Israeli Play at Lincoln Center Sparks Protests from Artists
“To The End of the Land,” an Israeli play at New York’s Lincoln Center, has sparked protests from over 60 writers, directors, actors, and playwrights, including Pulitzer Prize winners, who have added their signatures to a letter condemning the production.
Running at the Lincoln Center Festival from July 24-27, “To The End of the Land” is produced by Tel Aviv’s Cameri Theater and the Ha’Bima National Theater of Israel, and is backed by Israel’s Office of Cultural Affairs in North America. The Israeli government’s support of the play, adapted from a 2008 novel by Israeli author David Grossman, is ostensibly the reason for the outrage, the New York Times noted in a July 5 report. The play focuses on themes of war and grief, following an Israeli mother who flees to the countryside to shield herself from the possibility that her son has been killed in action.
The letter protesting the play is spearheaded by Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel, which bills itself on its website as a “grass roots, non-hierarchal volunteergroup of concerned individuals for justice, equality, and human rights for the Palestinian people.”
Adalah’s letter, addressed to the Lincoln Center’s Chairman of the Board Katherine Farley, and its president, Deborah L. Spar, said it is “deeply troubling that Lincoln Center, one of the world’s leading cultural institutions, is helping the Israeli government to implement 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 basic rights to the Palestinian people.”
“Brand Israel,” referred to in the letter, is a public relations initiative by the Israeli government to present the country in a positive light. Launched in 2006, the program has drawn criticism from outlets such as Mondoweiss and No2BrandIsrael, an organization supporting “the cultural boycott” of Israel.
Claiming that the Palestinian National Theater in East Jerusalem “has been the target of years of persistent harassment and threats of closure by the Israeli government,” Adalah’s letter lamented that “the freedom of movement of all Palestinians artists is frequently restricted by Israeli occupation authorities,
while Israeli artists travel the world freely.”
Demands for the cancellation of the play were rejected by Spar, who said in a statement that, while the Lincoln Center has received complaints regarding plays and performers in the past, it is committed to presenting “a wide variety of artistic voices and trust that the art we bring can stand on its own.”
Signatories of Adalah-NY’s letter include Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters (a staunch critic of Israel), actress Greta Gerwig, director James Schamus, and numerous others.
Running at the Lincoln Center Festival from July 24-27, “To The End of the Land” is produced by Tel Aviv’s Cameri Theater and the Ha’Bima National Theater of Israel, and is backed by Israel’s Office of Cultural Affairs in North America