Itay Tiran, Israel’s No. 1 Theater Actor-director: BDS Is a Legitimate Form of Resistance

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Itay Tiran
Itay TiranCredit: Meir Cohen

“BDS is a perfectly legitimate form of resistance. And if we want to preach for a certain kind of political discussion that isn’t violent, we must strengthen these voices, even if it’s difficult,” said Itay Tiran, widely considered Israel’s leading theatrical actor-director, in an interview with Haaretz on the eve of his departure to Germany.

“I think a normal political left should support BDS,” he says. “After all, it doesn’t matter what the Palestinian will do. When he commits an act of terror he is called a violent, bloodthirsty terrorist. And when he supports BDS he’s a political terrorist.”

“If what finally leads to a solution here will be non-violent pressure, conducted as political discourse, then why not support it? It’s a humanist approach, and it’s also practical, and I think it will prevent the next wars,” he said.

Tiran, 38, whose left-wing statements have attracted attention in the past, was among the leading signatories of the petition by Israeli theater artists in 2010 not to perform in the new cultural center that opened in Ariel.

>> Read more: What Makes Itay Tiran the New King of Israeli Theater?

Itay Tiran accepting an award in Tel Aviv in 2017.Credit: Dudu Bachar

He is leaving the Cameri Theater after 16 years as its lead actor and joining a troupe in the Stuttgart State Theater, having already acted and directed in Germany. He also plans on directing in, among other places, the Burgtheater in Vienna. He recently played a role in the movie “Spider in the Web,” a Belgian-Dutch-Israeli coproduction starring Ben Kingsley and Monica Bellucci, directed by Eran Riklis.

Addressing the political situation in Israel, he said: “I think the first low point was Rabin’s murder, which shaped my political awareness as a child, and the last was the 2014 war in Gaza. And in the middle there are lots of smaller points. You get up in the morning, drink your coffee and read the paper. You look at a story and say, so is this the moment in which we’ve become fascist or isn’t it?”

”You sit with yourself and play a kind of game, and gradually you realize that all you do is keep asking that question and playing that game, without deciding,” he said.

However, Tiran stressed that the political situation isn’t the main reason for his leaving the country, and that he doesn’t see himself as a “political exile.”

“If the nation-state law is a reference point, from which you calculate where Israeli society is, then clearly it’s a racist, non-egalitarian law, another step in the nationalist shift taking place here. On the other hand, I say it’s not only bad. Why? Because it forces out a kind of collective subconscious that has always existed here,” he said.

“The Declaration of Independence and talk about equality and values, all those were the self-preening of a colonialist boasting of enlightened liberalism. There are people who still call themselves center-left, and still think that if they put the word equality into the law everything will be all right. I don’t think so. And really, the right’s justified counter argument was, hang-on, but there’s the Law of Return. Why is it that only the nation-state law drives you crazy?” he notes.

So you’re saying Zionism equals racism, no matter what?


That Zionism equals colonialism?

“Yes, exactly. So we all have to look at the truth, and then take a side.”

The full interview will be published in Haaretz's Hebrew cultural supplement. 

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