Fiddler on the Nakba

US Politics
on 88 Comments

A scene from Fiddler on the Roof

Yesterday I listened to Terry Gross interviewing Sheldon Harnick, the lyricist for “Fiddler on the Roof.” As they talked about Russian villages in which Jews were persecuted, and which they fled to come to America– “forced out,” Gross said repeatedly — Gross and Harnick became emotional. Gross is a private person; but she spoke of her parents openly. She and Harnick were telling an ancestral Jewish story, and a moving one.

I could not help thinking about Palestinian remembrances of their villages that they were forced out of during the creation of Israel. “Their only home,” to use Gross’s phrase. They speak with similar attachment about a lost world. They cherish photos and keys and memories. Just look at the movie “When I Saw You.”

And of course I wondered when American culture will commemorate and honor the Nakba, the Palestinian catastrophe, in which 750,000 Palestinians lost their homes.

Excerpts of the interview:

Gross: And “Fiddler on the Roof” is set in 1905 in a Jewish village in Czarist Russia, where the Jews are under attack and eventually forced out. ..

So in the show “Fiddler on the Roof,” there’s a song called “Anatevka,” which the Jews in this small town sing when they are forced out of their village, Anatevka. And it’s a very – the song that’s used in the show is both about well, it’s just a place, it’s not an important place, but it’s also very nostalgic song for the place that they are being forced to leave, the place that is their only home….

You know, when I hear some of the songs from “Fiddler on the Roof,” I get tears in my eyes, in part because my parents had very few albums when I was growing up but they had “Fiddler on the Roof” and they played it over and over and over and over. And it really started to drive me crazy.

But when I hear it now, you know, my parents passed, you know, like several years ago and when I hear it now I think about my parents and I think not only about how good the songs are but I think what those songs meant to them and what it was like for them in the 1960s to go to Broadway and see a show about Jews on a shtetl in Eastern Europe because their parents had been Jews in shtetls in Eastern Europe.

And I’m sure you know how much this musical meant, you know, has meant to so many people.

HARNICK: Yes. One of the things – when Jerome Robbins became our director he told us this story. He said when he was six his parents took him to that part of Poland where their ancestors came from and even at the age of six he remembers it as being a very emotional experience.

Then during World War II as he read about the extermination of these little village by the Nazis he was certain that the village that he had visited when he was six was one of those villages that had been obliterated. So when we gave him the opportunity to direct “Fiddler” he said I want to put that culture back on stage. I want to give it a theatrical life of another 25 years. He was being modest because now it’s almost 50 years and it’s still going strong.

But he was like a man obsessed with restoring that culture.

Some day Palestinian culture will be similarly honored. But it’s a ways off…

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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88 Responses

  1. Zach S
    May 1, 2014, 11:07 am

    “Fiddler on the Roof” didn’t come into existence because a bunch of people sat around complaining on the Internet. It was created by three people who worked together on a musical production based on the work of another writer. They made a musical that was entertaining, funny, catchy, and had true to life characters, and so it was successful.

    Phil seems to think that the honors given to American Jewish cultural artifacts like “Fiddler” were gifts given by mainstream America. Not so. The creators of these cultural milestones earned them with blood, sweat, and tears. If Palestinians would like to create books, movies, plays, etc, about their experience and successfully market them to mainstream American audiences, and receive the same recognition for their work, they are certainly welcome to do so. No one is stopping them.

    • Annie Robbins
      May 1, 2014, 11:23 am

      Phil seems to think that the honors given to American Jewish cultural artifacts like “Fiddler” were gifts given by mainstream America.

      ? what is it phil wrote that would give you that impression. when he wrote ” an ancestral Jewish story, and a moving one” did you confuse it for ” gifts given by mainstream America”?

      If Palestinians would like to create books, movies, plays, etc, about their experience … No one is stopping them.

      what do you mean “if”? Palestinians do create books, movies, plays, etc, about their experience. where have you been, living under a rock perhaps?

      • Zach S
        May 1, 2014, 11:41 am

        Hi Annie, Phil wrote:

        “I wondered when American culture will commemorate and honor the Nakba, the Palestinian catastrophe, in which 750,000 Palestinians lost their homes.”

        Perhaps I was mistaken, but it sounded to me as if his complaint was directed against American culture for its failure to honor the Nakba, instead of directed against Palestinians for failing to create a cultural artifact with an impact on par with Fiddler on the Roof.

        It’s worth noting that Fiddler on the Roof is not beloved because of the expulsion of Tevye’s family at the end. The historical setting is an after thought: what people like about “Fiddler” are all the things I have mentioned above.

        Indeed, Palestinians have created books, movies, etc about their experiences. None of them have reached the critical and popular success of “Fiddler.” Is it the responsibility of the American mainstream to honor them anyway, in the interests of “balance?” Or is it the responsibility of Palestinians to improve their creations so they reach mainstream appeal?

    • Annie Robbins
      May 1, 2014, 11:34 am

      No one is stopping them.

      not for lack of trying. an example of that is the firestorm of negativity coming from segments of the jewish community attempting to completely shut down a production “The Admission”. http://mondoweiss.net/2013/10/washington-cancels-pressure.html

      The activists called on donors to the federation, which supports the DCJCC, to withhold their contributions unless the DCJCC stopped the theater troupe from staging its show, “The Admission,” under its roof.

      not so different than the way the lobby troops screamed bloody murder when kerry uttered the word “apartheid”. how do you imagine palestinians can make or write books about the nakba without screams of “anti semitism” accusations? and the media just eats it up frequently offering platforms for zionist pundits on msm to air their grievances without offering nary a peep out of the palestinian community. don’t pretend we live in a level playing field here. it’s disingenuous.

    • chocopie
      May 1, 2014, 11:40 am

      Watching the play a couple years ago, I was struck by the thought that it’s only a matter of time before someone mounts a production with the villagers as Palestinians and the soldiers as IDF. That scene where the soldiers enter and ransack the villagers’ house, terrorizing the family, is like something right out of the Occupation.

    • Kay24
      May 1, 2014, 11:51 am

      ” No one is stopping them.”
      Actually there is an ongoing blockade and a brutal occupation, they are unable to go in and out of their own territories without going through numerous check points, being shot at by fences, they were unable to export their goods, nor get basic items in, including writing implements,crayons, stationary, soccer balls, and musical instruments have been, at times, banned for import. The children are traumatized and do not know life without guns being pointed at their heads, or feel fear that they will be dragged out of their beds at night and thrown in jail with the other 700 children, they have to get special permits to leave the territories, and no permits are given to build their homes (while the brutal occupier keeps building more and more ILLEGAL SETTLEMENTS, against UN resolutions.
      I am sure you are smart to realize SOME evil force is stopping them from progressing, create, and thriving, like they were before their evil occupiers were placed there by the UN, and every thing was downhill for them from then onwards, while the transgressors from Europe, thrive, create, and enjoy life, while sipping Palestinian water. It would be a miracle if these victims could achieve anything after what they go through. You realize your comment is well, naive, to say the least.

    • James North
      May 1, 2014, 11:56 am

      Zach S is obviously a reinforcement sent over by Hasbara Central.

      • oneof5
        May 1, 2014, 7:26 pm

        I think he’s a new intern … and I think “reinforcement” might be premature at this point … at least from a functionality perspective

      • Kay24
        May 2, 2014, 6:29 am

        They must be running short of recruits and desperate, they sound like they are in middle school at this point, although Haaretz reported:

        “The Prime Minister’s Office is planning to form, in collaboration with the National Union of Israeli Students, “covert units” within Israel’s seven universities that will engage in online public diplomacy (hasbara).

        The students participating in the project, who would post on social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter on Israel’s behalf, will be part of the public diplomacy arm of the PMO, but would not identify themselves as official government representatives.

        About a week ago, the outgoing deputy-director general of the Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Ministry, Daniel Seaman, sent a document to the government tender committee seeking to exempt the national student union from being chosen as the partner in the project through a public bidding process.

        The PMO is looking to invest close to NIS 3 million to recruit, organize and fund the activities of hundreds of university students, as part of the country’s public diplomacy effort.”

        I think that is money (US tax dollars?) wasted. They cannot make a even a dent here!

    • Woody Tanaka
      May 1, 2014, 12:04 pm

      “No one is stopping them.”

      That is false. There are many, repeated stories of artistic endevours by Palestinians, telling the Palestinian story, which are being stopped in American by ways both large and small, by Zionists and others. Don’t kid yourself.

      • biorabbi
        May 1, 2014, 11:58 pm

        Woody, how about the recent series of Palestinian films which were nominated for the Oscars… not big production events… but small, shoe-string ventures? These films were given the honor of an Oscar nomination which is about as good as one can get in the arena of film… now you can watch them on Netflix or AMZN as we speak. How did these films, yes one was a work of art, how did they get a pass by Hollywood, Woody?

      • Woody Tanaka
        May 2, 2014, 10:30 am

        Biorabbi, Simply because some have not been stopped doesn’t mean that none are stopped.

        My further response is to note that Hollywood is no where near the monolith it is made out to be. That fact, and the fact that these were small, shoe-string ventures was key. In such situations, fewer and fewer people are able to stop a production, as there is more options for both financing and distribution. Further, they have been some fantastic films, and there are enough people in the Academy that care about quality film and place that over politics.

        But even in those cases, these films face attempts some large, some small, to stop them. One need only remember the disgraceful episode where Emad Burnat was detained at LAX. Even in this last Award year, the film “Omar,” a wonderful, fantastic film, was subject to some of the most vile slander by some anonymous coward in the Hollywood Reporter, in a widely-read article.

        So the statement “No one is stopping them” is an ignorant falsehood, at best.

    • Philip Munger
      May 1, 2014, 1:13 pm

      If Palestinians would like to create books, movies, plays, etc, about their experience and successfully market them to mainstream American audiences, and receive the same recognition for their work, they are certainly welcome to do so. No one is stopping them.

      Other commenters have replied to this and other issues raised in your comment, Zach S. “No one is stopping them” sort of irks me, but I can’t totally disagree.

      The infrastructure on and off Broadway that was there to support the creators and producers of Fiddler on the Roof (I’ve performed in local renditions of this great musical) was robust, longstanding and central to American musical theater. It was there already for George Gershwin in the early 1920s, when he created Lady Be Good. It is still there, a vibrant aspect of American culture. There is no similar infrastructure to support any Palestinian or Palestinian American theater or musical theater. And as Annie observes about The Admission, Zionist organizations sometimes overtly get in the way of works of art that might encourage a successor, or a Palestinian American Fiddler.

      Phil Weiss’s experience from covering the cancellation at the NYTW of My Name is Rachel Corrie was part of the beginning of his journey that led him to found this web site. It is worth reading:

      http://www.thenation.com/article/too-hot-new-york#

      When I tried to produce a cantata about Rachel Corrie in early 2004, I was forced to cancel it, after threats to the university student performers and midnight threatening phone calls to the soprano soloist (who at that time had an unlisted phone number). It underwent two more US cancellations before a collaboration of Jewish and Palestinian activists mounted it in London a year and a half later.

      When we performed it in London, there were several demonstrations outside the theater. They were civil, and I went out to talk to the demonstrators, offering to pay their tickets if they so wished. One group carried or posted signs (on the police barricades) related to the meme “All the other Rachels.” They accused me of neglecting a number of Israeli women or girls named Rachel, who had been killed in violence perpetrated by Palestinians.

      When talking to the people in this demonstration, I asked “Is someone stopping a composer or playwright from creating this work?”

      They told me I was irresponsible and anti-Semitic for not having thought of or done this myself. I offered them tickets to our performance. All declined the offer.

      Here’s a link to a picture of the “All the other Rachels” posters outside the theater.

      http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-mhVt68PP62A/Tn4zILEJNKI/AAAAAAAAJLg/CUoMd7mWPx8/s1600/london+skies+rachel+signs.JPG

      One hopes that a Palestinian or Palestinian American equivalent to Fiddler is either out there already, looking for nurture, or that it will be created soon.

      ps – I would have loved to see Leonard Nimoy perform the role of Tevye.

    • Giles
      May 1, 2014, 1:52 pm

      Gee Zach S. if I didn’t know better, I would think you are sitting around complaining on the internet.

      But I guess that only applies to those you disagree with.

      The old Zionist Double Standard alive and well

      • Taxi
        May 1, 2014, 2:41 pm

        Z should try finding a Hollywood producer/director/actor, even more importantly, a Hollywood distributor who’d be willing to even discuss for just two seconds, a film project about Palestine and Palestinians.

      • SQ Debris
        May 1, 2014, 11:48 pm

        You don’t even need to be Palestinian to be black-bagged by the motion picture establishment. Just do a film in which a Palestinian is portrayed as a complicated human being. Ask Costa-Gavras about what happened to his film Hanna K.

      • Taxi
        May 2, 2014, 5:14 am

        Thanks SQ for a great example:
        “Pro-Israeli groups were extremely concerned about Hanna K. and its potential for depicting the Palestinian issue in a sympathetic light. An internal memorandum was circulated by a B’nai B’rith and advising members that if the film played in their cities there were certain comments that could be made in the local press. Attached to the memorandum were two sets of prepared criticisms, written by Shimon Samuels and Abba Cohen from the French headquarters of the B’nai B’rith, outlining the arguments supporters of Israel should make against the film.”

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanna_K.

    • Krauss
      May 1, 2014, 4:13 pm

      Terry Gross proves once again that she uses her radio show as a narrow little sit-in for other Jews instead of being interested in wider American culture – which includes narratives of people less often heard.

      How relevant are the pogroms of 100 years ago? They are relevant to Jews her age.
      But we are now an empowered people.

      Gross doesn’t spend a minute longer on dispossessed people in today’s America than she has to, to maintain minimal credibility.

      And heaven help us if she would even talk about Palestinian dispossession. That’d be a direct threat to her identity and her insistence on acting as if Jews deserve to be heard much more than everyone else.

      And further, it would expose how she is still mentally trapped in a world that no longer exists but that she desperately clings to.

      • MRW
        May 1, 2014, 5:34 pm

        Short-form Krauss: Terry Gross is effing tedious. And her show is 100% tribal. C’est tout.

      • Krusty
        May 2, 2014, 2:38 pm

        “How relevant are the pogroms of 100 years ago? They are relevant to Jews her age.”

        I take it you haven’t much been paying attention to the Ukraine, Hungary or France?

    • Hostage
      May 1, 2014, 5:34 pm

      If Palestinians would like to create books, movies, plays, etc, about their experience and successfully market them to mainstream American audiences, and receive the same recognition for their work, they are certainly welcome to do so. No one is stopping them.

      Phil has written articles here about award winning Palestinian books, poetry, motion pictures, vocalists, and instrumentalists. When you say no one is stopping them, you must be forgetting about Islamophobes, Zionists, and the legions of people who are simply apathetic. The Palestinian author of a prize winning book can’t even appear at the 92nd Street Y to discuss “Why I Shall Not Hate,” because no one is available to present an opposing viewpoint. http://mondoweiss.net/2011/02/92d-st-y-cancels-appearance-by-palestinian-doctor-whose-3-daughters-were-killed-after-jewish-co-panelist-drops-out.html

      American Muslims can’t even be left alone when someone airs a reality TV show on cable about their lives right here in the USA. The Islamophobes and Zionists (who can’t manipulate a remote control with enough proficiency to change the channel) launch boycotts against the advertisers. They are like the poor lost souls from the hasbara central who are trapped between worlds here at Mondoweiss. They are forced to read streams of informative, mind altering articles and comments against their will, simply because they never had an adult handler who liked them enough to explain how the web browser address bar works. In much the same way that Harpo could disguise himself as Groucho, Someone here could undoubtedly channel their inner Mooser and break the news to them, but that’s not my rice bowl.

      • RoHa
        May 1, 2014, 8:24 pm

        “The Palestinian author of a prize winning book can’t even appear at the 92nd Street Y to discuss “Why I Shall Not Hate,” because no one is available to present an opposing viewpoint”

        They wanted someone to argue that he should hate?

      • MRW
        May 2, 2014, 6:11 am

        @Hostage [May 1, 2014 at 5:34 pm], u da man.

    • Henry Norr
      May 2, 2014, 12:31 am

      Just one more response to Zach S’s claim that “No one is stopping” the Palestinians from presenting cultural expressions of their experience to Americans: Let’s not forget the case of the exhibit of children’s art from Gaza that was scheduled to be shown at the Museum of Children’s Art in Oakland in 2011 – until Jewish community organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area and wealthy Jewish donors mounted a concerted campaign to pressure the museum to cancel the show, and the museum’s craven leadership caved in.

      http://mondoweiss.net/2011/09/bulletin-childrens-pictures-from-gaza-are-banned-in-bay-area.html

      The ADL gloated about its contribution to that “victory”
      http://mondoweiss.net/2011/09/adl-gloats-over-the-cancellation-of-gaza-childrens-art-exhibit.html

      and the Jewish Federation of the East Bay sent out the following tweet: “Great news! The ‘Child’s View From Gaza’ exhibit at MOCHA has been canceled thanks to some great East Bay Jewish community organizing.”
      http://forward.com/articles/143607/bay-area-jewish-groups-celebrate-shutting-palestin/#ixzz30WsI2Cis

    • lysias
      May 2, 2014, 2:57 pm

      If Palestinians would like to create books, movies, plays, etc, about their experience and successfully market them to mainstream American audiences, and receive the same recognition for their work, they are certainly welcome to do so. No one is stopping them.

      We’ve recently witnessed opposition to the putting on stage of several such plays. Until recently, it proved impossible to stage Adams’s opera The Death of Klinghoffer (which it is generally agreed is a very effective opera, as I can testify, having seen a British production on DVD) in this country, after the initial New York premiere. Such books may finally be being published in this country, but until recently wasn’t it very difficult to get such books published?

      • RoHa
        May 2, 2014, 11:14 pm

        “it proved impossible to stage Adams’s opera The Death of Klinghoffer .. in this country…Such books may finally be being published in this country”

        Which country? “This country” means where you are, but that means nothing to the rest of us unless you tell us where you are.

  2. Citizen
    May 1, 2014, 11:18 am

    Do we need a Palestinian Chagall? Or more like, just one very influential person in Hollywood?

    • Woody Tanaka
      May 1, 2014, 12:09 pm

      “Do we need a Palestinian Chagall? Or more like, just one very influential person in Hollywood?”

      Not the first; maybe the second. First, though, I’d like to see a Palestinian Jay-Z or Sean Combs. The youth are the future.

      • RudyM
        May 1, 2014, 1:02 pm

        A Palestinian Jay-Z or Sean Combs? No thanks. Because the youth are the future and they don’t need role models to celebrate degradation.

      • Woody Tanaka
        May 1, 2014, 1:32 pm

        Yeah, and rock and roll is the devil’s music and what’s with these kids today?, and why, back in my day, popular music that was good and good music was popular and this rap crap is just noise and degrading… and meanwhile, kids, as always, don’t care what the people who came before them think. Which is why and how Jay-Z and Sean Combs got to be as powerful and influential as they are.

      • Krauss
        May 1, 2014, 4:10 pm

        Woody, while I wouldn’t exactly say that mainstream pop culture in the 80s and 90s was exceptionally intelligent, it is still true that rap/hiphop(at least mainstream one) is much more derogatory towards women in particular than any other music form. People try to compare it to rock and roll, but they only do that for ethnic political reasons, i.e. for fear of singling out black people.

        Hip-hop’s misogyny is far and wide bigger than any other form of music.
        As for the celebration of empty things, you don’t need hip hop for that. There’s plenty of that in the wider mainstream American culture.

        So to sum it up, we don’t need a Palestinian Chagall or a Hollywood mogul. We need more Edward Saids. Those are the people who truly move culture. The others are just a temporary and transient layer, soon forgotten after they wither away.

      • Woody Tanaka
        May 1, 2014, 5:05 pm

        “Woody, while I wouldn’t exactly say that mainstream pop culture in the 80s and 90s was exceptionally intelligent, it is still true that rap/hiphop(at least mainstream one) is much more derogatory towards women in particular than any other music form…
        As for the celebration of empty things, you don’t need hip hop for that. ”

        Some of it is, sure. Not all of it. But that’s really beside the point. Rap, hip hop, R&B and Pop music are going to be popular and the messages in them are going to be popular, regardless of whether someone sees it as derogatory or not.

        But what you need is someone who can get a message across and who millions of people want to listen to. That’s not empty.

        “So to sum it up, we don’t need a Palestinian Chagall or a Hollywood mogul. We need more Edward Saids. Those are the people who truly move culture.”

        I would be willing to bet that if you phoned random people in this culture, you would find 1 million people who’ve heard of Jay-Z before you could find 50 who’ve heard of Edward Said. And I’m not even sure it would be that close.

        “The others are just a temporary and transient layer, soon forgotten after they wither away.”

        Nonsense. Elvis Presley has had more influence on the culture of the United States than every philosopher, poet and intellectual combined.

      • lysias
        May 1, 2014, 5:40 pm

        Not just misogynistic, but homophobic too.

      • just
        May 1, 2014, 1:56 pm

        Palestine has M. Assaf and so very many talented young (and older) people. They need exposure in the US, and the US citizens need to become educated and un-hasbaradized. We are the present, the “youth are the future”. I don’t want the Palestinians to have to wait one more minute! It’s up to us, right now.

        As for Congress and the Gov’t……….ugh.

      • Woody Tanaka
        May 1, 2014, 2:05 pm

        “Palestine has M. Assaf and so very many talented young (and older) people.”

        i’m not talking about being a talent. I’m talking about being a mogul.

        “They need exposure in the US, and the US citizens need to become educated and un-hasbaradized.”

        Hasbara, though a problem, isn’t the biggest problem in the US, compared to such things as ethno-religious solidarity and the emphasis on ancient Israel and Judaism in the Christian religion.

    • Henry Norr
      May 1, 2014, 1:31 pm

      “a Palestinian Chagall”? Check out the work of Nabil Anani!
      http://nabilanani.net

      (Just bio and photo of the artist on that page, but click the “New Collection” and “View Art” links to see the paintings.)

      If anyone knows of any way to purchase reproductions of his work from the USA, please post!

      • Walid
        May 1, 2014, 2:15 pm

        Henry, you’d probably also like the work of another great Palestinian artist, Paul Guiragossian (1926-1993). Born in Jerusalem to survivors of the Armenian genocide, like Chagall (Moishe Segal), his work was deeply influenced by religion.

        http://www.paulguiragossian.com/index.php

      • Henry Norr
        May 1, 2014, 2:56 pm

        Thanks, Walid. I have to say his stuff doesn’t catch my fancy quite the way Nabil Anani’s does, but I’m glad to know about him.

        (I also like his name. Four decades and many careers ago, and 3,000 miles away, I worked as a machinist at a GE plant in Providence, Rhode Island, and one of my workmates was a nice guy named Paul Giragosian – he was a victim of thalidomide or some such, which left him with very limited arms and hands, but still managed to be a top-notch precision machinist.)

      • Taxi
        May 1, 2014, 3:19 pm

        Thanks Henry and Walid for the links. Both Paul Giragosian and Nabil Anani are stunning and very exciting Palestinian artists. I absolutely loved looking at both their catalogs. Anani’s color pallet is extroverted, while Giragosian’s pallet is introverted – both are soulful and meditative. Both have produced exquisitely beautiful canvases. Thoroughly enjoyed the introduction to their work.

        I’d be stoked, like Henry, to get a hold of an Anani reproduction- and I’ll take a Giragosian at the drop of a hat too.

      • Henry Norr
        May 1, 2014, 3:11 pm

        BTW, there’s a nice slide show of Anani’s paintings of Palestine, set to piano music by someone named Eitan Meir Altman (likely an Israeli Jew, I’d guess by the name), at
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZLHFWHwYqzI

        I see Altman has also made YouTube clips that combine readings of poems by Mahmoud Darwish with music and paintings by Anani and other Palestinian artists – for instance, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jSEUOxkJco&list=UUZ5_2xfijtdOWaiDlMmYqdQ

        Not quite Fiddler on the Roof, but very nice, IMO.

      • Henry Norr
        May 1, 2014, 5:24 pm

        Apologies if I’m getting carried away by my enthusiasm for Nabil Anani’s paintings, but I just discovered that there are more, including lovely and very Chagall-esque new ones that are not yet (as far as I can tell) posted on his website, at his Facebook page:
        https://www.facebook.com/NaAnani

      • Walid
        May 2, 2014, 1:06 am

        Au contraire, Henry, discussing and exploring the likes of Anani is a refreshing diversion from the endless dark discussions on the evils of apartheid Israel. Anani was a discovery for me, thanks.

      • Citizen
        May 2, 2014, 4:56 am

        Thanks for the link to Anani’s Facebook page, Norr. You are right; there are so many influences in his art, including Ancient Egyptian, Chagall, Persian rug designs, European wood cut, ancient Christian imagery, European landscape art, pointillism, etc, yet the over all impact via his use of very nuanced color and subject conveys the rich, warm Palestinian spirit, community, and the solidarity of all this to the land itself. Very, very impressive,

      • biorabbi
        May 2, 2014, 12:06 am

        Nabil Anani is fantastic, superb. Deeply moving. There is a weird, fierce, beauty is Nabil’s art. Like Chagall in a way.

      • Citizen
        May 2, 2014, 5:14 am

        @ Henry Norr
        Thanks for introducing me to Anani’s work! Absolutely first rate. The show of his work on his Facebook page is just stunning, evocative, color- nuanced and designed he captures the rich Palestinian spirit and homeland.

      • Citizen
        May 2, 2014, 5:20 am

        Check out this example of Gavin Sane’s art work: http://fineartamerica.com/featured/gaza-027-gavin-sane.html
        I just stumbled upon it; will have to look more into his work.

        Yet another Palestinian piece of art by yet another Palestinian artist, Ahmad Subaih, so very worthy: http://fineartamerica.com/featured/palestinian-camp2-ahmad-subaih.html

  3. lindaincherryhill
    May 1, 2014, 11:32 am

    Just before hearing this discussion on NPR, I had the opportunity to view “Voices Across the Divide,” which is being shown at several venues in Philadelphia this week.

    The documentary is narrated by Alice Rothchild, whose mother was the author of a book featuring voices from the Holocaust. While the film describes Alice’s journey in learning about the Nakba, it is primarily composed of personal stories arising from the loss of land, occupation, and other aspects of Palestinian lives past and present. Perhaps a new “Fiddler on the Roof” might come from some of their stories?

  4. Chu
    May 1, 2014, 11:48 am

    I hear the violins for victims of another century. She should think about villagers in Gaza who only a few years ago are routed out of their homes with white phosphor bombs delivered by IDF helicopters. But who wants to discuss the present, when history is full of much more sorrow. Terry could at least try and cover a story about it, if she is going to weep on air for a musical.

  5. RudyM
    May 1, 2014, 11:49 am

    Fiddler on the Roof was also one of the few records my parents owned. Watching part of the movie on youtube relatively recently I was surprised (but why was I surprised?) by how kitsch it was. Not sure it is something to aspire to. Maybe the movie version was inferior, as often happens?

    And to Zach S, as Annie has already said, Palestinians and Arabs in general who want to put their story into Broadway or Hollywood or other mainstream form face a lot of resistance. Meanwhile, the mainstream is eager to embrace Jews who want to tell their story, no doubt partly thanks to the large number of Jews in the entertainment/media business. That doesn’t necessarily mean Arabs have done as much as they could to get their voice heard in the United States, but they have faced a different set of obstacles.

    • Zach S
      May 1, 2014, 12:19 pm

      Hi Rudy, thank you for your thoughts. But you seem to have missed the point of my post: “Fiddler” is not the story of the Jewish people. It’s a story about Jewish people. When the creators of the show came up with the idea, their goal was to tell a relatable story with interesting characters first and frame it in a historical and political context second. I’m saying Palestinians and Arabs, if they want to see an example of their experiences penetrating mainstream American conciousness, would be well served to do the same

      • RudyM
        May 1, 2014, 2:48 pm

        Fair enough distinction, but I still think there are limited opportunities for Arabs, or Palestinians specifically, to get those individual stories about individual Palestinians and other Arabs heard.

      • biorabbi
        May 2, 2014, 12:16 am

        Rudy, you and Zach miss a much bigger point. Gershwin made great music but was paid to make his masterpieces, or made ‘low brow’ music to finance ‘high brow’ masterpieces, or so he thought. The public loved it. No offense to any budding Palestinian artist, thinker, but how can you recreate a cultural richness of America in the 20’s or 30’s? Gershwin, Kern, Berlin, the Harlem writers, artists, jazz… now we have the internet. Even Hollywood can only rely on superhero crap. We live in a barren landscape. The outlets for a budding Palestinian artist would be M. Assaf with a talent contest, or the internet. It’s not the artists fault or even a gatekeeper, but the shlock of our own culture. If a Palestinian wrote a brilliant play in English? would anybody but an activist watch it? The audience would rather watch some idiotic video of a dog speaking ‘I love you.’ Maybe the arab world’s musical sentiments are more refined than our rap music crap; I hope so.

      • biorabbi
        May 2, 2014, 12:19 am

        Another depressing analogy: “Where is the Palestinian Isaac B. Singer?” as some in my family might say? Where are the great Palestinian writers today? The better question is where are the Palestinian readers, Jewish readers, or just readers. They’re ALL dumbed down by the idiocy of the internet and baseness of our culture. Yes, there is an IB Singer out there, but nobody will every read him because nobody reads books outside of 50 shades of dreck.

      • peeesss
        May 2, 2014, 3:09 am

        Zach S: At this time and place “mainstream” American consciousness is absent the Palestinian narrative of their “historical and political” journey not because of the lack of intellectual and artistic excellence. The strong influence of Zionists,Jewish and non Jewish in our publishing houses, mainstream media, Theatre, film industry, higher educational institutions limits any attempt to present the narrative of expulsion, {The Nakba} to the general population. As others have noted the pressure is so intense that people of conscience are silenced or demonized . Professors lose tenure, small theatres lose funding, art exhibits are cancelled. Yes someone is “stopping them”.

  6. kma
    May 1, 2014, 12:11 pm

    can you picture Terry Gross moving to eastern Europe to farm with an ox-cart and wear kerchiefs in her hair and let her dad pick her husband? seriously!
    Fiddler is great, but I always saw it as American culture too, and Broadway is fun, but it doesn’t drive our foreign policy. I don’t think that’s what Phil meant! he just asked when American culture might wake up to the emotions of the Nakba.
    the “Zach S” comment is snarky – as if Fiddler somehow belongs to Israel! I’ll tell you what HAS come out of Israel that is way beyond Fiddler: some of the best history books that cover the Nakba. the ethnic cleansing of Palestine is a daily current event. does Terry Gross feature these fantastic authors?

    • RudyM
      May 1, 2014, 12:57 pm

      I can’t picture Terry Gross moving anywhere without someone in a ten mile radius who once gave a blowjob to Lou Reed.

  7. irmep
    May 1, 2014, 12:43 pm

    “No one is stopping them.”

    Fiddler on the Roof is great stuff. However, an integral part of the AIPAC/Jewish Agency public relations plan to promote all things Israel has been “counteraction of all activities carried out here by the Arabs…”

    http://www.irmep.org/ila/AZC2/021962-1963AZCPlan.htm

    The cited plan is from 1962-1963, but it is reasonable to assume the same “counteraction” program is underway. Be interesting to compare the current “counteraction” budget with the “spreading Islamophobia” budget.

  8. GJB
    May 1, 2014, 12:45 pm

    Back in 1969, in the wake of a contentious, racially charged teachers strike in NY City, a white, Italian-American chorus teacher staged a mostly African-American production of “Fiddler on the Roof” at a middle school in Brownsville, Brooklyn. This teacher had to contend with opposition both from the local community and from the mostly Jewish teachers and administration in the school. Ultimately, much of the school community, and many of the students and parents, recognized that “Fiddler” speaks to the shared experience of all people who have been oppressed.

    I am continually struck by the sad and painful irony of the oppressed people of Anatevka turning into the oppressors of the Nakba. The parallels of expulsions, violence and demolitions foisted on an innocent population are so close that one can perhaps envision a (slightly edited) Palestinian version of “Fiddler on the Roof” speaking to the shared experience of Palestinians and Jews. “Black Fiddler” (as the teacher, Richard Piro’s, book about the experience was entitled), probably touched not many more than the few people who saw it (though it did warrant a “60 minutes” spot: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xF43E3JvfZM, and a longer documentary: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZEt-TVCRdDc). Would a “Palestinian Fiddler” reach at least some people of conscience with the shock of recognition of our common history of catastrophe, and jolt at least some of the oppressors into seeing themselves as the oppressed?

    • kma
      May 1, 2014, 11:03 pm

      exactly. Fiddler is American, not Israeli!! I’ve worked on it too!
      you get it. we all love it.
      it has nothing to DO with justifying driving Palestinians out of their land, and far more to do with justifying NOT doing it, and yes, we totally treat our African Americans here far worse than anyone!
      by the way, I remember when Long Branch, NJ was a nice little town – anyone else???

  9. Shuki
    May 1, 2014, 1:13 pm

    Fiddler is popular because it tells an authentic story that had been ongoing for centuries.

    The establishment if the state of Israel is widely recognized in the west as the great success and accomplishment that it was. The enemies of Israel and the Jewish people have been trying for years to hijack and distort this histotical event for their own nefarious purposes. Notwithstanding the ease with which some people throw around the term ‘Nakba’, your PR efforts have a ways to go before we’re ready for a Palestinian counterpart to this production.

    • Woody Tanaka
      May 1, 2014, 1:27 pm

      “The establishment if the state of Israel is widely recognized in the west as the great success and accomplishment that it was.”

      No, it’s been widely recognized as an event that had positive results for Jews and negative results for Palestinians. Your nefarious project has a long way to go before it could be called a great success; it has to actually result in justice and not just oppression, as it has to date.

    • Donald
      May 1, 2014, 1:31 pm

      “The establishment if the state of Israel is widely recognized in the west as the great success and accomplishment that it was. The enemies of Israel and the Jewish people have been trying for years to hijack and distort this histotical event for their own nefarious purposes. Notwithstanding the ease with which some people throw around the term ‘Nakba’, your PR efforts have a ways to go before ..”

      Stupid remark, only worth noting because the implication seems to be Nakba denial.

    • a blah chick
      May 1, 2014, 9:04 pm

      “Notwithstanding the ease with which some people throw around the term ‘Nakba’, your PR efforts have a ways to go before we’re ready for a Palestinian counterpart to this production.”

      That sentence tells me so much about you.

    • talknic
      May 1, 2014, 11:09 pm

      Shuki “Fiddler is popular because it…”

      …. is well crafted and promoted entertainment. The majority who see it couldn’t care less whether it is an authentic story or not.

      “The establishment if the state of Israel is widely recognized in the west as the great success and accomplishment that it was”

      “was” being the operative word. It is now widely considered by the majority of the world community of nations to be in breach of hundreds of unanimously adopted UNSC resolutions giving it the opportunity to adhere to the Laws and UN Charter principles reaffirmed and emphasized in those resolutions. Unfortunately Israel has failed to adhere to its obligations to the law and the UN Charter

      “The enemies of Israel and the Jewish people have been trying for years to hijack and distort this histotical event for their own nefarious purposes”

      What nefarious purpose is there in attempting to get a state to adhere to its legal obligations?

  10. eljay
    May 1, 2014, 1:20 pm

    >> Fiddler is popular because it tells an authentic story that had been ongoing for centuries.

    …including the last 60+ years in Palestine, thanks to Zio-supremacists.

    >> The establishment if the state of Israel is widely recognized in the west as the great success and accomplishment that it was.

    It’s a sad state of affairs when terrorism, ethnic cleansing, land theft, colonialism, expansionism, oppression and supremacism are recognized as a “great success and accomplishment”.

  11. Donald
    May 1, 2014, 1:30 pm

    Is there any sort of Palestinian novel or play about the Nakba? Excuse my ignorance if there is. If there is, could anyone imagine the firestorm if someone tried to produce it on Broadway? I’d buy tickets just to watch the shriekfest of the protestors.

    • Annie Robbins
      May 1, 2014, 11:24 pm

      mornings in jenin

      • Taxi
        May 1, 2014, 11:30 pm

        Mornings In Jenin is a great example: the storyline is all there, but, and I know this as a fact, a notable producer tried to raise money in Hollywood to make it into a movie and failed.

  12. lysias
    May 1, 2014, 5:44 pm

    my parents passed

    This “passed” euphemism for “died” really bugs me. I guess I’m willing to ignore “passed on”, because that was already standard usage when I was growing up. But where does this “passed” come from?

    • RoHa
      May 1, 2014, 8:21 pm

      When I was first in America, I nearly committed a major social blunder. A student told me that her sister had passed. Naturally, I assumed this meant that the sister had passed some important examination, and was about to offer congratulations, when I saw that the student did not seem too pleased about it. After asking for clarification, I offered commiserations instead. But it was a close run thing.

      • Taxi
        May 1, 2014, 11:21 pm

        LOL RoHa!

    • a blah chick
      May 1, 2014, 8:55 pm

      I don’t know but I don’t like it either. I never use it except with people I don’t know well and who might be offended by the word “died” or “dead.”

  13. Nevada Ned
    May 1, 2014, 6:27 pm

    The play My Name is Rachel Corrie was staged in London, but an initial attempt to stage it in New York City proved abortive, because of political objections from some Jewish groups and individuals. I recall when that happened. Who cancelled the play and why? Nobody would speak in public about the cancellation. Later an alternative venue was found in New York City.

    According to the Wikipedia entry the play My Name is Rachel Corrie played a large number of locations around the world, including:
    London, Seattle, Australia, Silver Springs MD, West Virginia, Chicago, Watertown MA, Dublin (Ireland), Lima (Peru), Edmonton Alberta (Canada), Toronto, Des Moines, Dallas, Lincoln NE, Stanford CA, Corvallis OR, Ithaca NY, Madison WI, Ashland OR, Anchorage AK, Albuquerque NM, Omaha NE, Cedar Falls IA, Columbia MO, Bridgelew IL, Fort Wayne IN, Goshen IN, Columbus OH, Las Vegas, Arcata CA, Atlanta, Lacrosse WI, Buffalo NY, Charlottesville VA, Sacramento CA, Portland OR, Orlando FL, and New Britain CT. (Some of these performances were one performance, once). International performances include The Netherlands, Greece, Sweden, Germany, Argentina, and Iceland.

    Political opposition from Jewish groups and individuals forced a cancellation in 2006 in New York City, and also in Florida in 2007.

    As far as I can tell, nobody has even attempted to stage the play in Israel.

    As for the statement that “No one is stopping them (Palestinians)” I’d say attempts were made by Israel and Israeli supporters to cancel the play, but in most of the world the attempt was not successful.

    • yonah fredman
      May 1, 2014, 11:33 pm

      My name is Rachel Corrie and Fiddler on the roof- compare and contrast. both were plays. both depicted some aspect of human existence and human suffering. Differences- Fiddler is a musical with entertainment value, proven earnings, songs you can hum and Tevye, an interesting protagonist, plus picturesque minor characters. I have never seen my name is Rachel Corrie. You tell me if it has any of those things. As far as I have read reviews, it was a tendentious piece of advocacy, but I have not seen it and maybe it was really “great fun for kids of all ages”.

      • talknic
        May 2, 2014, 12:20 am

        @ yonah fredman “Differences- Fiddler is a musical with entertainment value, proven earnings, songs you can hum and Tevye, an interesting protagonist, plus picturesque minor characters” = entertainment.

        “You tell me if it has any of those things” Why would it?

        “I have not seen it and maybe it was really “great fun for kids of all ages””

        Don’t bother. It’s a shrink you should see

        ” As far as I have read reviews, it was a tendentious piece of advocacy”

        http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2010/mar/08/my-name-is-rachel-corrie

  14. American
    May 1, 2014, 7:16 pm

    ” “Fiddler” speaks to the shared experience of all people who have been oppressed.”

    Thats how I saw it. You have to be without any imagination to not relate and empathize with people’s lose of home or place…corny or not.
    Palestines are capable of doing the same thing but they would never get theirs on Broadway or into US movie theaters.
    It would be kept out by the usual suspects pressure and threats.

  15. Dagon
    May 1, 2014, 7:41 pm

    Check out Ismael shamout.

    • Walid
      May 2, 2014, 6:50 am

      Nice work of Palestinian Ismail Shammout (1930-2006); lived and worked in Beirut for 27 years. Thanks Dagon

      http://ismail-shammout.com/

      • Henry Norr
        May 2, 2014, 11:43 am

        More Ismail Shammout: Eitan Meir, the guy who (as I noted yesterday) has made YouTube videos out of some Nabil Anani paintings, also has at least one with images by Shammout, plus Amal Murkus singing the Darwish poem “On This Earth.”

  16. yonah fredman
    May 1, 2014, 10:40 pm

    Jews dominated Broadway (by the 1960’s) and Hollywood from its very birth and such entertainment fields as pop music and early rock, that by the time that Fiddler on the Roof was staged, it was not as if Jews had not written tons of stuff that had really nothing to do with Jews. (Think Arthur Miller and “View from the Bridge”, dealing with immigrants who were specifically not Jewish. Think about the fact that Willy Loman had no ethnic identity, even though Jewish would have fit in perfectly, if the times had been different, but at the time, ethnicity was out.) The Jews who put on Fiddler on the Roof faced resistance from those Jews who favored assimilation and blending in and we’re American, red white and blue, one hundred per cent, no hyphenated identity for me. (A quote from The Powers that Be, David Halberstam’s book on the media, Bill Paley who had been asked to back Fiddler had refused and after Fiddler hit it big he asked some nonJewish underling, “Don’t you think it’s too Jewish?” and the underling answered, “no”, but the fit in with the crowd, let’s not be different from anyone else, was the predominant feeling of the Jews who had made it and “ran” Broadway when Fiddler was first staged.)

    (Another quote that doesn’t quite fit in, but I can’t resist, is Roger Sterling on Mad Men reacting when someone referred to someone Jewish, “Fiddler on the Roof”- cast or audience?”)

    The dynamics with Palestinians or Arab Americans and Broadway and Hollywood is entirely different and there is no great body of Arab American contribution to American culture in an assimilated phase to prepare the way for the identity phase of a Fiddler type production. Different dynamic. the evolution from assimilationist to identity cannot be duplicated and although it would be great if a good or great work of art emerged on the topic, or has already emerged but not yet reached public consciousness (my consciousness), it would not have the same historical dynamic that Fiddler and all the assimilationist art that came before it.

  17. Taxi
    May 1, 2014, 11:14 pm

    As a person who generally loathes musicals (with the exception of Stephen Sondheim’s Into The Woods), I can’t think of a more nauseatingly shmultzy musical than Fiddler On The Roof (well, maybe Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is in close competition). My parents on the other hand think Fiddler is absolutely wonderful.

  18. joer
    May 2, 2014, 12:26 am

    Fiddler on the Roof is about as realistic as Ozzie and Harriet was. It’s the way a lot of Jews want to think they used to be like because the reality of our own families is a lot more dysfunctional. That’s why they take their kids to see it. (I don’t mean to single out Jews as wanting to gloss over all sorts of dirt, but this discussion is about Fiddler.).
    At least in my family old style European patriarchs were pretty violent. On both sides of my family it was pretty common for fully set dinner tables to be turned over by pop in a fit of rage. And that’s just the public stuff. There are all sorts of things that go on in families that are never spoken of and are forgotten when the people involved all die.
    I guess burying the past is a self preservation technique of the human race, so we don’t all end up killing each other. But it is this layer upon layer of myths that make people not know who they really are that make ideologies like Zionism be able to flourish.
    Personally, I felt that Call It Sleep by Henry Roth is a realistic depiction of the European/American Jewish experience. When I read that, I felt as if I was uncovering memories in my bones. The way he described his father-with an angry furrow in his brow reminded me of pictures of my great grandfather as a young man. Tevye didn’t remind me of anyone who I actually ever met-although I have encountered many people who sort of adopt his persona sometimes. But it was an entertaining musical-although about 45 minutes too long.

  19. alisa
    May 2, 2014, 12:49 am

    FWIW, in one of my many interviews with Sheldon Harnick for my book, Wonder of Wonders: A Cultural History of Fiddler on the Roof, he told me that for the 2004 Broadway revival, he and Joe Stein(z”l) changed Yenta’s parting lines so that she’d no longer say (as she did in the original 1964 script) that she was going to the Holy Land to help people be fruitful and multiply. In the current context, they didn’t want to sound like they endorsed ideas of a “demographic threat,” a way of thinking they abhorred. And yes, it’s quoted in the book. Too, remarks from the director of the recent production at Tel Aviv’s Cameri Theater who told me he wanted audiences to draw a parallel with the Palestinian dispossession in the eviction scene. (Whether anyone did is anybody’s guess – there weren’t any blatant theatrical metaphors — but the idea was certainly in the minds of the production’s artistic team.) And btw, Wonder of Wonders also has a chapter about the junior high production in Brooklyn mentioned in comments, above. I was lucky to spend a couple of days with Richard Piro (z”l), its director, and also interviewed a bunch of the students who performed in it.)

  20. RudyM
    May 2, 2014, 12:56 am

    Yeah, I guess this was my personal Fiddler on the Roof, especially during my teen years:

  21. Sumud
    May 2, 2014, 2:36 am

    Pop culture representation of Palestinians and more generally arab and muslims isn’t much different from anti-semitism in nazi Germany. See Jack Shaheen’s excellent book and documentary Reel Bad Arabs:

    Imagine if jews were depicted like this in the west today.

    Worst of all – quite often the most islamophobic people in public life are jewish zionists seeking to shore up support for Israel eg. Pamela Geller and her cohorts.

    It’s bigger then Geller though – she got a lot of publicity in MSM during her campaign against the Park 51 centre in NY. Mainstream media does not treat someone like David Duke as a legitimate source or pundit, but they did with Geller…

    • Ellen
      May 2, 2014, 3:55 am

      This sort of pop culture representation is needed to justify the killing of Muslims and Arabs in general to gain dominance and control.

      It makes it easier for our children to kill the “other,” and has always been what is behind this sort of imagery and propaganda in popular media everywhere.

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