Initiative: Call on Lincoln Center to cancel Israeli government's “Brand Israel” theater performances

Initiative Web Action: 

Web Action

Katherine Farley, Chairman of the Board, Lincoln Center
Debora L. Spar, President, Lincoln Center

Dear Ms. Farley and Ms. Spar,

As supporters of the arts and human rights, we are writing you to express our grave concern that Lincoln Center will be hosting Israel’s Ha’bima National Theatre and the Cameri Theater of Tel Aviv from July 24 – 27 for performances of the play “To the End of the Land.”  Lincoln Center’s website notes that these performances will occur “With support of Israel’s Office of Cultural Affairs in North America.”  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. We call on Lincoln Center to avoid complicity with Brand Israel by cancelling these performances by Ha’bima and Cameri.

In 2006 Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) launched its “Brand Israel” public relations strategy which aimed to “rebrand” Israel by representing the country as “relevant and modern,” while “avoiding any discussion of the conflict with the Palestinians.”  An important component of “Brand Israel” involves promoting the country as a progressive center of the arts and culture.  This was articulated by a MoFA official who, following one of Israel’s periodic military assaults on the Gaza Strip, told the New York Times, “We will send 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 advertised support by “Israel’s Office of Cultural Affairs in North America” for Ha’bima and Cameri’s performance at Lincoln Center fits precisely within that Israeli government strategy.

Initiative Press Releases: 

Press Release

Love Culture, Hate ApartheidNew 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.”

Press Release

New York, NY, July 24 – An Israeli government-supported theater initiative begins tonight at Lincoln Center, despite a protest letter signed by over 80 artists. The Lincoln Center performances are taking place against a backdrop of heightened Israeli government repression of Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation in the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, and revelations that 43 Senators hope to implement a law that could make it a felony for Americans to support similar boycott protests against Israel. Reported plans by Israel’s anti-Palestinian Minister of Culture Miri Regev to travel to New York for the performances underline the importance the hardline Israeli government places on its Lincoln Center partnership.

In the letter to Lincoln Center the artists called for the cancellation of Monday’s performance because it is part of the Israeli government’s Brand Israel public relations strategy and because the Israeli theater groups involved, Ha’Bima and Cameri, have played in and legitimized Israel’s illegal settlements. The signers of the letter to Lincoln Center include winners of numerous theater awards, including four Pulitzers, three Tonys, and nine Obies.

Initiative Documents: 

Document

June 27 email from Lincoln Center’s President to Adalah-NY

Thank you for your thoughtful note regarding the performances by Ha’bima National Theater and the Cameri Theater of Tel Aviv. “To the End of the Land” is going to be one part of the larger Lincoln Center Festival this summer, and we are looking forward to bringing many different performances from all over the world as part of the series.

Document

(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
Yair Ashkenazi

Initiative Press Coverage: 

Press Coverage

New York Times

Abstract: 

More than 60 artists, including four Pulitzer Prize winners and other prominent writers, actors, directors and playwrights, have signed an open letter calling on Lincoln Center to cancel performances of a play co-produced by two Israeli theater companies and backed by the Israeli government.

Press Coverage

Forward

Abstract: 

A forthcoming Lincoln Center production of Man Booker Prize-winning novelist David Grossman’s “To The End Of The Land” has become a surprising target for protest. As reported by The New York Times,, the theatrical adaptation of Grossman’s anti-war novel, which is produced by the Cameri Theater of Israel and the Ha’Bima National Theater of Israel and will be presented at Lincoln Center in New York from July 24 to July 27, is drawing fire for the Israel’s Office of Cultural Affairs in North America’s support of it.

Press Coverage

Artforum

Abstract: 

More than sixty artists, actors, directors, and playwrights have signed an open letter demanding that New York’s Lincoln Center cancel performances of a play that is coproduced by two theaters in Israel—the Ha’bima National Theater and the Cameri Theater of Tel Aviv—which have been criticized for previously staging productions in the occupied territories and backed by the Israeli government.

Press Coverage

Gothamist

Abstract: 

In a letter published online Wednesday, more than 60 artists and performers called on Lincoln Center to cancel upcoming performances of a play backed by the Israeli government and co-produced by two controversial Israeli theater companies who, according to the letter, "have long been actively complicit in the occupation and colonization of the West Bank."

Press Coverage

Ha'aretz

Abstract: 

יותר מ–70 אנשי תרבות אמריקאים, אירופאים ופלסטינים, בהם הזמר רוג'ר ווטרס ובמאי הקולנוע קן לואץ', שיגרו אתמול (רביעי) מכתב מחאה להנהלת מרכז לינקולן סנטר בניו יורק בדרישה לבטל את ארבע הצגות "אשה בורחת מבשורה" של תיאטראות הבימה והקאמרי בפסטיבל שייערך במרכז החודש, בטענה שהמוסדות נתמכים על ידי ממשלת ישראל ואף הופיעו בהתנחלויות בגדה. בלינקולן סנטר מסרו ל"הארץ" כי אין בכוונתם לבטל את ארבע ההצגות או להביע עמדה פוליטית כלשהי בעניין.

Translation from Hebrew

Press Coverage

JTA

Abstract: 

A group of more than 60 artists has called on Lincoln Center to retract a play that has backing from the Israeli government.

The play, “To the End of the Land,” is a part of the Lincoln Center Festival at the famed arts complex in New York. It is co-produced by the Cameri Theater of Tel Aviv and Habima National Theater of Israel, and has garnered supported from Israel’s Office of Cultural Affairs in North America.

Press Coverage

Deadline Hollywood

Abstract: 

Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts president Deborah Spar has rejected a request, supported by a number of well-known artists and scholars, to cancel upcoming performances by a troupe underwritten by an agency of the Israeli government. The request from Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel represents the latest move to link any activity, whether commercial or nonprofit, business- or culture-related, to the international Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement created to pressure Israel into addressing issues relating to Palestinians and the Occupied Territories.

Press Coverage

National Review

Abstract: 

In New York City today a strange spectacle is being staged: Theater artists are taking a stand against theater. When the Lincoln Center Festival announced it was staging a four-night production this month that is subsidized by the state of Israel, dozens of big-name professionals from New York’s theater world, including highly regarded actors, writers, and directors, demanded the play be scrapped.

Press Coverage

Electronic Intifada

Abstract: 

More than 80 theater artists and 12 Palestine-based theater and performance groups are demanding that New York’s Lincoln Center cancel upcoming Israeli government-sponsored performances by two Israeli theater companies.

The letter signed by renowned playwrights, actors, directors, writers and theater scholars was organized by Palestine solidarity group Adalah-NY.

Press Coverage

Playbill

Abstract: 

Lincoln Center Festival President Debora Spar has responded to a letter penned by a number of high-profile playwrights, actors, and directors calling for the cancellation of To the End of the Land. The production from Ha’bima National Theatre and the Cameri Theater of Tel Aviv, which sold out in Israel, will debut in the U.S. as planned July 24–27 as part of this summer’s Lincoln Center Festival.

Press Coverage

The Jewish Voice

Abstract: 

“To The End of the Land,” an Israeli play at New York’s Lincoln Center, has sparked protests from over 60 writers, directors, actors, and playwrights, including Pulitzer Prize winners, who have added their signatures to a letter condemning the production.

Press Coverage

The New York Jewish Week

Abstract: 

When works by two of Israel’s most celebrated artists — novelist David Grossman and filmmaker Amos Gitai — have their North American premieres as theatrical productions at the Lincoln Center Festival, the fierce debate in Israel over the role of the arts, as well as BDS politics here, will provide a backdrop to the action.

Press Coverage

The Forward

Abstract: 

Ever since a group of surprisingly high-profile theater artists called on Lincoln Center to cancel its upcoming production of an Israeli state-sponsored play, New York City’s theater community has been reeling with discomfort. While many theater professionals sympathize with the Palestinian cause, few, in their heart of hearts, want to cancel a play, especially in today’s hostile cultural environment, where the president plans to eliminate the NEA and Trump supporters are interrupting Julius Caesar.

Press Coverage

+972

Abstract: 

Now Regev is expected to meet the creators of the play once again, this time on another distinguished stage, at the Lincoln Center Festival in New York. It is hard to believe that when Grossman allowed Habima and The Cameri, Israel’s leading theaters, to stage his novel, he expected to stand shoulder to shoulder with Regev against the BDS campaign.

Press Coverage

New York Times

Abstract: 

In the weeks before the festival, that first production drew fire when several dozen artists (Caryl Churchill, Wallace Shawn, Lynn Nottage and Taylor Mac among them) signed a letter protesting the play on the grounds that the Israeli government had helped sponsor it and that the companies involved had performed in Israeli settlements within the occupied territories.

Press Coverage

HowlRound

Abstract: 

David Grossman’s novel To the End of the Land tells the story of an Israeli mother’s journey after her son is summoned for military service. It’s a story about loss, love and the harsh realities of war written by a talented and subtle writer, a left-leaning critic of the Israeli government. Hanan Snir’s stage adaptation was presented at Lincoln Center and as a lefty Jewish American playwright I really wished I could see it. But I couldn’t.

Press Coverage

Page Six

Abstract: 

In July, Gerwig was among more than 60 artists who signed a letter calling on Lincoln Center to cancel performances of “To the End of the Land,” presented “with support of Israel’s Office of Cultural Affairs in North America.”

The letter was organized by Adalah-NY, which calls for the boycott of Israel over its treatment of Palestinians.

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