Results tagged “Israel” from Drama Queen
This week I'm macking on: The output of feature articles on new play producing organizations in Philadelphia. A couple of weeks back, I wrote this piece on PlayPenn for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Now, the Philadelphia Weekly's J. Cooper Robb is covering 1812 Productions' embrace of new work by local playwrights, and the Philadelphia City Paper's Mark Kofta is covering the Philadelphia Theatre Workshop's PlayShop Festival, also a showcase for Philly dramatists. And that's not even the whole picture. I've said before, this is a pretty exciting time to be working in and around Philadelphia theaters; it's even more exciting that now a whole lot of other folks are saying it too.
This week I'm hating on: All the the calls for a boycott of the Israeli Batsheva Dance Company's performance at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, which opened March 4 (review here). The protest is called "Dancing on the Graves of Gaza," with a tagline that reads,
"1,300 dead, 5,000 wounded, and 50,000 left homeless, this is no time for dancing."
Of course, if you've arrived here through ArtsJournal's portal, you're probably already convinced that there's probably no better time for dancing in Israel and the Palestinian territories than now. You have to be either a complete fundamentalist or a complete fool not to recognize the importance of the arts during a time of national strife--whether they are used for healing, protesting, exploring, or simply uplifting the spirits of the dispirited. Even more frustrating than the Palestinian Campaign for the Cultural and Academic Boycott of Israel's (PACBI) enthusiasm for this wrongheaded action is news that Batsheva Artistic Director Ohad Naharin has said publicly that he "opposes the violence in Israel." In recent performances, along with examining Middle East politics through movement, the company used music by Israeli Arab composer Habib Allah Jamil. Talk about a missed opportunity.
Meanwhile, Michelle J. Kinnucan, in a widely circulated article on the topic, calls Batsheva "an Israeli apartheid dance troupe," condemns Naharin for having served in the Israeli army (military service is compulsory for all citizens in Israel), and proceeds to make the inflammatory assertion that punishment for resisting service is far more lenient in Israel than, "in Germany in the 1930s, say." Yeah, I guess it would be.
Reaction to Batsheva's performance isn't an exact parallel to reaction over Caryl Churchill's Seven Jewish Children, since that play takes an obvious anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian stance. But they do have this much in common: both suffer from attacks by the ignorant and implacable, and foes on both sides would do well to ruminate over Naharin's idealistic, yet inspiring statement:
"We do what we do out of love, out of passion, because we are crazy, not because we have a role or because we are supposed to lead anyone, but through dance and art, we can show people that new solutions and new ideas can be better than old ideas and old solutions."
I think it's appropriate, as Israel's 60th birthday--and the Palestinians' "Naqba" or "Catastrophe Day"--approaches (May 18th, if you're wondering), to weigh in on the discussion sparked by this month's American Theatre Magazine about cultural sanctions against Israel.
Just so you know, I am pro-Israel (though not blindly so) and anti-sanction (vehemently so). I also find it interesting that not a single Jewish or Israeli interwiewee, no matter their position on the occupation, was pro-sanction. Some of these Israelis are so far left they're practically knee-deep in the Mediterranean. And the fact that so many Palestinian artists (though a few were anti-sanction as well) think a boycott is a good idea and parallel to South African sanctions during apartheid, is pretty darn appalling. In Israel refugee battles refugee, each side with its own powerful international defenders. Don't think for a minute U.S. support of Israel is any more powerful than the support Palestinians receive from the rest of the Arab and Muslim world. The territories are not under apartheid, and to the detriment of all peaceful Palestinians, if their borders were wide open, Israelis would be dodging Hamas-, Al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade-, Al Qaeda- and Hezbollah-funded bombs at every turn.
It's worthwhile noting that Israel is just about the only Middle Eastern nation where a cultural boycott would be effective... Because it's just about the only Middle Eastern country where culture isn't dictated by governmental or religious law. Sure you might ruffle the payess of some ultra-orthodox Jews by mounting West Side Story on shabbos, but try it in Saudi Arabia, or worse, if you're female, try attending that production on your own in a country where romantic liaisons are carried on like this, and see where it gets you. How about in Yemen? Or Turkey? Or Iran? Or Syria? Mount a pro-Palestinian production in Israel and you'll get protesters, but audiences too. Mount a pro-Israel production anywhere in the region besides Israel and you might end up with a fatwa on your head. Don't believe me? Does the resounding regional success of an Egyptian 30-part televised version of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion ring any bells?
Why shut out your allies, the Jewish left and Jewish artists, and shut down one of the only avenues for Israeli-Palestinian dialogue, one of the last true avenues for the exchange of ideas between two warring peoples? How counterproductive can you get? And to what end? The boycott calls for Israel to "end its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands." Which, to the Palestinians' elected government of Hamas at least, means an end to Israel. It also requires Israel to abide by UN Resolution 194, which gives the UN control over Jerusalem. Good luck with that.
The artistic boycott of Israel is a fool's errand not because it asserts the autonomy of Palestinians, but because it ignores the autonomy of Israelis. Art is about picking up the rocks and shining a light on what crawls beneath them, not smashing the rocks down to destroy what dares to breathe there. Both sides have made terrible, terrible mistakes during their 60-years of hostilities. Palestinians and Israelis ought to be calling not for a boycott of the arts, but an entrenchment, a continuous and devoted artistic effort that examines pluralism, separatism, nihilism, whatever, just so long as their creative borders, at least, are left wide open.
Separate but equal literature festivals IN THE SAME TOWN, yet oblivious of one another, illustrate the need for communication, not division, between Israeli and Palestinian intellectuals and artists. Can there be any clearer example of why a boycott would be even more disastrous to this already disastrous situation?