Artists Protest Lincoln Center Play Backed by Israel

Play by David Grossman faces boycott calls in New York over Israeli government's support

Sopan Deb, The New York Times
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A scene from “To the End of the Land,” which is part of the Lincoln Center Festival this month and is backed by the Israeli government.
A scene from “To the End of the Land,” which is part of the Lincoln Center Festival this month and is backed by the Israeli government. Credit: Gerard Allon
Sopan Deb, The New York Times

More than 60 artists, including four Pulitzer Prize winners and other prominent writers, actors, directors and playwrights, have signed an open letter calling on Lincoln Center to cancel performances of a play co-produced by two Israeli theater companies and backed by the Israeli government.

The play, “To the End of the Land,” is produced by the Cameri Theater of Tel Aviv and Ha’Bima National Theater of Israel and is based on a critically acclaimed 2008 novel by David Grossman about a mother who tries to escape from her worry over her son’s military service by going on a hike in the Galilee.

The play, part of the Lincoln Center Festival, is being presented July 24-27 “with support of Israel’s Office of Cultural Affairs in North America,” according to a news release. This is the main point of contention in the letter, even though Mr. Grossman, the play’s author, has been an outspoken critic of the Israeli government in the past. The letter was organized by Adalah-NY, an advocacy group that calls for the boycott of Israel over its treatment of Palestinians.

“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.

“Brand Israel” refers to a public-relations campaign by the Israeli government to improve its image.

The signatories to the letter include Annie Baker, who won a Pulitzer Prize for her 2014 play “The Flick”; Niall Buggy, a veteran actor; and the actress Greta Gerwig.

Debora Spar, the president of Lincoln Center, rejected the calls for the play’s cancellation.

“While we acknowledge the feelings of those who would prefer that we not allow that performance to continue, we will not be canceling it,” Ms. Spar said in a statement.

She added: “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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