Following an OPEN LETTER to the organizers of cultural events in Swtizerland, the very talented and innovative dance troupe from Bethlehem, Juthour, will not perform in the same festival, and on the stage together with the Israeli group Shalom Israel, as the festival promoters intended. The Ashdod based group uses dance to promote a false image of normalcy of the apartheid state of Israel. The Israeli dance troupe is also infamous for acting inappropriately in Utah 2 years ago, and violating festival rules.
Geneva, Basel, July 1, 2012 (original : French)
Dear Festival Organizers,
The Palestinian dance troupe Juthour, based in Bethlehem, cancelled its partcipaton in the Internatonal Folklore Encounters Fribourg Festival (RFI). Sadly, this decision deprives the Swiss public a rare opportunity to experience Palestnian culture live, and yet is fully justified.
The statement of the Palestinian dance group Juthour explains their decisions by the presence at the festval of the Israeli group Shalom Israel.We recall that when they presented the 2012 festival editon, RFI management stated their intenton to bring the two groups together on stage. Juthour’s statement announcing its withdrawal from RFI (attached), explains that their performance would be stained by the presence at the festival of a group whose producton supports the colonizaton of Palestnian land. Palestnian artsts are commited to reject partcipaton in events that that trivialize and normalize the Israeli occupation.
The city of Ashdod, where the group Shalom Israel was founded, was built on the ruins of the Palestnian town of Isdud, ethnically cleansed during the War of 1948. All 5,300 inhabitants of Isdud were forced to fee or were expelled to the Gaza Strip, where, today, their children and grandchildren suffer the Israeli blockade. Concomitantly, it is a colonizing culture that has emerged in the city, brutally destroying the local Palestinian culture.
The Shalom Israel group, which emphasizes its role as cementing the diferent cultures of Ashdod, unifying folklore by new residents from the former USSR with that of the first Jewish setlers who arrived from Morocco in the 1950s, is fully complicit in this operaton. Incidentally, the group is also involved in effacing the particular Jewish cultures in order to conform them to the colonial project of Israel.
In contrast, Juthour’s dancers reside in Bethlehem, a West Bank town subject to a continuing Israeli military occupaton, surrounded by 17 illegal Israeli setlements. It is in this city, where it is dangerous to be Palestinian, that the dancers of Juthour contnue to work to maintain the vitality of Palestnian traditonal dance. As a collective engaged in resistance and culture, Juthour is currently involved in performances in solidarity with Palestnian prisoners in Israel. The Al-Doha Cultural Centre, of which Juthour is the main resident, organizes the Arts Festival for the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees, whose sixth editon was held at the University of Bethlehem early this July.
The management of RFI therefore thought to bring together in the same festival representatves of a culture of oppression and representatves of a culture of resistance without considering that this would be offensive to the latter. We regret that those responsible did not fully consider the embarrassing situaton in which they have put Juthour.
BDS Suisse, P.O Box 4070, 4002 Basel
To watch some beautiful traditional dance from Bethlehem: