Protesters from the Don't Dance With Israeli Apartheid campaign picketed performances by Batsheva Dance Company at The Lowry on Friday and Saturday night, shouting "Your tickets are covered in Palestinian blood"...
"It's not that we're against Israeli dancers, what we are against is any Israeli artists that are funded by the Israeli state in order to make the Israeli state look as though they are a good state, that they're democratic and so on" Norma Turner of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign told the crowd of around fifty protesters last night.
"It disguises the fact that they are occupying Palestine, that they are breeching human rights all the time, that the Palestinians are suffering undue and unnecessary hardship under the Israelis" she added "And meanwhile, people are watching them dance and think that Israel is a wonderful place. So this is a really necessary cultural boycott…this is the only way we can peacefully attack the Israeli state."
The Batshiva Dance Company performance was part of the 'Brand Israel' initiative. The company is funded jointly by Israel's Ministry of Culture and Sport, and the Municipality of Tel Aviv. Touring support is provided by the Department of Cultural and Scientific Relations in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Police erected two 'pens' outside The Lowry on Friday night, intending to herd protesters well away from entrance but they refused to go into the 'Hillsborough style' pens. Extra private security guards set up a check point, and only those with tickets were allowed into The Lowry. Its restaurant and bars were not accessible to the public for the nights.
According to a protester who got thrown out of the show on Saturday, the theatre was half empty. And Terry Gallogly, who has organised No2BrandIsrael demonstrations outside every Batshiva performance, argues that the tour has been a flop.
"In Edinburgh only 450 seats were sold at the 1,900 capacity venue" he says "They closed the upper gallery. In Bradford 180 seats were occupied in the stalls which hold 540. So far it has been a disastrous tour for the company. Everywhere they show their faces we will be there protesting. The Batshiva Dance Company is part of an attempt to re-brand Israel. They have not succeeded."
Allegations that the protests were 'anti-semitic' were dismissed. Linda Clair, who has been central to the Manchester Palestine Solidarity Campaign for decades is Jewish.
"We had tickets, and intended to go inside, but they threw us out before we even got in" she says "We have been promised a refund. It was a shame as I had a Palestinian flag hidden in my knickers."
The Greater Manchester Stop the War Coalition supported the Salford protest. Convener Mark Krantz is also Jewish.
"This is not about religion, we are protesting here because of the actions of the Israeli state that continues its illegal occupation of stolen Palestinian land, and brutally oppresses the Palestinian people" he says "Not a single Zionist turned up to support 'Brand Israel'"
See the YouTube video of the protest – click here