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Middle East Issues





Breaking the Silence -- And Filling It with Propaganda


(The Washington Jewish Week posted the CAMERA Op-Ed below on July 24, 2015.)
 
Capital Fringe Festival, a Washington, D.C. arts and entertainment presentation, prides itself on being “able to connect exploratory artists and adventurous audiences.” The 22-day festival (it closes on August 2) has drawn crowds to various venues, including sold-out productions at the Atlas Theater of It's What We Do, described on the Fringe Web site as “A Play about the Occupation.”

The Pamela Nice-written and directed effort better could be described as anti-Israel agit-prop. Festival publicity declares that in It's What We Do, “courageous Israeli soldiers from Breaking the Silence dare to speak out against the Occupation [capitalization in the original] policies they enforce. Their service in the Palestinian territories was a transforming experience. They show us a reality they can no longer hide.”

Except that's not what Breaking the Silence does. The Washington Post (“Israeli soldiers allege ‘ethical failure' in Gaza,” May 5, 2015) noted that “the testimonies in the report [Breaking the Silence's collection of soldiers' allegations about last summer's war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip] are anonymous and impossible to independently verify. … Breaking the Silence does not provide the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] with any proof of their claims.”

Fringe spokesman Seth Morrison (also a member of the steering committee of the Washington, D.C. chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace, described by the Anti-Defamation League as “the most influential anti-Zionist group in the United States” and one that lends “a veneer of legitimacy” to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement) said the script of It's What We Do would not be released. He added, however, that the bulk of Nice's dialogue essentially paralleled the book Our Harsh Logic, by Yehuda Shaul. Shaul is a founder and current co-director of Breaking the Silence.

Nice herself has said “the play is drawn directly from the testimonies in the book.”

Unfortunately, festival audiences aren't likely to know that NGO-Monitor, CAMERA and other organizations have described Breaking the Silence as dedicated to providing non-Israelis with defamatory, often unsubstantiated allegations about the IDF.

Shaul's book contains roughly 70 first-hand accounts from troops in the militarybetween 2000 and 2010. But tens of thousands served then; Shaul's sample may be unrepresentative.

European donations fund anti-Israel defamation
 
Breaking the Silence advertises itself as a not-for profit Israeli organization, but receives a great deal of foreign donations. These come mostly from European groups or governments opposed to Israeli policies if not to Israel itself. For example, Broederlijk Delen, a Belgian Christian charity, supports Breaking the Silence. It also donates large sums to anti-Israel groups.

Another significant funder of Breaking the Silence is Terre Solidaire, a French company that has boycotted Israeli products or service providers such as the Orange telephone firm.

According to NGO-Monitor, the more recipients of such European money publicize what Breaking the Silence calls the “catastrophes of Israel,” the more funds foreign donors provide. This returns us to It's What We Do. In repackaging Breaking the Silence's anonymous, unverifiable accusations for theatrical purposes, it amounts to one more ripple in a stream of propaganda—artistic, academic, journalistic and political—intended to undermine the legitimacy of the Jewish state.

What would a “daring, courageous” look at Israel's occupation policies in the “Palestinian territories,” theatrical or otherwise, actually tell us?

That Israel hasn't occupied the Gaza Strip since its unilateral withdrawal in 2005? That the Strip has been ruled since then mostly by Hamas, an Islamist terrorist movement whose charter calls for the destruction of Israel and genocide of the Jews? That Israel's military incursions, in response to Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other terrorist mortar and rocket barrages have resulted, according to U.N. estimates, in lower non-combatant-to-combatant casualty rates than those caused by U.S.-led coalitions in Afghanistan and Iraq? That the standard of living in Gaza—partial Israeli and Egyptian blockades notwithstanding—is, according a recent Bloomberg News article, higher than in much of the developing world (and higher yet in the West Bank)?

Bucking the group-think of anti-Israel agit-prop and telling a factual, complicated story in an entertaining manner—now that would take real artistic creativity and courage.

Another Fringe offering this summer, Artful Justice, a Hitler “comedy,” might simply have been a show biz mistake. But It's What We Do was no mistake; it was an anti-Israel hit-job.

The writers are, respectively, a student at Stern College in New York City and intern at the Washington office of CAMERA, and CAMERA's Washington director.
 
Addenda
 
Additions to “Breaking the Silence—And Filling it with Propaganda” as it appeared at the Washington Jewish Week online:

 

An online biographical sketch for Morrison, Capital Fringe spokesman, also lists him as a member of the steering committee of the Washington, D.C. chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace, described by the Anti-Defamation League as “the most influential anti-Zionist group in the United States” and one that lends “a veneer of legitimacy” to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

 

Nice has said, “while I was writing this play, the bombs were dropping on Gaza, the children bleeding from shrapnel, as hundreds of thousands of refugees sought to escape the destruction. Let’s not delude ourselves in thinking that Hamas rockets started this conflagration: it is an organic, deadly outgrowth of the Israeli occupation of Palestine [Sic.]”

 

Inversion such as Nice’s confuses cause and effect. It ignores Hamas’ remorseless determination to war with the Jewish state and use the inevitable Palestinian dead and wounded as public relations props. It whitewashes Arab denial of the Jewish right to some portion at least of eretz Yisrael (the land of Israel). As a result, it amounts to a form of delusion itself.

 

Capital Fringe Festival donors in recent years have included, among many other sustaining sponsors, the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, which separately has supported theater, music, and media to the Washington District of Columbia Jewish Community Center; the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, which contributed to the Jewish Council for the Aging of Greater Washington, the Jewish Community Center of Washington, D.C. and the Jewish Social Service Agency; the Max and Victoria Dreyfus Foundation, a backer of the JCC of Greater Coney Island; and the Reva and David Logan Foundation, which supported AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps.

 

Jews and Jewish philanthropies are renowned for supporting the arts and humanities. The case of the Capital Fringe Festival’s It’s What We Do should remind donors and ordinary theatergoers alike to read their Playbills closely. 

 

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