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‘Washington Post’ delves into Nakba– as theater seeks to balance play about Palestinian massacre with ‘Golda’s Balcony’

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The other day we picked up the Forward’s report about a Jewish stage in D.C. censoring an Israeli’s play about the Nakba. The Washington Post has also covered the decision by the D.C. Jewish community center to take Motti Lerner’s “The Admission” off its main stage and make it a workshop production.

The Post reports that the Jewish Federations of Washington were threatened with the loss of $250,000 in donations if the play were staged.

This is an excellent controversy. Lerner’s play deals with an Israeli massacre of Palestinians in 1948 whose history was suppressed. And as a result, The Post is actually reviewing historical information about the Nakba, for Washington readers.

Here’s a new detail:

[The play] will now be presented in what they are describing as a “workshop” run, lasting 16 performances, in proposed repertory with “Golda’s Balcony,” a biographical play about the late Israeli prime minister Golda Meir.

The Post reporters, Peter Marks and Nelson Pressley, then explore the battle between Theater J’s artistic director Ari Roth and a local group called Citizens Opposed to Propaganda Masquerading as Art, COPMA, which worked to halt the production.

Roth said that COPMA’s effort to paint “The Admission” as anti-Israel smears the play’s intentions and meaning. For his part, Lerner, whose plays include “Pangs of the Messiah,” staged at Theater J in 2007, says he’s taken aback by the vehement pushback against a play no one has even seen. “Their protest expresses a lot of fear,” the playwright said by phone from Chicago, where another of his works, “Paulus,” is in rehearsal. “I didn’t know that this would be so frightening and scary that it would create such a discourse in America.”

Nevertheless, the campaign against “The Admission” has gotten traction.

Why? The Washington Post talks about the money:

Roth says he was told other donors had vowed to withhold upward of $250,000 unless the play was canceled. Samet said he has heard from people who have withheld funds from the federation “and some of them, we know, are bigger donors.”

Now here is a little rudimentary discussion of the Nakba, inside the Washington Post:

Two years ago, a play from Tel Aviv’s Cameri Theatre, “Return to Haifa,” provoked a similar outcry from [Robert] Samet’s group [COPMA]. The tale was about a visit by a Palestinian family from the West Bank to the house in Haifa they once owned that is now inhabited by Israeli Jews. Written by an Israeli, Boaz Gaon… the work drew ire in part because of its depiction of Palestinians as having been forced to leave at the time of Israeli independence. A counterargument holds that Palestinians fled on their own.

OK, let’s say they fled in fear for their lives. Shouldn’t the Post note what is inarguably a cause of ongoing conflict: they were not allowed to return.

Good for the newspaper, it offers playwright Motti Lerner’s understanding of the Nakba:

he grew up hearing about what he termed the “massacre” in Tantura.

“My neighbors and family members, they all knew about the massacre; some of them participated in it,” Lerner said. “They were there and they saw it. This was not talked about frequently, but it was mentioned.” His interest in writing about it was kindled several years ago, he said, after a controversy erupted in Israel over a student at Haifa University whose thesis on the events of Tantura was rejected and who was subsequently sued by some of the surviving soldiers.

I must ask, Will the Post start publishing stories of the Nakba by people who were its victims? Can you imagine telling the story of the Holocaust by talking to German people? And when will the Post start using the word, Nakba, Arabic for catastrophe?

The pro-Israel group COPMA doesn’t like the decision to mount the play in any form. It is incensed at the prospect that Nakba consciousness is coming to Washington. So it is ratcheting up the pressure:

We can’t help but ask ourselves whether this is a victory for COPMA and our campaign, and the conclusion is unavoidable that it is NOT. In some respects it is worse. Theater J at the DCJCC will still do all in its power to spread the modern day blood libel of a massacre at Tantura. They’ve dug up a teacher at the University of Maryland who gave quotes to the media indicating that the previously discredited massacre may actually have been true…

In addition, they’ve indicated plans to bring the author, Motti Lerner, here to speak on the subject, and based upon past media quotes from him, he will tell audiences that Israeli soldiers massacred Palestinians in Tantura during the War of Independence. And he will say this to audiences at Theater J with a straight face despite the previous repudiation and apology by the author of the modern day blood libel in the Israeli court system. In short, Ari Roth at the DCJCC’s Theater J, using Federation support and donor dollars, is going to do all he can to persuade attendees that Israelis massacred Palestinians at Tantura in 1948. It’s shameful.


This is what your donations to the DCJCC and The Federation are supporting. So, do you think this is a victory?

To be continued. Supporters of Lerner’s play also have strong voices. They will be heard from.

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25 Responses

  1. just
    October 12, 2013, 12:14 pm

    my, my, my.

    The Wapo may just start telling the truth. I await with bated breath.

    (unless “Golda’s Balcony” tells the truth, eh– not very interested at all.)

  2. eGuard
    October 12, 2013, 2:15 pm

    So the price tag is $250 000. That is, in D.C. and by anonymous.

  3. piotr
    October 12, 2013, 3:24 pm

    Concerning the massacre or non-massacre of Tantura, it is rather beyond dispute that the population was forcibly removed through a “battle of Haganah forces” that “encountered little resistance” and about 500 inhabitants were taken as prisoners, men used as slave labor for a while (a.k.a. “construction battalions”). One interpretation is that this was a part of voluntary fleeing, the other is that unarmed civilians had a choice to flee, surrender and be expelled prisoners or die, which is hardly voluntary.

    The dispute is if the number of killed villagers was “dozens”, 52 or 240, and if any were killed after raising their hands. It is quite well described in Wikipedia, including the sentence “Despite proposals in 2004 to exhume bodies from a site between Nahsholim and Dor believed to be a mass grave, the government has not taken such action.”

  4. Mike_Konrad
    October 12, 2013, 3:56 pm

    The Tantura Massacre is a red flag.

    While I think it probably happened, the historian who exposed it, Teddy Katz, was coerced into recanting. He broke after a spell of sickness, a lawsuit, and pressure from his wife. He signed an agreement under duress, but an Israeli court did not let him change it.

    Ilan Pappe supports Katz.

    Katz was a bit sloppy, and the other side tore him to shreds over minor errors.

    For example, in one of these instances Katz quoted an Alexandroni veteran as having used the word “Nazis” whereas, in fact, he had used the word “Germans”.

    In this context, one must note that the pressure of the libel case was seriously deleterious to Katz’s health. He suffered a mild stroke and was altogether in poor mental and emotional health. Several members of his family, including his wife, his children and his cousin, the lawyer Amatzia Atlas, pressured him to settle, since they were actually worried for his life.

    The university has never explained by what procedural rules it was able to re-open consideration of the status of a thesis that had already been approved and awarded a rating of 97%.

    Something occurred.

    Israel will never admit it. It runs against their national narrative.

    Katz’s recantation agreement would not have stood up in a US Court.

    That being said: This is ultimately a minor issue in a much larger debate. Much larger.

    The issue is the survival of Israel as a homeland for the “Jewish people.”

    If anything comes out of all of this … if you are going to debate, whatever side you are on … BE SURE TO TRIPLE CHECK ALL YOUR FACTS AND QUOTES.

    Both sides are quick to tear you up over minor spelling errors.

    • annie
      October 12, 2013, 10:12 pm

      On the alleged massacre in Tantura:

      why not mention it is written by Yoav Gelber, Pappe’s ‘main rival’?:

      His main rival is Prof.Yoav Gelber, from the Department of the History of the Middle East, an expert on the history of the IDF. Gelber has identified himself as a supporter of Tsomet. Sometimes it seems as though this is a methodological dispute about the use of oral testimony, but beneath the professional disagreements throb politics and personal enmity. Gelber tends to be stricter with people who transmit their memories and their knowledge to historians, arguing that often there is nothing more to what they have to say than “gossip.”

      Pappe: “For Gelber, the witness is a figure taken from the interrogation chambers of the Shin Bet or police headquarters … Were oral testimony just `gossip,’ it would be difficult to reconstruct the Jewish Holocaust in Europe.”…..He sees Gelber as a “Nakba-denier.” According to him, Gelber represents an ideological Zionist position that a priori rejects any possibility of Jewish war crimes in 1948.

      not exactly bias free.

      • tree
        October 13, 2013, 1:55 pm

        Benny Morris has already been linked to in an earlier thread. He disagrees with Gelber. A quote from Morris from your link.

        But atrocities- war crimes, in modern parlance- appear to have occurred. Many of the Tantura dead, even if they only numbered 70-75 as Alexandroni veterans would have it, were unarmed civilians or disarmed militiamen. A number of Alesandroni veterans said as much in undisputed interviews. We have Makovsky’s diary and Micha Vitkons statements, both to Katz and to Gilat, that there was execution of prisoners by B Company’s commander, Karni, and that there had been “killing.”

        Gelber is a Nakba minimizer at best, and a denier at worse. He also spoke in 2005 at a conference dealing with the “Demographic Problem” in Israel, thus making him a racist as well.

        From a professor who attended the conference:

        Then I went into the hall, and listened to Prof. Yoav Gelber. Yoav was telling us that the numbers of refugees were overestimates by UNRWA and Arabs, but there were some fair Israeli estimates. For example only 80 were killed in Tantura, and only 40% of the Ezel figure were killed in Dir Yassin. From the number of those that “ran away” (that was the term he repeatedly used. He did not use the term “expelled” even once), we need to deduct 15,000 that were killed, 80,000 who weren’t even Palestinians, many who weren’t refugees, eg in Tulkarm they were receiving UNRWA aid although they had run away, but their land, and therefore income, had been taken away. Yoav was quite a Hevreman – he used his military experience to make the point that as Company Commander he too inflated figures to obtain more food rations for his company, and deflated the figures to reduce their guard rota. The audience thought this was an amusing analogy, and laughed.
        Toward the end of his presentation, when I could take no more, we had gotten down from 700,000 plus who “ran away” to ~520,000 who “ran away”.

        I think it is quite telling that our Israeli “liberal Zionist” quoted Gelber as a reliable source.

      • jon s
        jon s
        October 13, 2013, 4:50 pm

        The fact that Gelber has right-wing political views, with which I disagree, doesn’t automatically make his historical research and writing worthless. I found his book “Independence and Nakba” to be worth reading, despite flaws.

        So was there a massacre at Tantura? Pappe says yes, Gelber says no, Morris says maybe or probably.

      • Shmuel
        October 13, 2013, 6:39 pm

        So was there a massacre at Tantura? Pappe says yes, Gelber says no, Morris says maybe or probably.

        Not to mention Al-Khatib, Al-Aref and Shihab (all before Katz, Morris and Gelber).

      • tree
        October 13, 2013, 7:55 pm

        The fact that Gelber has right-wing political views, with which I disagree, doesn’t automatically make his historical research and writing worthless.

        Perhaps not, but the fact that he can’t admit that large numbers of Palestinians were expelled despite the fact that IDF archives admit as much makes his “research” biased and suspect. And the fact that you didn’t acknowledge that when you posted his link casts a pall over your alleged liberalism.

      • tree
        October 13, 2013, 7:57 pm

        Not to mention Al-Khatib, Al-Aref and Shihab (all before Katz, Morris and Gelber). Which just goes to show that Palestinian oral testimonies have been more accurate than the Zionist Israeli myths about the 1948 war.

      • Woody Tanaka
        Woody Tanaka
        October 13, 2013, 9:20 pm

        “So was there a massacre at Tantura? Pappe says yes, Gelber says no, Morris says maybe or probably.”

        Notably missing, from this list authored by a man supposed on the Left (or what passes for it, anyway, in the Occupation Nation) is any non-Jew. Maybe the victims might have a thing or two to say about the event, eh?

      • thankgodimatheist
        October 13, 2013, 10:24 pm

        “Exposing The Israeli Govt Tantura Massacre of Arabs – by Teddy Katz”

      • piotr
        October 14, 2013, 12:57 am

        Worthless? To put it mildly, writing in strict agreement with political views greatly decreases “Shannon information”. In less theoretic terms, there exists nitpicking and whitewashing boilerplate that is immune to any actually marshaled evidence.

        Perhaps because so many Jews came to Palestine from Catholic countries, Zionist created the “narrative of Immaculate Conception” of the State of Israel.

      • Shmuel
        October 14, 2013, 1:53 am

        Which just goes to show that Palestinian oral testimonies have been more accurate than the Zionist Israeli myths about the 1948 war.

        It’s worth reading Nur Masalha’s “A Critique of Benny Morris”, Journal of Palestine Studies 21/1 (1991), pp. 90–97.

        Not only does Morris rely almost exclusively on British and Jewish archival sources, virtually ignoring Palestinian oral testimonies, he seems to treat the entire subject as a matter of debate between Zionists, in which the Palestinians themselves have very little to say (Masalha).

        Morris’ work is important, but he is not the final arbiter of Palestinian history, nor did he invent the “Palestinian Refugee Problem” as a subject of historical inquiry.

      • Citizen
        October 13, 2013, 3:47 am

        Jews on the “eye-witness” stand and in their personal affidavits gossiping were a prosecution staple at the Nuremberg Trials, were’t they?

    • Cliff
      October 13, 2013, 3:55 pm

      jon s,

      You are no different from a Holocaust denier.

      It is not ‘alleged’. It happened!

  5. DICKERSON3870
    October 12, 2013, 5:23 pm

    RE: “The other day we picked up the Forward’s report about a Jewish stage in D.C. censoring an Israeli’s play about the Nakba. . . The Post reports that the Jewish Federations of Washington were threatened with the loss of $250,000 in donations if the play were staged.” ~ Weiss

    MY COMMENT: This Zionist campaign to suppress free speech here in the U.S. is yet another reason I fear that Revisionist Zionism and Likudnik Israel (specifically by virtue of their inordinate sway over the U.S.) might very well be an “existential threat” to the values of The Enlightenment [like the “right of free speech”]! ! !
    “Down, down, down we [the U.S.] go into the deep, dark abyss; hand in hand with Israel.”

    “How We Became Israel”, By Andrew J. Bacevich, The American Conservative, 9/10/12
    LINK –
    “America Adopts the Israel Paradigm”, by Philip Ghiraldi,, 7/05/12
    LINK –
    “Report: Israeli model underlies militarization of U.S. police”, By Muriel Kane, Raw Story, 12/04/11
    LINK –
    “From Occupation to ‘Occupy’: The Israelification of American Domestic Security”, By Max Blumenthal, Al-akhbar, 12/02/11
    LINK – OR
    “Homeland Security Made in Israel”, by Philip Giraldi,, 8/22/13
    LINK –
    • NRA PUSHES PLAN IMPORTED FROM ISRAEL TO PUT POLICE IN ALL OF OUR SCHOOLS – NRA President’s Report: David Keene on the Push to Protect Our Children [VIDEO, 12:10] –
    • IN THE WAKE OF THE BOSTON BOMBINGS, a “National Security Expert” on Fox Faux News said that the U.S. is like a 14-year-old teenager going through “security puberty”; and we must demand that our government “get on the Israeli page”! ! !
    On the Wish List from the Boston Bombings – The Israelization of America [VIDEO, 00:25] –
    “Two Secretive Israeli Companies Reportedly Bugged The US Telecommunications Grid For The NSA”, By Michael Kelley, Business Insider, 6/07/13
    LINK –
    “IDF Unit 8200 Cyberwar Veterans Developed NSA Snooping Technology”, By Richard Silverstein, Tikun Olam, 6/07/13
    LINK –
    “Meet the Israeli-linked firm that sold Big Brother machines to Mubarak, Qaddafi – and Washington”, by Max Blumenthal, Mondoweiss, 6/15/13
    LINK –
    “What was the Israeli Involvement in Collecting U.S. Communications Intel for NSA? ~ By Haaretz, The Associated Press and Reuters,, 6/08/13
    LINK –
    “The Second Battle of Gaza: Israel’s Undermining Of International Law”, by Jeff Halper,, 02/26/10
    LINK –
    “The Trial of Israel’s Campus Critics”, by David Theo Goldberg & Saree Makdisi, Tikkun Magazine, September/October 2009
    LINK –
    “Brooklyn College’s academic freedom increasingly threatened over Israel event”, by Glenn Greenwald,, 2/02/13
    LINK –
    “Peter ‘Powder Keg’ Beinart is disinvited from gig at Atlanta Jewish book festival”, by Annie Robbins, Mondoweiss, 11/05/12
    LINK –
    ‘Israelis are helping write US laws, fund US campaigns, craft US war policy’, by Philip Weiss, Mondoweiss, 6/30/12
    LINK –
    “David Yerushalmi, Islam-Hating White Supremacist Inspires Anti-Sharia Bills Sweeping Tea Party Nation”, by Richard Silverstein, Tikun Olam, 3/02/11
    LINK –
    “Boston airport security program rife with racial profiling has Israeli links”, by Alex Kane, Mondoweiss, 8/14/12
    LINK –
    “Obama’s kill list policy compels US support for Israeli attacks on Gaza”, By Glenn Greenwald,, 11/15/12
    LINK –

  6. MRW
    October 13, 2013, 12:00 am


    Can you imagine telling the story of the Holocaust by talking to German people?

    This kind of theatre is only possible in a mature, advanced society and civilization. It is the basis of the tragic form of theatre. [In the melodramatic form, the main characters are always 100% put upon and always right in their values.]

    • Bumblebye
      October 13, 2013, 9:42 pm

      I misread the last two words of the article headline as “Golda’s Baloney”.
      Probably more accurate!

  7. amigo
    October 13, 2013, 7:38 am

    Israel,s dirty secrets coming into the light slowly but surely.

    History will not be kind, nor should it be ,to this vile little nation and it,s many many crimes against Humanity.

    When Zionism has finally been defeated , the world will be a far better place.

  8. Stephen Shenfield
    Stephen Shenfield
    October 13, 2013, 1:40 pm

    Palestinian testimony about the massacre at Tantura is abundant. Hala Gabriel, whose family came from Tantura, is working on a video about the massacre. See

    and But she needs financial support to complete the work.

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