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More Flash Reviews
View, 3-21: Territorial
Dance Europe's Unacceptable Discrimination Against Israeli Dancers
By Doug Fox
Copyright 2006 Great
This article originally
appeared, in slightly different form, as an editorial
Dance Weblog, of which Doug Fox is editor.
On March 8 I came across
a post, "Dance
Europe's Policy of Bias and Censorship," on Rachel Feinerman's
Downtown Dancer Blog. Rachel linked to a story by journalist Stephanie
Freid, who publishes a blog from Tel Aviv, Israel. In this post,
Freid tells the story of what she says happened when she tried to
pitch London-based Dance
Europe magazine on writing a story about Sally-Anne Friedland
Dance Drama Company of Israel.
Freid was told by both
the editor and advertising director, she says, that Dance Europe
does not write about Israeli dance companies or accept advertisements
from Israeli companies because of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian
territories. But the magazine will make an allowance if the dance
company or sponsor makes a statement denouncing the occupation.
Dance Europe editor
Emma Manning, as quoted by the London Jewish Chronicle, said that
"as an editor, I am entitled to choose what to print." (For the
text of the article as recorded on the blog an unsealed room, click
(Asked by the Dance
Insider if Dance Europe requires companies from Israel to certify
their political views before she considers coverage, Manning responded,
in part, "We now ask Israeli dance companies where they stand on
the occupation and the building of the wall" separating Israeli
settlements in the occupied territories from Palestinian communities.
"Inbal Pinto's company stated, along with an audition notice we
published, that it was indeed against both the occupation and the
wall." She also cited lengthy comments to the magazine by Israeli
choreographer Ohad Naharin criticizing Israel and defending Palestinian
rights. Pressed for an on deadline response as to whether such opposition
was required of Israeli artists seeking coverage in Dance Europe,
Manning declined to respond for the record, outside of a letter
to DI editor Paul Ben-Itzak she labelled "personal correspondence."
Manning has insisted that Freid's story idea was rejected because
the writer wasn't "suitably qualified," adding that the magazine
is "unable to cover much outside of Europe," and calling any charges
of anti-Semitism "libelous." Freid says that her conversation with
Manning "didn't touch upon my writing credentials.")
If true, I think that
Dance Europe's blatant discrimination against Israeli dancers is
pitiful and unacceptable. Dance Europe is clearly free to write
about any topics it wishes and express its opinions as it pleases.
But for a London-based publication that covers dance, supposedly
in an unbiased
manner (as stated on its website), to single out one
country in the entire world as the source of all evil and then punish
the dancers of this country for the acts of its government is the
height of absurdity.
Dance Europe's alleged
demand of Israeli companies to denounce the occupation if they wish
to be covered in the magazine reminds me of the loyalty oaths that
had to be taken during the Red Scare days of the McCarthy era. The
other night I happened to watch "Good Night, And Good Luck," which
tells the story of how Edward R. Murrow took on the fear-mongering
of Senator Joseph McCarthy. In the opening scene CBS employees whisper
to each other as they contemplate whether they will lose their jobs
if they don't sign loyalty oaths.
But even worse than
its apparent demand for denunciations by Israeli companies is Dance
Europe's complete lack of appreciation for what it means to be an
artist and how art can serve to bring people together as opposed
to pushing them apart.
There are many ways
to answer the question: What is art? I would say that at its most
basic level art is about individual creative expression. In this
light, if Freid's claims are true, Dance Europe's discrimination
against Israeli dancers is especially pointless and mean-spirited.
Dance Europe is delivering collective punishment against individual
dancers who undoubtedly bring to their work a diverse range of perspectives
and interests. Some may be inspired by political and social considerations
while others may be motivated by a range of other issues that don't
even touch upon politics.
Art, at its best, is
a wonderful way to bring people together from different countries,
backgrounds and perspectives. If you listen to the audio
interview I recently did with James Oliverio of the Digital
Worlds Institute, you'll notice that one of the themes
that ties the interview together is Oliverio's description of how
his multi-country events, which bring dancers and other artists
together in real-time via high-speed videoconferencing, serve to
breakdown cultural barriers in unexpected and delightful ways.
In one of my many e-mails
to Emma Manning, most of which went unanswered, I recommended that
Dance Europe play a constructive role, instead, in the search for
paths to resolving the many challenges of the Middle East. My main
suggestion was that she embrace existing programs (or participate
in the creation of new ones) that fuse the power of dance with inexpensive
digital communication tools such as video and blogs. By using these
tools, dancers of all ages from the Middle East (and beyond) can
share, both online and in person, their perspectives, stories, differences
and hopes in a worthwhile and creative manner.
Then this morning I
was searching for dance videos on YouTube. I happened to stumble
upon videos that had been uploaded just minutes earlier from a group
based in Haifa. (Click here
to see them. You will need the latest version of Macromedia's Flash
Nemashim is a commune
that consists of Israeli Jews and Arabs who have recently graduated
from high school. The goal is to promote peace and understanding
through theater and Jewish-Arab dialogue and meetings. In the words
of their website:
"We are living together
in the middle of a terrible, destructive conflict and we feel that
a way out is by developing peaceful resistance to violence, realizing
the ideals of equality and co-existence in a mixed group and by
using theater to advance these ideals."