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Flash View, 3-21: Territorial
Dance Europe's Unacceptable Discrimination Against Israeli Dancers

By Doug Fox
Copyright 2006 Great Dance LLC

This article originally appeared, in slightly different form, as an editorial on Great 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 here.)

(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 called Nemashim, based in Haifa. (Click here and here to see them. You will need the latest version of Macromedia's Flash Player.)

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."

 

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