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An Open Letter to Ballet BC regarding their Performances in Israel
By Marion Kawas
October 2, 2018
John Clark, Executive Director
Dear Mr. Clark:
As a young child, my mother took me to see The Nutcracker; when I became a mother, I did the same with my daughter and took her to a Ballet BC production of The Nutcracker, a tradition I was hoping to repeat soon with my granddaughter.
However, I have now learned that Ballet BC is touring in Israel in January, 2019. As global artists, I am sure you are aware of the international movement by many cultural figures to refuse to perform in Israel until it complies with international law. Figures such as Roger Waters, Elvis Costello, Lana del Rey, and Brian Eno, who refused to allow the Israeli dance company Batsheva to use one of his musical compositions at a performance in Italy.
In an article in The Guardian newspaper on September 7, 2016, Eno was quoted as saying: “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.”
BDS stands for the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that has called on artists, sports figures and others to realize exactly what Brian Eno has said, that the Israeli government is using them to whitewash what is happening right now, today, to the Palestinian people.
The Palestinian village of Khan al Ahmar in the occupied West Bank, for example, is under imminent threat of demolition by Israeli forces. A decision that has been sanctioned by the Israeli High Court and condemned by many in the international community. The children of that village are about to lose their only school (a humble structure built from old tires and clay). Do you not think they would also like a chance to grow and appreciate culture, perhaps even ballet or dance of any form? Would this not be a pivotal experience for those children?
But no, they will never have that chance as even basic learning is about to be interrupted, let alone exposure to fine arts like music and dance.
And what about the children in Gaza, whose basic living becomes more untenable by the day, with unclean drinking water and electricity for just 4 hours a day and poor medical care?
And what about the millions of Palestinian refugee children, many of them languishing in refugee camps and in exile, who are forbidden to return to their ancestral homes and properties?
You may feel that art transcends politics and I wish that was the case. But if your performances in Israel will be used (as so many others before you have been) as ammunition for a government desperate to improve its international image, then you have entered into the world of politics whether you are aware of it or not.
The story of The Nutcracker is the story of a young girl taken to a magical land, and has become a Christmas favourite for many. For Palestinian children, their only holiday dreams are nightmares that include losing family members, being terrorized by Israeli soldiers during raids on family homes, and losing all hope for the future. It is incumbent on those of us who have the benefits of privilege and resources to show these children that the world has not forgotten them, will not forget them and is willing to take a stand to say that Israel must respect international law and the human rights of Palestinians.
Canadian Media Report on our Petition to Ballet BC