The Evil Imp

Reductio ad Absurdum

In 2012 protesters interrupted numerous performances by Israeli dance company Batsheva in the UK for the simple reason that they are publicly funded by their own country’s arts ministry.

The “pro-Palestinian” protestors have come up with the fantastically convoluted reasoning that anything from Israel is little more than Israeli government propaganda and should be shouted down if the targets receive public money.

Fast forward to 2014 and it’s all happening again but this time the “protestors” ire is aimed at a small theatre company called Incubator Theatre who will be performing in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival at the Underbelly venue.

Thus far the protests are limited to little more than a, somewhat sanctimonious, open letter published in the The Herald Scotland demanding that the Underbelly venue not include the Jerusalem based theatre company it its programme. The letter is signed by numerous actors, directors and writers.

It’s not clear if Incubator’s show ‘The City’ will suffer the same fate as Batsheva. That protest involved people standing up at random times in the audience during the show and yelling at the performers. The net result of which was to achieve absolutely nothing for their “cause”.

The Single Issue

What happens in these situations is that entire countries are defined by the actions of small groups within those particular nations. For many, all Israeli’s are defined by their government (or hard line elements within that government). In the minds of the protesters an Israeli citizen can’t get out of bed in the morning and make breakfast without thinking of new ways to hate people.

For others the Palestinians are defined by Hamas, Russians are defined by Vladmir Putin and his demonstrably corrupt government and their venal polices and many Eastern Europeans are defined by increasingly hysterical stories printed in the UK press that feel the need to demonise immigrants.

What gets missed are the people in the middle of all of this. They’re just people who want to go about their lives doing what they do just like everybody else in the world. The entire population of Israel is not obsessed with the issues surrounding the occupied territories. Every Israeli artists doesn’t have to make work that is defined by the issues that the media in western Europe choose to report about that country.

Art is fundamentally about free expression and the idea that a dance company, a theatre company or any artist should be denied that fundamental right (and it is a legally protected right) because of the actions of their government is absurd.

These armchair protestors claim that simply being funded by the Israeli Ministry of Culture is reason enough to vilify a theatre group for staging a rap based, murder mystery comedy at the Edinburgh Fringe. What makes this nonsense all the more ridiculous is that the people writing this letter are all artists.


In their open letter the protestors say;

“The state of Israel uses the international ventures of its artists to attempt to lend itself a sense of cultural legitimacy and to distract attention from the brutality of its illegal occupation”

Who is being distracted exactly? Not a day goes by without extensive coverage of the situation between Israel and the Palestinians. It’s on the air and online 24/7 across hundreds of outlets.

Protesting Incubator Theatre is like German citizens protesting Rambert Dance Company in Berlin because of the UK’s involvement in the invasion of Iraq.

If you want to take it a step further then you need to protest the entire Edinburgh Festival because it’s partially funded with public money that comes from citizens all over the UK. Why not blame the organisers of that festival for all the dreadful things that have happened in this country over the last four years?

How about other countries? Is an African American comedian only allowed to tell jokes about racism and rap music? Will protestors be yelling at American artists at the Fringe because of the recently revealed actions of the NSA and the CIA?

Theatre companies are no more responsible for the actions of their government than polar bears are to blame for fluctuations in the stock market.

Harassing arts groups for no other reason than they are Israeli and publicly funded, attempting to deprive them of their livelihood, buying tickets to their shows just so you can ruin it for them and their audience is bullying, plain and simple.

We would say that the signatories to that letter need to grow up but most children can demonstrate a far greater ability to think and behave reasonably so that would be an insult to children.

[ Incubator Theatre perform ‘The City’ at The Underbelly from July 30 to August 25th in Edinburgh ]