Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Genocide against Palestine:

If you run away from openly debating it, the Zionists will keep you on the run--

"Schools Cancel Dance Troupe's Performances"

Courant Staff Writers

OLD SAYBROOK - After receiving a complaint that a Palestinian dance troupe's performance at the high school was offensive to Jews and Israel, school officials canceled the troupe's scheduled appearances this week at the town's elementary and middle schools.

The performance by Al-Ghad Folklore Dancing Troupe of Beit Sahour was meant to be cultural and not overtly political, said the Rev. David W. Good, senior minister of the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme, where the troupe performed this past weekend.

But resident Ginger Horton said she felt compelled to complain to school officials after her two grandchildren told her they were offended by the troupe's performance at the high school Monday.

"[My] grandchildren came home very frightened," Horton said Thursday.

Good, who saw the performance at the school, disagreed.

"I saw nothing there that was anti-Jewish," Good said. "It was a cultural program ... Anything of this nature, given the realities of where they live, the political realities are a short distance away."

This past weekend, the troupe participated in the third annual Tree of Life Conference at Good's church. The conterence celebrates the work of peacemakers in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Horton, a retired Old Saybrook teacher, said her grandson, 15, and granddaughter, 14, told her the high school performance depicted Israeli soldiers beating and torturing Palestinians.

Good said many of the dances performed were simply traditional, but he acknowledged one was particularly upsetting to a male student in the audience. That more modern dance "certainly expressed the frustration of detention by Israeli soldiers" and dealt with curfews, checkpoints and the realities of detention, Good said.

The male student became angry and said Palestinians "do not want peace even though they talk about peace in their dances," Good said.

At the end of the performance, the student pursued the performers, he said.

"He was angrily shaking a finger in the face of a Palestinian girl," Good said. "I asked him to stop."

Horton said it was inappropriate for the public school system to host what she called a hateful, politically charged event.

"My concern was that it would be stopped, and we stopped it," said Horton, who also contacted the Jewish Federation Association of Connecticut.

School Superintendent Joseph Onofrio, who did not attend the high school performance, said a male Jewish student became "emotionally charged and upset" by the visitors' depiction of Jews.

"This was not framed as a political debate, it was framed as a cultural arts experience," said Onofrio, noting the school's social studies chairwoman previewed the performance last week at First Congregational Church of Old Lyme.

"What she [Carol Moakley] had seen appeared to be appropriate," Onofrio said.

Onofrio, after learning several parents questioned whether the performance was appropriate for their children, said he canceled the elementary and middle school appearances scheduled for Tuesday because the two school principals had not previewed the performance.

Good said the troupe performed before elementary school students in East Lyme on Wednesday, and at The Children's Storefront, an independent, tuition-free school, in Harlem for students in preschool through Grade 8, on Thursday.

Bob Fishman, executive director of the Jewish Federation Association of Connecticut, said Old Saybrook public schools should not host groups with a perceived political agenda. He lauded upset local students and family members who "stepped up."

"It was a very disturbing report [Horton] got from her grandchildren," Fishman said. "I advised her that it's not appropriate for a sponsor to say it's cultural when it's primarily political."

Fishman said his organization plans to discuss the performances with state legislators and top state education officials.

"These are public schools, taxpayer dollars," Fishman said.

"They were very careful" not to make a political statement, Good said of the troupe. "They were asked to share their dance, and share their story living in the occupied territory. They did so through music."

Contact Gary Libow at glibow@courant.com


"Palestinian dance troupe performances in Old Saybrook canceled"

by WTNH News Channel 8's Annie Rourke
Posted Nov. 9, 2007
Updated 10:20 PM

On the Web at:


Clinton (WTNH) _ Controversy is surrounding a Palestinian dance troupe. Some view it as cultural expression and others find it offensive.

The Palestinian folklore group has been touring the shoreline. Tonight, they visited the Church of the Holy Advent in Clinton. It was a fundraiser for the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem.

The troupe has also performed for schoolchildren in public schools and that has angered and outraged some who say they're not teaching, they're preaching.

There was dancing and some singing, but along with the cultural, there was something much more controversial.

The Al Ghad Folklore Dancing Group is made up of Christian teenagers from the town of Bethlehem in the West Bank. Along with the traditional costumes and music there's interpretive dance, raising the Palestinian flag and crouching under netting to symbolize being restrained and oppressed. The Reverend Bruce Shipman says the politics is part of their cultural experience.

"They also are telling a story of occupation and struggle and hardship and that must be said also," said Rev. Bruce Shipman from the Church of the Holy Advent.

The Jewish Federation Association of Connecticut doesn't see it that way.

"It was a lot of Israel bashing and it certainly was, in their judgement, quite bigoted and harmful and offensive," said Jewish federation member, Robert Fishman.

They're speaking out after receiving several complaints from students who watched the program at their schools and he says, because it's so political there should've been an opposing view presented.

"We believe in free speech and you know, right of expression but this was much more than that and it was also clearly under a guise of cultural diversity and that's not what the presentation was," said Fishman.

The Old Saybrook superintendent canceled the shows at the middle schools and elementary levels.. after hearing of the outrage. Those who support the group are unapologetic.. saying, we need more dialogue.. not less.

"Well, it's very important to understand the issues and to hear both sides of the story and there is much suffering, much struggle, much bloodshed in that part of the world," said Shipman.

The Jewish federation says they're also concerned because there's been a backlash against those who have complained about the performances. They're now planning to discuss it with the state legislators.