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Festival in Israel row

Herald Scotland:

Phil Miller, Arts Correspondent / / News

Published / News

BEST-selling author Iain Banks has joined Scotland's national poet, Liz Lochhead, in calling for an Israeli dance company to be barred from taking part in the Edinburgh International Festival.

Tomorrow, the Batsheva Dance Company will perform the first staging of Hora, a one-hour dance show, at the Edinburgh Playhouse.

However, in a letter published in The Herald today, writers and artists including Lochhead, Banks, Tom Leonard, AL Kennedy and Raja Shehadeh call for their invitation to the festival to be withdrawn by artistic director Jonathan Mills.

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The letter says the company can be seen as being ambassadors for the Israeli state which "suffocates the livelihoods of Palestinian communities, including the right to cultural expression".

But a spokeswoman for the

festival said the performance will go ahead, although organisers are expecting some kind of protest out-side the venue where it runs until September 1.

The Herald understands Ms Lochhead "thought twice" about signing the letter, as she does not like artists being boycotted, and has opposed an academic ban on Israel because she does not believe ideas should be constrained.

However, she visited Palestine earlier this year, and now believes Israel "needs to know how its actions are viewed by the rest of the world".

The Batsheva Dance Company and its junior company has 40 dancers drawn from Israel and abroad and tours exten-sively, with 250 shows annually.

A festival spokeswoman said: "The festival supports freedom of expression and people's right to protest. It welcomes constructive criticism, regularly facilitates debates and recognises the right to peaceful and orderly protest in any public place including outside its theatres. Equally the festival defends the rights of all artists, irrespective of nationality, creed or culture, to have their voices heard."

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