La Repubblica SEPTEMBER 5, 2016 - by Staff Writers


Letter from the composer to the Israeli Batsheva Dance Company that will launch a festival at the Teatro Regio tomorrow: "I'm flattered, but no to propaganda." Song replaced, the embittered company responded: "This is not how you resolve the conflict."

The case of Israel-Palestine has erupted at TorinoDanza, the show dedicated to dance in all its forms that opens tomorrow at the Teatro Regio as part of the MiTo (Milan-Turin) festival. Brian Eno, musician and world renowned composer, wrote to the Batsheva Dance Company, which will inaugurate TorinoDanza, to deny the use of his music for the piece Three due to "sponsorship by the Israeli Embassy". Eno has long been a supporter of BDS, the Palestinian-led campaign for "Boycott, divestment and sanctions" against Israel. He is also a signatory, along with seventeen-hundred artists in Britain, of the declaration "Artists For Palestine" pledging not to maintain relations with the Israeli government.

On the TorinoDanza web site, in fact, the name of Eno has recently been removed, and the music for Humus, the second act of Three, created by the director of Batsheva, choreographer Ohad Naharin, has been replaced with another piece. In his letter, while declaring to be "flattered" by the choice of his music for the work, Eno says that its use creates "a serious conflict" for him, since according to the composer, "the Israeli government uses art to promote 'Brand Israel' and divert attention from the occupation of Palestinian lands".

The Israeli dance company has commented bitterly: "We respect the wishes of Brian Eno and we have therefore immediately replaced his music, but with sadness: we believe in fact that this type of action does not contribute to solving the ongoing conflict." Noa Ron, deputy director and spokesman for the Batsheva Dance Company has affirmed: "The author Ohad Naharin has never hesitated to comment on the consequences of occupation of Palestinian lands. His deep concern for the issues of freedom and human spirituality are also reflected in his actions and in his artistic endeavours".

Below is the full text of Brian Eno's letter:

Dear Ohad Naharin and the Batsheva company,

It has recently come to my attention that you have been using a piece of my music in a work called Humus.

I was not aware of this use until last week, and, though in one way I'm flattered that you chose my music for your work, I'm afraid it creates a serious conflict for me.

To my understanding, the Israeli Embassy (and therefore the Israeli government) will be sponsoring the upcoming performances, and, given that I've been supporting the BDS campaign for several years now, this is an unacceptable prospect for me. It's often said by opponents of BDS that art shouldn't be used as a political weapon. However, since the Israeli government has made it quite clear that it uses art in exactly that way - to promote 'Brand Israel' and to draw attention away from the occupation of Palestinian land - I consider that my decision to deny permission is a way of taking this particular weapon out of their hands.

Only a couple of days ago an Israeli army officer murdered fifteen year old Mahmud Badran and it isn't clear if he'll even be criminally charged for it, let alone punished. And hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank are expected to go through another summer without reliable water services, while the demolition of Palestinian homes and confiscation of Palestinian land goes on without interruption, as it has done for many years now. There is no sign of any attempt to limit settler activity in any way.

I am trying to understand the difficulties that must face any Israeli artist now - and in particular ones like yourselves who have shown some sympathy to the Palestinian cause. I feel that your government exploits artists like you, playing on your natural desire to keep working - even if it does mean becoming part of a propaganda strategy. Your dance company might not be able to formally distance itself from the Israeli government but I can and will: I don't want my music to be licensed for any event sponsored by the Israeli embassy.

I discussed this with my friend Ohal, an Israeli artist and another supporter of BDS, and I know that she and her Israeli BDS colleagues can understand the need for a boycott. As artists we should be free to choose to respond to the injustices of governments, yours or mine.

Yours sincerely,

Brian Eno