A New Kind of Theatre: Actors Against Israel
Prof. Chesler is an Emerita Professor of Psychology and Women's Studies at City University of New York. She also is an author and appears often in international media interviews. She lives in New York City.
Once, the world’s reigning Hollywood and theatre people were satisfied with their glamour, wealth, fame, and endless, torrid affairs. That is no longer enough. Now, theatre people adopt “causes.” They sign petitions. They march. They make unexpectedly long speeches at the Academy Awards apologizing for America’s extermination of native Indians and for slavery. They adopt politically correct children as well as causes. Thus, it is no surprise that the current crop have elected to join the worldwide de-legitimization of Israel project.
Thus, Israeli writers and theatre people are refusing to perform at a new Cultural Center in the city of Ariel, located in Samaria and over the Green Line. And, American theatre people are backing them to the hilt.
When have American academics and theatre people last refused to travel to, buy products from, or lecture, appear in performance in Jordan (clothing, manufactured goods), Egypt (oil, textiles, cotton), Saudi Arabia (oil), Turkey (oil, metals, textiles, manufactured goods) or Pakistan (textiles, manufactured goods)? Surely the human rights records of these countries cry out for free people of goodwill to do just that in response to the large number of honor-related crimes, including honor killings, the forced veiling of women, persecution of Christians and other infidels, the torture and imprisonment of artists and dissidents, the non-stop Islamist terrorist attacks against Muslims, and the “manufacture” and distribution of the most vicious propaganda against Israel and America.
Nevertheless, in 2010, U2 performed in Turkey; also in 2010, 50 Cent performed in Egypt; Rihanna peformed in Abu Dhabi. In 2008, a German-based string quartet performed in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Only Israel—G-d’s own imperfect country—bears the burden, not only of boycotters but now of non-performers. Major Broadway and off-Broadway theatre folk, critics, playwrights, writers, are standing in line to support those Israeli artists who refuse to perform in a new cultural center in the city of Ariel.
Indeed, the likes of Ed Asner, Theodore Bikel, Tony Kushner, Mandy Patinkin, Stephen Sondheim, Harold Prince, Wallace Shawn, Eve Ensler, Judith Malina, Rosanne Barr, Alicia Ostriker, as well as non-Jews such as Vanessa Redgrave, Kathleen Chalfant, Cynthia Nixon, Juliane Moore, Mira Nair, have all signed a petition supporting the Israeli theatre people who refuse to perform at Ariel. In all, 150 Americans have signed this petition. Yes, many, but not all of them, are Jews.
Israeli authors A.B. Yehoshua, Amos Oz, David Grossman, and 47 other Israeli playwrights, directors, actors, and theatre people are among those who sent a letter to Ha’aretz about their boycott of Ariel. Knesset members, such as Nitzan Horowitz and Chaim Oron, of Meretz, a left-wing political party, support this internal boycott as well.
The theatre is wondrous but passing strange. There are all kinds of dues to pay—on the casting couch, but also personally and politically. If you don’t “perform” a certain kind of politics, and/or if your plays don’t toe certain party lines, your plays will not be produced, you will not even make it to the casting couch.
Theatre people, creative people must share the specific view held by the Obama Administration and by the American, European, and Israeli Left, namely, that the Israeli settlements are holding up the peace process—not Hamas’s hatred for a Jewish state; not Abbas’s inability to tame the hate-Zionists-kill-them passions ignited by the Palestinian Authority and by political Islam.
If performers, writers, actors, theatre people, fail to support this view, they will not get published nor will their work be “glorified and magnified” as if they were gods.
Once, Tel Aviv was considered a “settlement.” In 1929, Muslims rioted and massacred Jews in the holy Jewish city of Hevron—simply because they were Jews, infidels; in 1938, during the Arab revolt, Arab rioters infiltrated Kiryat Shmuel in Tiberias, killing 19 Jews, 11 of whom were children. They also set fire to Jewish homes and synagogues. In 1948, Arabs massacred a convoy of Jews bringing doctors and medical supplies to Hadassah Hospital; 79 Jews, mostly doctors and nurses, were murdered. Suffice it to say: In the 1940s and 1950s, Arabs kept right on massacring Jews in the Holy Land—long before Israel won any additional territory in the 1967 war of self-defense.
What Israeli “settlement” compelled them to do so?
Tragically, our new theatre stars wish to be seen as “anti-racists;” yet, by holding Arab and Muslim countries to much lower standards, and by condemning their inhabitants to continued Islamist barbarism, they fail every ethical test of non-racism. And, their anti-Zionism is a profound form of anti-Semitism which is also racism—a fact which they absolutely refuse to understand.
I wish to thank Janet Lehr for calling this boycott to my attention in her Newsletter “Israel Lives.”