Many folks have sent this news along today. More of the generational Jewish tragedy. From the Forward:
In an apparent bow to the right in the Jewish culture wars, Theater J, a celebrated theatrical group housed at Washington’s DC Jewish Community Center, will not produce a play set to open this spring that has been denounced by critics as anti-Israel.
The troupe will instead run a workshop on the play and a moderated discussion, the DCJCC’s director said on October 9.
The DCJCC insists the move had nothing to do with outside pressure to remove the play from the theater’s schedule. But the decision not to run a full production came after a weeks-long campaign waged by activists who targeted not the theater troupe but the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, the community’s central philanthropic fund. 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.
In 2012, the Federation provided more than $400,000 to the DCJCC.
The play, “The Admission,” involves Nakba suppression and remembrance. It is by an Israeli, Motti Lerner. A group called Citizens Opposed to Propaganda Masquerading as Art (COPMA) organized the pressure campaign.
The Forward’s Nathan Guttman reports that that the CEO of the JCC says that the decision was “not a result of the outside pressure.” The New York Theatre Workshop said the same thing when it cancelled My Name Is Rachel Corrie 7 years ago.
The JCC justified the censorship by referring to a “guiding principle,” that plays from Israel should be done in partnership with Israeli theater companies. This speaks to a core spiritual deference inside Zionism: moving to Israel is called “aliyah,” meaning you’re going up, while we in the Diaspora are the “yoredim.” We’re lower. We have no place to criticize their practices. Young American Jews should consider whether they accept this spiritual principle, and how destructive this principle is to American Jewish independence of thinking, when plays by Israelis about the Nakba are canceled.
Let alone Palestinians’ descriptions of the Nakba. The Admission features Palestinian and Israeli characters in Haifa, trying to come to terms with the erasure of a Palestinian village during the Nakba 40 years before. The play is not even that shocking, for anyone familiar with the history of ethnic cleansing in Palestine.
Susie and Michael Gelman, past execs of the Jewish Federations in Washington, supported the play in a piece in Washington Jewish Week calling the opposition group’s donor-pressure campaign a “cynical crusade.”
COPMA claims that a fictitious play that is based on controversial accounts about wartime actions is actually “anti-Israel propaganda” and as such, should not be presented in our community. The Admission is fiction. It may make pro-Israel activists like us uncomfortable. But it is hardly “anti-Israel propaganda.”
The Gelmans never refer to the Nakba in their piece. Further evidence of forcible Jewish ignorance, and what Peter Beinart calls the Jewish cocoon.
At the playwright’s site, Lerner says that he has been collaborating on the project with Ari Roth, the artistic director of Theater J in Washington, for three years. Quite a setback for Roth. The Forward indicates that Roth was feeling heat from the campaign to cut off donations. “…those opposed to the theater’s decision to put on the play viewed control of the communal purse strings as a legitimate tool in this battle. … [COPMA] asked its supporters: ‘Do you want your charitable donations to support “radical political theater” attacking Israel? You have a choice.’
From COPMA’s website:
Your Jewish charity dollars are being used to finance theatrical productions that attack and defame Israel. It must stop. Theater J at the District of Columbia Jewish Community Center (DCJCC) has for years, under the directorship of an individual named Ari Roth, been staging plays and holding workshops that denigrate Israel.
This ties in to a sad history. David Zellnik‘s magnificent historical play about Herzl and Zionism has never gotten a full stage production. Though Ari Roth also helped that play along quietly, 6 years ago, by now it should have been staged for New Yorkers and Washingtonians so the power elite can begin to absorb a revisionist reading of Theodor Herzl. It’s been suppressed.
Lerner says his play’s had a difficult history:
ML: The play will open in Israel for the first time in November 2013. It was scheduled for productions in three theatres in the past, but after these theatres announced the production and even began preparing it-the productions were canceled. I can only guess that there were fears and perhaps pressures that led to it. You can also guess that these pressures had to do with the huge difficulties we face in Israel and in Jewish communities outside of Israel to discuss the events of the 1948 war that led to a conflict that is still unresolved. I have written several plays that dealt with political controversies in Israel, but “The Admission” was received with deep fears more than any other of them. The more fear the play has created, the more I was convinced that its production is necessary.
The play involves the ethnic cleansing of a village called Jirin.
Ibrahim: Why are you building in Jirin? All of a sudden?
Avigdor: It’s a small country, Ibrahim. People build everywhere.
Ibrahim: I’m from Jirin, Abu Giora. I was born there…
Avigdor: What do you say? From Jirin? When I was a kid, I used to go down there with friends, with canteens and sleeping bags, we used to drink from the spring and rest under the fig trees.
Later Avigdor confesses that he helped expel Palestinians from the village during the war of independence/Nakba.