British musician and composer Brian Eno has banned a top Israeli dance group from using his work for one of its routines after he learned that its tour of Italy was sponsored by the Israeli embassy in Rome.
Eno, 68, who backs a boycott of Israel, penned a letter to the Batsheva Dance Company saying it was “unacceptable” for the troupe to use his composition “Neroli” during their shows, the Guardian newspaper reported on Wednesday.
The musician — who first found fame as a member of Roxy Music in the 1970s, had an innovative solo career, and then enjoyed considerable success as a producer of U2, Coldplay and others — wrote that while he understands the difficulties that Israeli artists face, he feels that the Israeli government is “exploiting” them as part of a “propaganda strategy” that is used to “draw attention away from the occupation of Palestinian land.”
The Tel Aviv-based BDC was on a tour of Italy during which it performed a routine titled “HUMUS” that is set to Eno’s piece. The company was scheduled to include the dance during a Tuesday night performance but the routine was pulled from the show, the UK-daily said, citing Italian newspaper La Repubblica.
Inhis letter to the BDC and its choreographer Ohad Naharin, Eno wrote: “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,” he said referring to the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign that seeks to ostracize Israel for its occupation of the West Bank.
Eno has supported boycotting Israel since 2006, and in 2014 publicly condemned the IDF’s Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip, calling it a “one-sided exercise in ethnic cleansing.”
“It’s often said by opponents of BDS that art shouldn’t be used as a political weapon,” Eno told the BDC. “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.”
In 2012 pro-Palestinian activists tried to disrupt a performance by the BDC at the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland. The protesters were removed by police.