Professors support Israeli artists’ boycott

Five professors from the Yale School of Drama joined 150 American theater and film professionals last week in signing a statement in support of the Israeli artists who are boycotting the controversial new theaters in a Jewish settlement in the West Bank.

In late August, more than 50 prominent Israeli actors, directors and playwrights issued a petition declaring their refusal to perform in the state-financed theaters in Ariel because they say the settlement violates international law and hinders the Israel-Palestine peace process.

While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Parliament members responded with swift condemnation, the protesters gained endorsement from American artists, including celebrities such as Julianne Moore, Theodore Bikel, Vanessa Redgrave and Tony Kushner. Five members of Yale School of Drama — Dean James Bundy DRA ’95 and professors Elizabeth Diamond, Elinor Fuchs, Gordon Rogoff ’52 and Paula Vogel — as well as Divinity School visiting professor David Michalek also registered their support.

“In signing the letter, I was voicing my support for artists whose moral choice is not to provide their services in the settlements,” Bundy said in an e-mail. “It seems to me that their stance is based on reasonable and honorable perspectives they have expressed both about international law and about their contractual obligations.”

Bundy added that to suggest that culture should be separated from politics, as several Israeli officials have, is to neglect fundamental responsibilities of the artist and of the democratic state.

“Truly, even an apolitical artistic response in this case would have been political,” he said. “If these artists had agreed to perform in the settlements, they would have been supporting political policy with which they do not agree.”

The West Bank was Jordanian territory between 1948 and 1967, when the Israeli military conquered the area. Since then, some 300,000 Jewish settlers have moved into the West Bank, which is primarily occupied by Palestinians.

The endorsement signed by Yale professors and organized by Jewish Voice for Peace, an American left-wing Jewish group, says the artists “deserve the respect of people everywhere who dream of justice.”

“You have this impasse that is ridiculous and cruel to the citizens of both sides, ” Rogoff said. “I think the theater group in Israel is doing an honorable thing to really raise a fuss about the treatment of people who also belong there and constantly being ignored or condescended to.”

The theaters subjected to the protest operate largely under public funding. The Israeli government threatened the theaters with a withdrawal of funds if they failed to continue performing.

“It’s not like in an American situation, where individual actors might be taking individual actions,” Fuchs said. “Here the state is asking them to appear there. This is a much more direct, active resistance. It does strengthen my feeling of solidarity with them.”

One of the first plays scheduled to be staged in Ariel, Bertolt Brecht’s “Caucasian Chalk Circle,” focuses directly on a dispute over which of two groups should have the right to live and work on a contested piece of land. The theaters have announced they will go ahead with the shows as planned and the boycotters will be replaced with other performers.


  • dhimmicrat

    not to perform works of art = censorship.

    shame on them all. they show their ignorance.

    a folly worthy of Racine

    a farce worthy of Ionescu.

    a theatre of the absurd. those who can’t, teach; those who can’t, moralize as hypocrites; those who can’t, serve as professors at Yale….where they can fight over meaningful things in their faculty meetings like who will get a bigger office, or an office with a window, or free tickets for a debut.

    why when will artists take up the call and DEMAND free speech, free press, and freedom to perform in any and all of the arab-islamic countries.

  • Yaman

    Props to these professors for taking a principled stand.

    One correction to the article, though: the West Bank is not “primarily occupied” by Palestinians. It’s “occupied” by Israel’s military. The author probably meant “primarily populated,” but given the Israeli occupation, that choice of words was unfortunate.

  • Arafat

    The recreational compassion displayed by these professors is appalling: Two decades ago, Arab Morocco built an Apartheid Wall in occupied Western Sahara to subdue the native non-Arabs. Since then, Morocco has exterminated or expelled the natives. Only a few hundred thousand remain, walled off in ghettos. Three decades ago, Muslim Turkey built an Apartheid Wall across Occupied Cyprus, to bar native Cypriots from returning to their homes. Since then, Turkey has moved tens of thousands of settlers into Cypriot homes. And for five decades, the Chinese occupiers of Tibet has expelled hundreds of thousands of natives and settled that sad land with Chinese.
    Surely, Saharans, Cypriots, and Tibetans are suffering greatly. But these professors say not one word about these atrocities and kow-tow to what is the “in” thing these days. One can hardly blame these popular professors. It’s easier to pick on Jews than take a stand against evil men – particularly when the evil men have oil and grant money.
    Still, Jesus said, “You must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the study halls and at the street corners, so they may be seen by people.” As theatre professors, my guess is each of you know all there is to know about this.

  • yale

    I hope anyone reading the above comment with its not-so-discrete anti-Semitism and disgusting Holocaust reference will understand why Jews worldwide are concerned about Israel’s survival: those who want to destroy Israel are often motivated by nothing more than anti-Semitism, and couldn’t care less what happens to all of Israel’s citizens.

  • SY10

    I hope anyone reading this article will note that the original boycott was by Israeli artists, showing once again that many of the Americans accused of anti-semitism for criticizing Israel are often in agreement with many Israelis (AntiZionist’s comments, however, are disgusting).

  • theantiyale

    *”Bundy added that to suggest that culture should be separated from politics, as several Israeli officials have, is to neglect fundamental responsibilities of the artist and of the democratic state.”*

    C’mon! Israel refused to allow the works of Wagner to be performed on their stages for decades because he was antisemitic. (Whose loss, may I ask?)

    These artists are actually following Israel’s Wagnerian precedent.


  • AntiZionist

    I hope that anyone reading any of the “anti-Semitic” comments I’ve made will recognize the difference between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism and proceed accordingly, despite my admittedly tasteless (but ultimately sincere) offer to tattoo “Arafat.”

    “Yale” said *…those who want to destroy Israel are often motivated by nothing more than anti-Semitism, and couldn’t care less what happens to all of Israel’s citizens.*

    Actually, I think those who want to destroy Israel are often motivated by their desire to liberate their homelands of oppressive, occupational armies. Since a majority of Israel’s citizens directly benefit from the presence of these occupiers and thieves, I don’t think it irrational for the subjects of said occupation not caring about Israeli citizens.

    It seems that *any* criticism made of Israel by a non-Jew is smeared with accusations of racism or anti-Semitism. Cute trick, but eventually the Zionist dependence on the holocaust as justification for *their* crimes against humanity is going to wither and die. Hopefully the Zionist dependence on American tax dollars and American blood will wither along with it.

  • Dancer

    In this time of vitriolic name calling, renewed McCarthyism, when tenure can be denied for speaking out, and worse, these professors show courage to support Israeli artists who recognize that justice limited to Jewish Israelis is not justice. Art performed on behalf of injustice is itself an injustice.

    Most of the planet recognizes that the settlements violate international law and, along with the occupation forces, constitute the most serious impediment to peace.

    Beyond supporting the Israeli artists, this act of courage also edges the superpower and its client a step closer to light and truth.

  • Arafat

    With the super power being the Muslim Ummah?

    If you’re going to insist on building your entire raison d’être on being a Muslim apologist, I might recommend some type of identifying mark so that your hypersensitive classmates might avoid offending your Islam centric sensibilities?
    How about a bruise mark on your forehead? Facing Mecca five times a day while resting your forehead on the floor for thirty minutes should help you out there.
    Shame that Yale has become a factory for weaklings and feeble-minded victims. Not surprising, though. This is what liberalism sows. This is what liberalism reaps. Just ask a friend of Muslims. A liberal friend like Barrack Obama – he who can’t seem to praise Islam enough – might be a good liberal to start out with.

  • Bobaloo

    At the Yale School of Drama, I was taught that the actor/writer has the unique ability to speak for those who can’t, or for those who won’t be listened to. Where is the outrage about the suicide bombers, the unprovoked rocket attacks, using civilians as shields, the kidnappings et al? Walking down Edgewood Ave. from Rosh Hashana services last week, a group of kids yelled at me and my family “blame it on the Jews”. Rhetoric obviously taught to them by their anti semetic guardians. Besides Robert Russell’s “Gathering the Sparks”, how about a YSD graduate performing a piece from a non-liberal perspective? I would also remind those who supported the petition, that virtually any Arab or Muslim artist is allowed to perform in Israel, while incidents like last years ban of the British choir by the Palastinians after it dared to perform with the Israeli Camerta orchestra is all too common.

  • gzuckier

    I eagerly await the announcement that a troupe of Palestinian artists chooses to boycott performing for people of their nation who slaughter innocents. No doubt they will be inspired by the example of their Israeli colleagues.

  • theantiyale

    I think Yale Dramat – two blocks from the slums of New Haven –should refuse to perform for any Yale employee who makes more than ***2 million dollars*** a year (5 times the President of the Unitred States’ salary.)

  • FailBoat

    There might be a philosophical difference between Anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism, but when these ideologies are rarely found separated, one begins to question the messenger. I daresay that a man who punctuates his anti-Israel rant with a Holocaust joke can be safely ignored by people interested in reasonable discourse.