The Buzz, 9-8: Dancing on their graves
Joyce helps Batsheva white-wash Israeli war crimes; City Ballet provides cover for global warmer Koch
By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2010 Paul Ben-Itzak
(The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of other DI writers, staffers, or advertisers. Alternate opinions are welcome in these pages.)
The Joyce Theater in New York, which hosts the Batsheva Dance Company beginning Sept. 21, along with its defenders, will no doubt argue that Israel's national dance company -- that's how the Joyce's website describes it -- should be exempted from the growing and hugely successful (and peaceful) Palestinian-led BDS (boycott, divestiture, sanction) movement because 'art' should be separate from 'politics.' The two problems with this line of defense are a)the wanton, unprovoked murder that Israel committed in its invasion of the Gaza strip nearly two years ago, killing 1,400 Palestinians, most of them civilians, is not 'politics' but war crimes (it was Israel that refused to renew a truce, which would have put a halt to the rocket fire from Gaza governors Hamas that many of Israel's supporters cite to justify Israel's actions), and 2)besides receiving state funds, Batsheva's touring is part of a deliberate, admitted strategy by Israel to present an alternate, softer image of itself to counter the reality of a country which flaunts international and humanitarian law by illegally occupying another people's territory for 43 years, dissecting it with an illegal wall, firing on and killing civilian men, women, and children waving white flags, letting civilians it's injured bleed to death while preventing ambulances from reaching them, destroying everything from olive trees to houses people have lived in for centuries in their own land, preventing vital supplies from reaching 1.5 million Palestinians its enclosed in the Gaza strip, attacking in international waters a non-violent humanitarian flotilla bringing needed supplies and aid to them and killing nine of the activists aboard, and more. This is the Israel that Batsheva -- and, apparently, the Joyce -- doesn't want us to see. (In other words: Batsheva's tour, and the Joyce's support of it, is itself a political act, and it is thus appropriate to respond to it with the political act of boycott.) This is one reason I -- and a growing number of artists and intellectuals around the world -- support the BDS movement. Before Israel and its ambassadors -- and Batsheva takes pride in its role as an ambassador for Israel -- can be welcomed in civilized venues like theaters, it needs to start acting civlized.
City Ballet returns to David Koch Pro-Global Warming Theater
The Joyce Theater is not the only NYC dance organization helping questionable citizens with PR makeovers. As we've
just as it did in an earlier era for Philip Morris cigarettes, the arts, chiefly New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre, are now providing cover for David Koch, the oil billionaire who, unfortunately, doesn't just spend his money on refurbishing theaters, as he did for the New York State Theater at Lincoln Center. On the heels of Jane Mayer's recent New Yorker piece, "The billionaire Koch brothers' war against Obama," which among other things detailed David and Charles Koch's funding of dangerous "Tea Party" related organizations, the Associated Press reported last weekend that the Koch brothers, owners of Koch Industries, the largest privately owned oil company in the United States, just contributed $1 million to the campaign for a California fall ballot proposition that would suspend that state's mild global warming law, which seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions statewide to 1990 levels over the next decade.
In this and previous efforts by the Koch brothers to fund organizations that downplay the threat of global warming with phony science, David Koch's obvious stake is to defend the oil interests on which his fortune is based. This is the fortune from which Koch draws for things like the $100 million he donated for the renovation of the New York State Theater -- and having it renamed the David Koch Theater. He doesn't do it to keep Wendy Whelan in pointe shoes. He does it because it's a good image investment; for every obscure story from the AP or the New Yorker about the Koch brothers' right-wing political activities and questionable environmental record that most newspapers bury, a million readers of the NY Times see the name David Koch associated with just about the purest art form around every time the NY Times or anyone else reviews a New York City Ballet concert and refers to it taking place at the "David Koch Theater" (except the Dance Insider; our policy is not to refer to the theater by his name and thus not participate in the Koch makeover). The problem, though, is that oil sticks, and it is now sullying New York City Ballet, allying it with a major force in derailing efforts to save our planet. When the Earth is gone, over-heated and submerged in melted ice caps, will New York City Ballet be dancing on its grave?
PS: As they did with the Philip Morris cancer money, some in the arts will argue that in these tough economic times, they can't afford to be picky about where their funding comes from. However, it should be remembered that one of the reasons arts organizations are so strapped is that public money for the arts has been eviscerated -- in large part to give property or other tax breaks to those like... David Koch.