An Open Letter to BDS Movement From a Former Dancer

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Spend one day in a ballet studio. Just one day. If you survive, I swear, I’ll let you continue your boycott. But until then, you have no idea what it means to be an artist. I reject your attempt to boycott anyone who has trained since early childhood, gives up friendships, parties, summer breaks, who works hour-after-hour, even in sickness and pain!

I am a former ballet dancer who sweated throughout her childhood, teenage years and young adulthood. I am a former ballet dancer who understands the stress before each performance.

I know that you don’t care. Why would you? You have a political agenda to follow, and you pretend to do so in the name of justice and human rights while you overlook the injustice and violation of human rights caused to each of the dancers you are boycotting.

It was the second time I met you on the streets of New York City while you were calling for the boycott of one of my favorite groups, the Batsheva Dance Company. And I tell you something; I loved Batsheva even when I was a blind-sided Eastern European who only knew the stereotypes about Jews. I was dreaming of dancing with them regardless of my feelings about Jews or Israel. Why? Because art is something that comes from your soul, while what you are doing is oppressing your souls.

The last time we met, in Brooklyn, in 2017, you were more violent, and you rejected the idea to even talk with anyone who was not ready to chant with you.

This time one of you had the guts to talk to me.

She said I was naïve to think that art is not pure politics. She was somewhat correct. But now when even Disney movies are said to be exposing kids to sexual perversion (sic), you can find politics in every art form, even when there is none.

She said they boycott the dance company because their aim is to put Israel in a good light, as she says “white-washing their genocide”. Let me enlighten you: every damn national dance company is aiming to put their nation in a good light. This is the purpose of each Opera houses in Europe, this the purpose of the American ABT. This is what is art for; you become an artistic ambassador for your country, or for the troupe you are dancing with. When I was dancing at the opera house in Zürich, I knew that when we were on tour, they would remember us as the representatives of Switzerland. So no, you’ve no argument here!

She said they boycott the dance company because they are mostly funded by the Israeli government. Bummer, what an incredible thing! Each and every dance group in Europe gets some amount of money from the government, or they have sponsors like the ABT has. Can we go after each and every sponsor and check if they had an impeccable life to make sure we don’t need to boycott the whole dance company leaving us without any dance troupes to enjoy?

She said they boycott the dance company because the dancers know that they are getting the funds from the Israeli government that is sustaining an apartheid state and by joining this dance group, they endorse their government. Sure, when I joined the Opera House in Zürich, I went through all the policies of the Swiss government to make sure all of their legislation was in line with my personal affiliations otherwise I would just reject my contract and keep on auditioning until I found a dance company funded by a government that had no track record of any false policies.

She said some other things, too. For instance, when I told her that the piece they are dancing is actually to Arab folk music and that some of the dancers have Arabic roots, her answer was conveniently immature: “But of course, this is part of the Hasbara”. 

All this reminded me of those senseless conversations when no matter what you are saying, it does not matter.

Why? Because their issue is not with Batsheva Dance Company being a representative of Israel, or getting funds from the government, or that the dancers are not saying one by one that they condemn the Israeli government – no, the BDS supporters have one aim (clearly echoing the Hamas charter): the full delegitimization of Israel.

As a former dancer, I reject your attempt to use art and artists for your political agenda. I reject your boycott attempt against artists whose life is hard enough without your pretentious boycott acts. And I reject your attempt because I know your answer to the following question and that makes you a complete hypocrite:

Are you boycotting any other dance company which is funded by a government whose policy is not in line with your views? Or is it again only Israel that you are fixated on while millions die in Syria?

I know the answer, don’t even bother!

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Virag is a digital communications strategist and personal branding consultant, who is helping individuals and brand owners building a successful online media presence that is authentic, sustainable, and recognizable. She is also a loud pro-Israel advocate, the founder of Almost Jewish, a pro-Israel movement that aims to change the stereotypes about Israel and the Jewish people one day at a time. Currently a Judaism graduate student at Touro College in Manhattan.

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