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Theater artists call on Toronto, NYC & Pittsburgh venues to cancel Israeli government-sponsored performances

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New York, NY, October 2, 2018 – Palestinian arts and solidarity organizations, along with US Jewish and Israeli groups, have joined theater artists in signing a letter calling on Toronto, New York and Pittsburgh arts organizations not to host Israel’s Gesher Theatre or partner with the Israeli government, citing their involvement in violations of Palestinian rights. Award-winning actors Kathleen Chalfant and Miriam Margolyes, and playwrights Caryl Churchill, Betty Shamieh, Naomi Wallace and Anne Washburn are among the artists who signed the letter.

Gesher Theatre says their Canadian and US performances were “made possible with the generous support of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.” At their opening Toronto performance Saturday night hosted by the Ontario Heritage Trust, supporters of Palestinian rights handed out flyers calling for a boycott of Gesher Theater, and held aloft a large sign saying “Your Event is Sponsored by the Israeli government. Its Military Killed 150 Unarmed Palestinian Protesters in Gaza This Summer.” In a statement, the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid in Toronto said, “We protested Gesher Theatre’s opening night in Toronto to show the event for what it really is – an effort by the Israeli government to distract attention away from its violations of Palestinians’ rights.”

Gesher Theatre will perform in New York City over the next week hosted by the Cherry Orchard Festival, and in Pittsburgh the week after, hosted by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. The hosting organizations addressed in the letter are advertising Israeli government sponsorship of the performances, and Israeli officials are promoting the tour on social media. Organizations from each of the three host cities are among the letter’s signers.

The letter – now signed by 30 organizations, 34 theater artists, and 1200 other individuals – was emailed to the US host organizations and then released publicly on Sunday. It says that the Gesher Theatre’s US and Canadian tour supports “the Israeli government in implementing its systematic ‘Brand Israel’ strategy of employing arts and culture to divert attention from the state’s decades of violent colonization, brutal military occupation, and denial of Palestinian refugees’ right of return.” The letter also asserts that Gesher Theatre is “actively complicit in the occupation and colonization of the West Bank because” it has performed in Israeli settlements, and is “also complicit through its silence, and failure to ever oppose Israel’s decades of repression of Palestinians, including Palestinian artists.”

One signer of the letter, Dan Fishback from the Jewish Voice for Peace Artists Council, explained, “As a playwright who has been censored, I really hate censorship. That’s one of the reasons I oppose the Israeli state, which regularly censors and punishes Palestinian artists like Dareen Tatour over their speech, and purposefully destroys Palestinian cultural institutions. We in the BDS movement are asking Israeli artists to say no to their government’s oppressive policies, and to reject their government’s Brand Israel propaganda funding. In accepting that funding, Gesher Theatre has allowed themselves to become a tool of a government that all people of conscience must oppose. This is not about their speech, artistry or identity — this is about the state that is exploiting them in the service of a cruel political goal.”

Kate Daher from from the Pittsburgh Palestine Solidarity Committee, which has been organizing to oppose the performances there, added, “Until all Palestinian are able to move freely and to enjoy the fruits of their labor and until they are living with full and unequivocal human and civil rights, the international community will continue the cultural and academic boycott.”

Citing recent cancellations of shows in Israel by performers like Lana Del Rey and Lorde, observers say that support is growing for the Palestinian-led boycott divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. BDS is modeled on the global boycott movement that helped to bring an end to apartheid in South Africa, and calls for freedom, justice and equality for the Palestinian people. The growing support has come against the backdrop of Israel’s killing of over 150 unarmed Palestinian protesters in Gaza; its planned demolition of the West Bank Palestinian village of Khan Al Ahmar, and the official enshrinement of Israel’s apartheid rule over Palestinians through the new Nation State Law.

The letter emphasized that the signers “are not raising concerns about any artistic content, or the artists’ nationality, but rather about institutions’ structural complicity with a repressive state agenda that repeatedly violates international law.” In 2017 a number of prominent theatre artists signed onto a letter asking Lincoln Center to cancel Israeli government-sponsored performances by Israel’s Ha’bima and Cameri theaters.

MEDIA CONTACT: [email protected]


Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel is a grassroots strategic alliance of concerned organizations and individuals in New York, formed to demand an immediate, unconditional, and permanent end to U.S. and U.S.-sponsored Israeli aggression in the Middle East.

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6 Responses

  1. Misterioso on October 4, 2018, 9:49 am

    Just received from Canada – an eloquent and “on the money” letter regarding a related matter:

    “An Open Letter to Ballet BC regarding their Performances in Israel”

    October 2, 2018

    John Clark, Executive Director

    [email protected]

    Dear Mr. Clark:

    “As a young child, my mother took me to see The Nutcracker; when I became a mother, I did the same with my daughter and took her to a Ballet BC production of The Nutcracker, a tradition I was hoping to repeat soon with my granddaughter.

    “However, I have now learned that Ballet BC is touring
    in Israel in January, 2019.

    “As global artists, I am sure you are aware of the international movement by many cultural figures to refuse to perform in Israel until it complies with international law. Figures such as Roger Waters, Elvis Costello, Lana del Rey, and Brian Eno, who refused to allow the Israeli dance company Batsheva to use one of his musical compositions at a performance in Italy.

    “In an article in The Guardian newspaper on September 7, 2016, Eno was quoted as saying: ‘It’s often said by opponents of BDS that art shouldn’t be used as a political weapon. However, since the Israeli government has made it quite clear that it uses art in exactly that way – to promote ‘Brand Israel’ and to draw attention away from the occupation of Palestinian land – I consider that my decision to deny permission is a way of taking this particular weapon out of their hands.’

    “BDS stands for the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that has called on artists, sports figures and others to realize exactly what Brian Eno has said, that the Israeli government is using them to whitewash what is happening right now, today, to the Palestinian people.

    “The Palestinian village of Khan al Ahmar in the occupied West Bank, for example, is under imminent threat of demolition by Israeli forces. A decision that has been sanctioned by the Israeli High Court and condemned by many in the international community. The children of that village are about to lose their only school (a humble structure built from old tires and clay). Do you not think they would also like a chance to grow and appreciate culture, perhaps even ballet or dance of any form? Would this not be a pivotal experience for those children?

    “But no, they will never have that chance as even basic learning is about to be interrupted, let alone exposure to fine arts like music and dance.

    “And what about the children in Gaza, whose basic living becomes more untenable by the day, with unclean drinking water and electricity for just 4 hours a day and poor medical care?

    “And what about the millions of Palestinian refugee children, many of them languishing in refugee camps and in exile, who are forbidden to return to their ancestral homes and properties?

    “You may feel that art transcends politics and I wish that was the case. But if your performances in Israel will be used (as so many others before you have been) as ammunition for a government desperate to improve its international image, then you have entered into the world of politics whether you are aware of it or not.

    “The story of The Nutcracker is the story of a young girl taken to a magical land, and has become a Christmas favourite for many. For Palestinian children, their only holiday dreams are nightmares that include losing family members, being terrorized by Israeli soldiers during raids on family homes, and losing all hope for the future. It is incumbent on those of us who have the benefits of privilege and resources to show these children that the world has not forgotten them, will not forget them and is willing to take a stand to say that Israel must respect international law and the human rights of Palestinians.”

    Marion Kawas, Vancouver, BC

  2. Misterioso on October 4, 2018, 10:03 am

    Meanwhile, protected and financed by Trump’s America, the Zionist fascists run wild:

    Ma’an News Agency, Oct. 2/18

    “JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — As Israel threatened to raid and demolish the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar at any moment since the evacuation period ended, Israeli settlers stormed the village and flooded the area with wastewater, on Tuesday afternoon.

    “Locals said that Israeli settlers from the nearby illegal Israeli settlement of Kfar Adummim stormed the village and were confronted by international and local activists along with residents of Khan al-Ahmar.

    “Israeli settlers managed to flood the area with wastewater before activists and residents were able to stop them.

    “Following the Israeli High Court’s approval for the demolition, it had granted a deadline for the residents of Khan al-Ahmar to evacuate the village until October 1st.

    “Since the deadline has ended, the village is in danger of being demolished by Israeli forces at any moment, which would displace 181 people, half of whom are children.

    “Critics and human rights organizations argue that the demolition is part of an Israeli plan to expand the nearby illegal Israeli settlement of Kfar Adummim and to create a region of contiguous Israeli control from Jerusalem almost to the Dead Sea, which would make a contiguous Palestinian state impossible.

    “Israel has been constantly trying to uproot Bedouin communities from the east of Jerusalem area to allow settlement expansion in the area, which would later turn the entire eastern part of the West Bank into a settlement zone.

    “Although international humanitarian law prohibits the demolition of the village and illegal confiscation of private property, Israeli forces continue their planned expansion by forcing evictions and violating basic human rights of the people.”

  3. Ossinev on October 4, 2018, 2:29 pm


    “Israeli settlers managed to flood the area with wastewater before activists and residents were able to stop them.”

    The Zio barbarians have entrenched form for this sort of thing:

    Likely to be an agreed Ziogovernment method of ongoing ethnic cleansing = ethnic fouling. Along with their general run of the mill barbarities. The world and particularly the younger generation are becoming more and more eco conscious certainly here in the UK as the result of various campaigns stemming from the BBC “Blue Planet” expose on the damage being done to the earths ecology and wildlife through uncontrolled disposal of waste including human waste.. A lot of this damage is down to simple carelessness and a lack of education as opposed to a deliberate actions. The ZOA leader in America Mort Klein is under fire for referring to “filthy Arabs “. Perhaps he is unaware that his fellow chosen are deliberately dumping and channeling their s..t into Palestinian streams in the West Bank . Now at the risk of yet again breaching the Chosen Fews IHRA I would describe settler Jews deliberately doing this as being “filthy”.

    Next time he or any other Zio apologist waxes lyrical about the “purity” of the settler colonisation of Palestine they should be asked to explain the “Sewage Directive” and the deliberate fouling of the natural environment in the name of Judaism.

    • Misterioso on October 4, 2018, 3:49 pm


      Well and truly stated!!

      Although It’s now over 70 years since its violent and illegal creation in Arab Palestine by Zionist Jews of foreign origin, the malignant, racist, expansionist entity known as “Israel” is still financially and geopolitically utterly dependent on the U.S. , i.e., just as French Algeria was dependent on France, Rhodesia on Britain and the Congo on Belgium, et al. Sooner or later, all nations must act in their own best interests and America will not be an exception. The inescapable reality is that “Israel” is an increasingly heavy millstone around its neck, a major destructive liability, and the principle cause of ever growing worldwide anti-American enmity.

      The writing is on the wall. It’s only a matter of time.

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