Electronic music pioneer Brian Eno has denied permission to use his music in a series of upcoming dance performances by Israel's Batsheva dance company, which will be held in Italy. As The Guardian reports, upon learning that the Israeli embassy was sponsoring the shows, the artist wrote a letter to Batsheva informing them of his decision.
The use of his music at an Israeli embassy-funded event runs counter to Eno's ethics. The composer and producer is a longtime supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), a movement against Israel's occupation of Palestinian land, which seeks freedom and equality for Palestinians. He also added his name to Artists' Pledge for Palestine, which asks those working in arts and culture to decline funding from any organization connected to the Israeli government.
In Eno's letter addressed to Batsheva and its choreographer Ohad Naharin he informed them he was not made aware of their use of his music until recently and while he's flattered, it "creates a serious conflict" for him. "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," he wrote.
Eno acknowledged the plight for Israeli artists, particularly for the dance company, who has also shown sympathy to the Palestinian cause. But he views the Israeli government as manipulating artists.
"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," he continued. "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 government."
Eno has been vocal about other socio-political issues in recent months. In June, he spoke out against Brexit, citing oppression against workers and immigrants as part of his argument. Eno released his first solo album in four years, The Ship, in April.