New York, NY, July 5, 2017 - In a letter made public today, over sixty theater artists have called on Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, a leading US arts institution located in Manhattan, to cancel Israeli government-sponsored performances by two Israeli theater companies scheduled for July 24 – 27. The signers of the letter have won numerous awards for their work in theater, including four Pulitzer Prizes, three Tony Awards, and nine Obie Awards. The letter signed by the artists asserts that the performances by Israel’s Ha’bima National Theatre and the Cameri Theater of Tel Aviv will help “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."
Lincoln Center is advertising the performances by the Israeli theater companies as presented “With support of Israel’s Office of Cultural Affairs in North America.” The artists’ letter says that the performances are part of the Israeli government’s “Brand Israel” public relations strategy which, according to an Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs official, sends “well-known novelists and writers overseas, theater companies, exhibits…This way you show Israel’s prettier face, so we are not thought of purely in the context of war.” The artists also criticize Ha’bima and Cameri theaters because, despite past opposition from artists, they have repeatedly performed in and legitimized Israel’s illegal settlements built on Israeli-occupied Palestinian land. The letter calls on Lincoln Center “to respect the Palestinian civil society call for a boycott of those Israeli cultural institutions that are complicit in the denial of Palestinian rights.”