Artists protest Israeli-gov't sponsored play in New York

BDS groups and others sign letter opposing Habima's 'To The End of the Land' playing at Lincoln Center.

July 6, 2017 14:53
2 minute read.
Efrat Ben-Tzur

Efrat Ben-Tzur in To The End of the Land, 2017. (photo credit: GERARD ALLON)

A group of artists and activists have signed a petition calling on New York’s Lincoln Center to cancel four slated performances of a play that has financial support from the Israeli Culture Ministry.

The play, To the End of the Land – an adaptation of David Grossman’s novel by the same name – is slated to be part of the Lincoln Center Festival later this month. The show, which is in Hebrew with English subtitles, is staged by Israel’s famed Habimah and Cameri theaters, and, as Lincoln Center notes, is produced with “support of Israel’s Office of Cultural Affairs in North America.” The play was adapted and directed by Hanan Snir.

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In a letter organized by Adalah- NY and posted online earlier this week, 20 groups and more than 60 artists called on Lincoln Center to cancel the show.

“It is deeply troubling that Lincoln Center, one of the world’s leading cultural institutions, is helping the Israeli government to implement its systematic ‘Brand Israel’ strategy of employing arts and culture to divert attention from the state’s decades of violent colonization, brutal military occupation and denial of basic rights to the Palestinian people,” the letter states.

In addition, it claims, both Israeli theaters “have long been actively complicit in the occupation and colonization of the West Bank, by performing repeatedly in illegal settlements there, despite calls by conscientious artists in Israel and around the world asking them not to do so.”

The play follows the story of an Israeli mother who escapes to the countryside while her son goes off to war, clinging to the hope that if the IDF cannot notify her of his death, then he cannot be among the slain.

Novelist Grossman completed most of the book before his tank-commander son, Uri, was killed in the 2006 Second Lebanon War. Grossman was awarded the prestigious Man Booker Prize last month for his most recent work, A Horse Walks into a Bar.

Adalah-NY’s letter was signed by a range of Pulitzerand Tony-award winning artists, including actress Greta Gerwig, playwright Tracy Letts, playwright Lynn Nottage and actor Niall Buggy. It was also signed by the Jewish Voice for Peace Artists Council and a variety of Palestinian artist and activist groups.

In response to the letter, Deborah Spar, president of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, said the festival was “looking forward to bringing many different performances from all over the world as part of the series.”

In her response, which Adalah posted online, Spar noted that Lincoln Center does “from time to time” receive requests “taking political issue with either the performers or the work itself. “ But, she said, “as a cultural and education organization, however, we do not make political statements and hope that the art we present can stand on its own.”

The Lincoln Center Festival is also slated to include one performance of Yitzhak Rabin: Chronicle of an Assassination. The English-language play, which was written by Israeli filmmaker Amos Gitai, premiered last year at the Festival d’Avignon in France. The show will be part of the festival in New York on July 19, and then appear July 23 at the John Anson Ford Theatres complex in Los Angeles as part of its IGNITE @ the FORD! series.

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