You’d think playwrights could think for themselves

By Bruce S. Ticker

Bruce S. Ticker

PHILADELPHIA — Tragic drama of nearly 70 years has coincided with make-believe drama via a fictitious Israeli mother worried about her son’s military service.

The play To the End of the Land, adapted from the novel by David Grossman, has triggered the ire of a long list of American theater professionals who signed a letter protesting the scheduled performances of the Israeli play for July 24-27 at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in Manhattan. They are particularly disturbed by the Israeli government’s stamp of approval.

As is usual with anti-Israel screeds, the letter is comprised of sweeping accusations with minimal factual back-up while ignoring Arab terrorism and Israel’s offer of a Palestinian state 17 years ago this month. As an American Jew and a budding playwright, I wonder if some of the playwrights, actors and directors thought things through before signing on.

The play follows a mother who creates a strange form of denial about the prospect that her son might be killed while on military duty. The play was adapted from Grossman’s novel of the same name by Hanan Snir, who also directs.

The letter does present legitimate concerns. Israeli artists themselves are appalled by their government’s intrusion into creative freedom, and there are reasonable arguments from both sides about the legality of the settlements. The petition contends that the two Israeli theater companies sponsoring the play have supported the settlement movement by hosting performances in the West Bank.

It is understandable if settlement opponents are upset that the theater groups presented plays in these communities.

The petition goes much further, carrying the signatures of notable playwrights like Annie Baker, Tracy Letts, Lynn Nottage and Wallace Shawn, and director Andre Gregory. They are all entitled to their political opinions, but would they willingly lend their names to bolster blatant lies?

The letter cites Israel’s “violent colonization, brutal military occupation and denial of basic rights to the Palestinian people.” I would challenge the many artists who signed this petition to explain how Israel merits this characterization and to compare Israeli and Palestinian transgressions.

As for colonization, Jews lived in the West Bank long before Israel’s creation in 1948. In 1929, 67 Jews in Hebron were massacred by Arabs from neighboring towns who feared a Jewish takeover of the Western Wall. Further carnage was prevented as other Jews were sheltered by their Arab neighbors. Many Jews were driven from the West Bank in 1948 when Arab forces attacked Israel.

The petition also neglects to recall that Israel formally offered the Palestinians an independent state at Camp David in 2000, and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat rejected the offer and initiated or facilitated a war for the next few years. I hope these artists can advise Israel on what it should do now since the plan to leave the Palestinians with Gaza, East Jerusalem and 93 percent of the West Bank is not good enough for them.

These artists must pose these and other questions about the ideas and semantics that comprise this petition. How do they know for sure if this “occupation” is “brutal” or if Israel is denying Palestinians their “basic rights?” Are their fellow Palestinians free of blame? Was Israel’s proposal for an independent state unreasonable?

Baker, Letts, Nottage and Shawn and those others who signed this petition built their careers on words and ideas, and they should be able to distinguish between truth and distortion. What the signatories can do is either remove their names or compose a new letter confining their grievances to the facts absent any deceptive and inflammatory language.

C’mon, folks. You of all people should be able to think in nuanced terms.

*
Ticker is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia.  He may be contacted via [email protected]

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One Response to “You’d think playwrights could think for themselves”

  1. Actually, as regards this element “feared a Jewish takeover of the Western Wall”, what the Mufti did was shift a legitimate dispute over whether a prayer partition was in violation of the status quo at the Western Wall (sound familiar to American Jews upset at current arrangements at the Plaza?) to a fake news claim that the Jews were trying to take over the Temple Mount.

    And rather than “Jews lived in the West Bank” before 1948, they were in Judea and Samaria. The “West Bank” only appears in 1950 when Jordan quashed Any Arab state in Palestine other than itself and illegally annexed Judea and Samaria, geographical terms that appear in the UN’s 1947 Partition Plan.

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