Bullying and intimidation is not legitimate protest

Bullying and intimidation is not legitimate protest

by Or Barkan
article from Monday 29, October, 2012

ARTISTS, whether they create the stories or physically interpret them, are usually passionate people who want to express their feeling, attitudes, ideas and personalities on a stage.
Choreographer Ohad Neharin and his Bat Sheva dance ensemble from Israel have earned their invitations to the best stages Europe, playing in Edinburgh 30-31 October as they launch their UK/Europe tour.

Not only are they highly acclaimed and have received great reviews, a quick glance on their website shows the ensemble to be truly multi-cultural with dancers from all over the world and, more relevantly a site in Hebrew, English and Arabic.

Meanwhile, the anti-Israel boycott protesters (BDS) outside the theatres - "choreographers" (protest leaders) and "dancers" (protesters) - are also passionate people who want to express their feelings, attitudes, ideas and personalities on a media stage.

And that is not necessarily a bad thing in itself.

It is admirable that they took time from their day to add their voices to a cause that has touched their hearts and sent them to the streets.

I personally don't agree with them but I do respect their right to be heard, to influence and perhaps persuade others to adopt their cause.

The Arab-Israeli conflict is anything but simple and what makes it more difficult to resolve is its portrayal in extremes of black and white. By polarising the discussion, the multitudes of shades of grey that make up each person's attitudes, ideas and feelings on this issue are ousted, leaving no room for dialog, empathy, understanding, negotiation and change. This polarisation has led some protesters to dismiss their non-violent mantra, adding violence, hate, fear and intimidation to their arguments.

The line between legitimate non-violent protesting and vandalising, bullying outside might not be so easy to nail down but there is one line that is very clear: the theater door.

The BDS protesters have crossed that threshold many times, bringing what might have been a legitimate protest inside, physically hijacking the hall, the stage, the artists, the dancers, the crew-members and the audience for their protest.

The protesters-turned-vandals disrupt the shows repeatedly and are not arrested or even forcibly withdrawn from the hall leaving audience members "alarmed and vulnerable", as Jackie Kemp (the guardian/The Observer) points out from her personal experience.

They stand up and harass the dancers and the audience, devolving into self-centered bullies who exclude any form of dialog through their shouting. They vandalise the rights of the Bat Sheva group members and their audience to enjoy an evening of art and culture, regardless of political or religious motives of people living thousands of miles away.

They search for a media spotlight, kidnapping the moment and the attention of the audience who definitely did not buy tickets to see these protesters' "dance".

This behavior has been repeated during the Bat Sheva shows as well as at the Habima National Theatre during the famous Shakespearian "Globe to Globe", the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall and, if it is up to the BDS'rs, for every cultural event that originates in the "Zionist" state of Israel.

And why do they do this?

Simply, because they can 1) buy a ticket, 2) get in and 3) shout.

Furthermore, they do this because they are not held accountable nor punished for their behavior – the police, until now, have not found anything illegal about this blatant misuse of freedom of speech.

Therefore theatres should have staff members to escort the "bullies" away to be fined the night's tickets for ruining their evening. To do this they would have to 1) put up visible warning signs, 2) place cameras on audience, 3) escort shouting vandals out, 4) call lawyers and litigate and 5) reimburse the audience.

It is up to the theatres themselves to stand up to, and stand by the reason they exist: the performance of art by artists to art lovers.

Or Barkan blogs at http://bdsgb.wordpress.com/

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