News Column

Anti-Israel protesters force dance troupe to pull out of Fringe

August 5, 2014

DANIEL SANDERSON; DANIEL SANDERSON

AN ISRAELI university has axed performances of its official dance troupe at the Edinburgh Fringe over fears that the safety of its students will be put at risk by anti-Israeli demonstrators.

It emerged last month that opponents of Israel's military actions in Gaza were planning to target the performances of dancers from Ben- Gurion University of the Negev - despite the fact the university has Arabic students and staff and has links with Palestinian and Jordanian groups including Jordan Red Crescent.

The university confirmed yesterday that the four scheduled shows of its Pola dance troupe, called La Karina, had been pulled.

The decision was made after another production, hip-hop opera The City, was left without a venue when its debut Fringe performance was disrupted by advocates of a "cultural boycott" of Israeli state- backed events.

The operator of the St Brides Centre, which was scheduled to host the La Karina show on four occasions this month, had expressed concern that turbulent demonstrations could take place, putting the safety of performers at risk, according to the university.

Meanwhile, efforts to find a new home for The City, a production by the Jerusalem-based Incubator Theatre company, are ongoing after promoter Underbelly venue cancelled its run at its Reid Hall venue, saying demonstrations had disrupted other shows.

Professor Rivka Carmi, the university's president, said he was "dismayed" by the cancellation of the dance performance and the withdrawal of the show was "a loss to all art lovers".

Prof Carmi added: "The personal safety of the members of the dance company is the most important factor and we will not compromise on that in any way.

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev said it has no say on government policy, it has hundreds of Arabic students and staff, fosters strong academic and research links with Palestinian and Jordanian communities and teaches courses that aid humanitarian efforts in the region, such as hydrology, desert agriculture and emergency medicine. Culture secretary Fiona Hyslop said she opposes cultural boycotts, on the grounds they are inconsistent with freedom of expression.

A spokesman for the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign said: "Instead of aiding and abetting the Israeli government, Fiona Hyslop and the Scottish Government must stand with the people of Scotland and send a clear message to the world that we oppose the massacre in Gaza."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "The Scottish Government has not been involved in the search for an alternative venue. We do not tell individual venues or galleries what they can or cannot programme and we do not advocate or support cultural boycotts."


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Source: Herald, The (Scotland)


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