Brian Eno has refused to let Israeli dance company Batsheva use his music at forthcoming performances.
After discovering the shows in Italy were sponsored by the Israeli embassy, he wrote them a letter informing them of his decision.
The composer is a longtime advocate of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land, which also supports freedom and equality for Palestinians. He’s also on the Artist’s Pledge For Palestine, a group which encourages those working in arts and culture to decline funding from organisations with ties to the Israeli government.
Eno says to Batsheva (via The Guardian): “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.
“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.”
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Batsheva say they respect Eno’s decision, though they add: “We believe that this kind of action is useless and has no contribution towards solving the conflict, ending the occupation or bringing peace to our region.”
They also insist artistic director and choreographer Ohad Naharin has been a political activist for years, raising awareness about the situation in the West Bank. He says: “I would boycott my own show if it would help the Palestinians. I would give my own house for peace.
“Brian Eno, in a very lazy gesture, is boycotting the music for my work. I wish he could have thought about better ways to help the Palestinian cause.”
Eno has long been vocal about political and social issues, including the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, along with workers’ rights. His most recent album The Ship was released in April.