the dialogue going. We know how exceptionally hard it is for them to undertake these actions without being forced to experience the consequences first-hand.
Our collaboration with Palestinian artists has taught us that cultural activities in Israel that also involve Palestinians are used all too often to obscure reality. After all, the ‘Wall of Shame’ is still standing, terrifying crimes are being committed at the checkpoints and elsewhere and new Jewish settlements are still being built in the Occupied Territories. As long as the occupation and the repression persist, any collaboration between Palestinian and Israeli artists is bound to be one of ‘repressed’ versus ‘repressor’ and can therefore never be considered a collaboration between equals.
This is why we wish to lend our active support to a cultural boycott of Israel.
In conclusion, we would like to state explicitly that we will evaluate our standpoint at regular intervals, based on the information provided by our Palestinian and Israeli interlocutors. As soon as we feel we can alter our point of view, we will officially announce this decision.
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Posted on 05-07-2005