(Translation of Ha’aretz article for Adalah-NY. Original Hebrew story: https://www.haaretz.co.il/gallery/theater/1.4235031)
In a letter they sent, along with more than 70 cultural figures, they call on the Lincoln Center to cancel the play at the festival, claiming that Habima and the Cameri are supported by the Israeli government, and that the two [theaters] have performed in the settlements
July 6, 2017 Updated July 8, 2017
More than 70 American, European and Palestinian cultural figures, including singer Roger Waters and film director Ken Loach, sent a protest letter to the management of the Lincoln Center Center in New York on Wednesday, demanding the cancellation of four performances by the Habima and Cameri theaters at a festival to be held in the middle of the month, claiming that the institutions are sponsored by the Israeli government and have even performed in settlements in the West Bank. The Lincoln Center told Ha’aretz that they had no intention of cancelling the four performances or expressing any political view on the matter.
"A Woman Running From News" [Original Hebrew title for the English play “To the End of the Land”], adapted and directed by Hanan Snir based on David Grossman's book, deals with a woman who sets out on a journey across Israel with her old flame, in an attempt to escape the news of the fate of their son, who was drafted for Operation Defensive Shield. The play won four Israeli Theater awards last May, including Best Actress in the Original Play category, Actress of the Year Award for Efrat Ben Tzur and the and Director and Playwright of the Year awards for Snir. A delegation of representatives of the management of the two theaters will accompany the ensemble and Grossman on their journey to New York, and will be joined by Minister of Culture and Sport Miri Regev. The show is scheduled to take place four times between July 24 and 27 at the Gerald Lynch Theater in New York City.
The letter is signed, alongside Waters and Loach, by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Annie Baker, actor Saleh Bakri, American playwright Tracy Letts and British playwright Carol Churchill, Adalah New York, the Freedom Theater in Jenin and other Palestinian cultural organizations which support a boycott of Israel.
"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 petitioners wrote to the President of Lincoln Center, Debora Spar, and to its Chairman of the Board of Directors, Katherine Farley.
The signatories mentioned the Foreign Ministry's support for the Cameri and Habima’s trip, and referred extensively to their performances in the settlements. "[B]oth Ha’bima and Cameri 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 [signatories] stressed. They mention the Habima theater performances at the Kiryat Arba Culture Hall since last November and the Cameri performances in the Ariel Culture Hall, as well as the artists' letter calling for a boycott of Ariel in 2010. "Given this context, Lincoln Center cannot claim that hosting these theaters, with Israeli government support, is simply apolitical patronage of the arts, when these Israeli institutions are directly involved in supporting the repression of the Palestinian people, including Palestinian theater artists", the [signatories] stated, also citing the freezing of Ministry of Culture funding for the Al-Midan Theater in Haifa in 2015.
The letter emphasized that the main concern of the signatories is not the artistic content or the nationality of the artists participating in "A Woman Running From News," but rather the structured cooperation of the institutions with the State of Israel's policy of oppression, which they claim is repeatedly violating international law. The signatories expressed appreciation for The Lincoln Center's desire to give, within the festival, a platform for different voices from the Middle East. Among other things, it will host the play "Chronicle Of An Assassination", directed by Amos Gitai, with the participation of Einat Weizman and Sara Adler, which deals with Leah Rabin, the [late] wife of former Prime Minister [Yitzhak Rabin], the Jubran Trio of Palestinian brothers active in Nazareth, Ramallah and Paris, as well as the play "While I was Waiting" by Muhammad Al Attar, directed by Omar Abusaada, which deals with the war in Syria.
"[H]ighlighting varied voices in the region, allowing the arts to function as they so valuably can to raise critical awareness, facilitate active questioning and open space for intercultural understanding", the [signatories] wrote, "But by hosting the Ha’bima and Cameri theaters, and partnering with the Israeli government in doing so, Lincoln Center too is actively supporting Israel’s decades of denial of Palestinian rights“.
The Cameri and Habima said in response that they had not received requests regarding the cancellation of the performances at Lincoln Center. The Lincoln Center stated in response that "We have a wonderful program and a variety of performances planned for this year's festival, including 'A Woman Running Away From News', but we do not intend to cancel the plays. From time to time, the Center receives requests from various organizations connecting political issues to the identity of the artists or their works. As a cultural and educational organization, we do not issue political statements and we hope that the art we can provide will speak for itself.”