In a letter published online Wednesday, more than 60 artists and performers called on Lincoln Center to cancel upcoming performances of a play backed by the Israeli government and co-produced by two controversial Israeli theater companies who, according to the letter, "have long been actively complicit in the occupation and colonization of the West Bank."
The play in question, an adaptation of David Grossman's novel To the End of the Land, is slated to appear as part of the Lincoln Center Festival later this month. Widely considered an anti-war tale, the story is not the subject of the letter, which notes that supporters are "not raising concerns about any artists' content, or their nationality." Instead, the artists and activists are taking issue with the play's co-producers, Israel's Cameri and Ha'bima theaters, and its support from the Israeli Culture Ministry.
"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," the letter reads in part. "We call on Lincoln Center to avoid complicity with Brand Israel by cancelling these performances by Ha'bima and Cameri."
The letter notes that the two theater companies have repeatedly performed in the occupied West Bank—including the particularly controversial Kiryat Arba settlement—despite the push among many Israeli artists to avoid performing across the Green Line.
The letter was published by Adalah-NY, and lists several prominent signatories, including actress Greta Gerwig, Pulitzer Prize-winner Annie Baker, and Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore. Organizations ranging from Jewish Voices for Peace, the Palestinian Circus School, and the School of Hard Knocks have also signed in support of the call.
Certain segments of the right-wing media, meanwhile, have drawn comparisons between the open-letter and last month's outrage over Shakespeare in the Park's staging of Julius Caesar, which featured a Trump-resembling protagonist. In this case, any entity who chooses to boycott the play could conceivably find itself on the receiving end of a boycott from the state of New York, a result of Cuomo's anti-BDS executive order from last year.
Reached for comment, Lincoln Center President Debora L. Spar told Gothamist that, "While we acknowledge the feelings of those who would prefer that we not allow that performance to continue, we will not be canceling it."
"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," the statement continued. "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."