In fighting back against a smear by the Democratic Party of NY that she has been silent on anti-Semitism, Cynthia Nixon, who is challenging Governor Andrew Cuomo in the primary on Thursday, has misrepresented a letter she signed in 2010 against an Israeli settlement and saluting Israeli artists who refused to perform there.
“My signing the letter had nothing to do with the appropriateness or inappropriateness of their performing there, it had to do with protection of Israeli artists,” Nixon said on Sunday (at a press conference, below). “I signed a letter in support of theater artists who did not want to perform in the West Bank, and they were fearful that they would lose the funding for their theater company.”
In fact, the letter declared the West Bank settlement of Ariel “clearly illegal” and celebrated the Israeli artists who refused to perform there as “courageous” in the face of “wrongful acts.” The letter concluded, “We stand with them.” As Nixon noted Sunday, the letter was signed by 150 English and American artists including “Theodore Bikel, Tony Kushner, Ed Asner, and Mandy Patinkin.” Also Julianne Moore, Eve Ensler, and Mira Nair.
Here is the text of the letter, per Jewish Voice for Peace, which published it on September 6, 2010:
On August 27th, dozens of Israeli actors, directors, and playwrights made the brave decision not to perform in Ariel, one of the largest of the West Bank settlements, which by all standards of international law are clearly illegal. As American actors, directors, critics and playwrights, we salute our Israeli counterparts for their courageous decision.
Most of us are involved in daily compromises with wrongful acts. When a group of people suddenly have the clarity of mind to see that the next compromise looming up before them is an unbearable one — and when they somehow find the strength to refuse to cross that line — we can’t help but be overjoyed and inspired and grateful.
It’s thrilling to think that these Israeli theatre artists have refused to allow their work to be used to normalize a cruel occupation which they know to be wrong, which violates international law and which is impeding the hope for a just and lasting peace for Israelis an Palestinians alike. They’ve made a wonderful decision, and they deserve the respect of people everywhere who dream of justice. We stand with them.
There is nothing in the letter about funding for a theater company. Though JVP noted at the time, “When some 60 leading Israeli actors and playwrights signed a letter stating they would refuse to play in the new theatre in Ariel, one of Israel’s largest settlements, the attacks from Prime Minister Netanyahu, Israel’s Minister of Culture and Sport and many others were swift and intense. Over 150 leading Israeli academics and writers- including Amos Oz and David Grossman- came to their defense.”
Nixon was responding Sunday to a mailer sent out by the Democratic Party to Jewish voters just before Rosh Hashanah that accused her of not standing “strong for Jewish communities” because she “Supports BDS, the racist, xenophobic campaign against Israel” and is “Silent on the rise of anti-Semitism.”
The 2010 letter was the supposed evidence of her support for BDS, boycott, divestment and sanctions. On Sunday Nixon said she does not support BDS but she would rescind Andrew Cuomo’s executive order barring state business with entities that do support BDS.
I am not a supporter of BDS. I have never been a supporter of BDS. I am a supporter of a two state solution. But neither do I favor what Andrew Cuomo does in effectively making a blacklist of institutions and individuals who do support BDS. I believe they have a right to do that and the ACLU condemned him for that. I do not personally support BDS, but I support the right of those who do to speak about it.
Asked directly if she would rescind the order, she said, “Yes, I think that is trampling on people’s civil rights.”
She also said she was concerned about the rise of anti-Semitism.
I am the mother of Jewish children, and I am very alarmed by the rise of anti-semitism in this country and globally. I am frightened for my children, I am frightened for my world…. Antisemitism is a terrifying thing that is on the rise here, and for Andrew Cuomo’s Democratic Party to be using it in such an ugly unfounded way is completely unacceptable.