Israeli theater, dance shows canceled in Edinburgh

A week after the Jerusalem-based Incubator Theater company landed in Scotland to participate in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the venue hosting the festival canceled all the Israeli group’s shows, apparently ceding to political pressure.

The pressure began two weeks ago when dozens of world-renowned artists issued a petition against the company’s performance due to the Israeli operation in Gaza.

The petition, which was also signed by Scotland’s national poet Liz Lochhead, said the Incubator Theater was funded by the Israeli Ministry of Culture and “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.”

The Incubator Theater had been invited to perform its production, “The City,” a film noir-style hip-hop opera, at the Underbelly venue in the Scottish capital, July 30 through Aug. 25.

At first, the Underbelly said it had no intention of giving in to the pressure. “We believe that all artists, from whatever creed or nation, must have the freedom of expression,” a spokesman had said in a statement.

But last weekend, following a demonstration of about 100 people outside the venue, the management issued a short statement saying that “the logistics of policing and stewarding the protest around the Reid Hall — and the effect of the disturbance on Underbelly and the other venues’ shows — make it untenable for the show to continue there.”

The show opened at an alternate location in Edinburgh on Aug. 4.

Following the cancellation of the Incubator Theater’s shows, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev decided to cancel performances of its student dance company, scheduled for Aug. 9-12, also at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

According to the university, the decision was made in response to protesters’ plans to demonstrate against Israel’s Operation Protective Edge and at the urging of the venue’s operator.

“The personal safety of the members of the dance company is the most important factor and we will certainly not compromise on that in any way,” said the university’s president, Rivka Carmi. “It is a shame that this is the state of affairs, where artistic freedom of expression is being sorely tested. The company has no connection to politics, but everything has become highly politicized. Considering the quality of the company, its withdrawal from the festival is a loss to all art lovers and we are dismayed at the necessity.”