Sunday, 3 May 2015

Israel Festival hit hard by boycott in wake of Gaza assault, director admits


Israel’s flagship annual cultural festival has been forced to curtail its 2015 schedule because last summer’s assault on Gaza and the growing impact of Palestinian calls for cultural boycott are making it harder to attract international artists.

The Israel Festival’s new director Eyal Sher “does not hide the problems that constrained its production,” the Hebrew-language Israeli publication Mako reports.

“This year’s festival was produced with a shortened schedule against the background of Operation Protective Edge,” Sher says, “and had to face, like many cultural and academic bodies in the country, BDS [boycott divestment and sanctions].”

Operation Protective Edge is the name Israel gave its 51-day ground and air assault on Gaza last summer that killed more than 2,200 Palestinians, including 547 children, and left much of the tightly besieged territory devastated.

Sher said the festival had to “hold political hasbara dialogues with some of the artists who were invited to this year’s festival and the next one.”

Hasbara – the Hebrew word meaning “explanation” – is the term used for propaganda aimed at improving Israel’s international image and counteracting Palestinian demands for full political and human rights.

He also said the festival – which runs for several weeks starting in late May – faced budget difficulties. But despite the obstacles, some international artists are scheduled to take part, including New York’s Trisha Brown Dance Company, German performance collective She She Pop and French theater group Si Vous Pouviez Lecher Mon Coeur.

Performers from Italy, Belgium, Austria, Finland, Sweden, Canada, Bulgaria and China are also listed in the official program, but none appear to be high-profile international artists. more

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