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July 11, 2017 4:25 pm

Top Entertainment Industry Execs Sign Open Letter Thanking Lincoln Center for Ignoring BDS Efforts Against Israeli Play

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Lincoln Center. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

More than 45 high-level executives in the entertainment industry signed an open letter on Monday thanking New York City’s Lincoln Center for not yielding to pressure by supporters of the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement who demanded the cancellation of an Israeli play at the performing arts facility.

The executives who signed the letter — which was addressed to Lincoln Center’s president, Debora Spar, and its board chair, Katherine Farley — are all members of Creative Community for Peace (CCFP), an entertainment industry advocacy group. They told Spar and Farley in the letter, “We applaud you for standing firm in your support of the arts. If we had allowed their brazen efforts to single out Israeli artists for a politically motivated boycott to succeed today, who might have been the target tomorrow?”

They added: “As an organization comprised of prominent members of the entertainment industry who believe in the power of the arts as a means to help build bridges towards peace, support artistic freedom, and counter the cultural boycott of Israel, we find the selective and politically motivated boycott directed at Israeli funding of the arts to be hypocritical, discriminatory, and dangerous to the arts and artists worldwide.”

“Selectively silencing art is dangerous. Art unites us, and helps us get past what makes us different while connecting us at the core of what makes us similar. We — and especially Israelis and Palestinians, who require being brought together more than anything — need more of it, not less.”

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The controversy began when Lincoln Center announced in March its plan to host the play “To the End of the Land,” produced by Israel’s Habima National Theater and the Cameri Theater of Tel Aviv.  The drama is based on a 2008 novel by David Grossman about a mother who hikes in the Galilee as a means to escape her worry over her son’s service in the Israeli army.

The performances at Lincoln Center are set to take place from July 24 through the 27th “with support of Israel’s Office of Cultural Affairs in North America,” according to a press release. Not long after the play was announced, more than 60 artists signed an open letter calling on Lincoln Center to cancel the performances. The letter accused the Jewish state of practicing “apartheid” and using a “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.”

In its own letter, CCFP members said BDS supporters were degrading Israeli artists by portraying them as “no more than a tool used by the Israeli government to cover up its alleged crimes.” The executives also accused pro-Palestinian activists of “paint[ing] a very black and white picture of Israel — the only true democracy in the Middle East, where all people regardless of race, religion, or gender have full political and civil rights — ignoring the many shades of gray in its supremely complex and tragically ongoing conflict with the Palestinians.”

Spar released her own statement rejecting demands for the play’s cancellation. She said, “Lincoln Center receives requests from time to time, from a variety of advocacy organizations, taking issue with either some of the performers we bring to campus or the work itself. As a cultural and education organization, however, we are committed to presenting a wide variety of artistic voices and trust that the art we bring can stand on its own.”

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