By Joshua Albert
Last Friday activists from various organizations joined Students For A Free Palestine outside the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts to protest the opening night of Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company at the theater.
“We are very concerned and outraged that Penn would bring Kibbutz here, which is sponsored by the Israeli minister of culture and foreign affairs and is payed for by the Israeli government, especially with what [went] on in Gaza a couple of months ago and the occupation of Palestine which has been going on for decades and decades,” said Rhaai Dias, a native of Palestine.
“We are here to send a message that occupation is wrong and to keep groups like Kibbutz honest. Also, it goes with the 2005 call by the Palestine civil society where they said we want a cultural boycott of Israel and not just of goods, but actually culture.”
About 40 people attended the protest, and along with chants and signs there was also a boombox that was playing traditional Palestinian music. About 15 of the protesters took part in a Palestinian folk dance called the Debka.
“It’s a traditional dance where often times flutes are used, it’s been in Palestine forever. We are here to show them that not only does Palestine exist, and it’s not just a made up nationality, and we have a beautiful culture. People know it, people visit it, we have a culture of food and people and this dance.”
Reached for comment on the scene, Dawn Frisby Byers, Director of Marketing & Communications for the Annenberg Center, said “Our showing of this is not political, they are a dance company, they are fabulous, they are from Israel, and in our season we show both American and International dance.”
Asked if she thought the recent events in Gaza should have affected their decision to book the Company, Byers replied:”If you know anything about the performance arts, we booked this company 8 months ago, before any of that.” To a follow-up that the conflict in Palestine had been ongoing for decades, she said:
“It has been, but if you can’t use the arts to diffuse a situation I don’t know what you can use, to me it’s not political. We bring in dance groups based on their ability to dance, and if it was a Palestinian dance group I’d be just as happy to have them here.”