Guardian story on Habima & settlements omits facts which undermine narrative

Beyond a few outspoken voices within the artistic community (and the editors at Haaretz), it's difficult to find evidence of "a growing chorus of criticism" within the country over the national theatre company's decision to perform in a community across the green line.

You can tell that the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent Peter Beaumont spends a lot of time associating with those on the radical fringes of Israeli society by reading the first three paragraphs of his Oct. 25th article ‘Israel’s national theatre company criticised for show in West Bank settlement’.

Israel’s national theatre company has announced it will perform in a hardline West Bank settlement, sparking a fierce row inside Israel’s artistic community.

The performance in the Israeli settlement of Kiryat Arba next to Hebron is planned to take place next month despite a growing chorus of criticism from Israeli cultural figures opposed to the move.

Although other theatre companies have performed in Kiryat Arba before, it is the first time that Habima – Israel’s national theatre – has performed in the settlement.

Of course, beyond a few outspoken voices within the artistic community (and the editors at Haaretz), it’s difficult to find evidence of “a growing chorus of criticism” within the country over the national theatre company’s decision to perform in a community across the green line. 

In addition to empirical data demonstrating widespread Israeli opposition to a settlement boycott (even among Arab Israelis), it’s telling that Beaumont cites, putatively as evidence of this “chorus of criticism”, a little known literature professor at Ben Gurion University named Haim Weiss.  Beaumont devotes three paragraphs to Weiss, who had criticized Habima on his personal Facebook page, arguing that “the theatre had decided to perform in the settlement because of the current climate of pressure on artists and arts groups”.

The only other Israeli cited who objected to the scheduled performance in Kiryat Arba was actor Oded Kotler – an activist who caused controversy last year after he characterized right-wing voters as “cud-chewing cattle”. (He later walked back his remarks.)

Beaumont also fails to inform readers that this isn’t the first time Habima has staged a show in the West Bank. The theatre company previously performed in Ariel and Ma’aleh Adumim.

Beaumont’s article continues:

The row over the decision to stage a dramatised version of SY Agnon’s A Simple Story is the latest chapter in the bitter culture war between members of Israel’s artistic community and the country’s abrasive rightwing culture and sport minister, Miri Regev.

Regev has threatened to cut funding to arts groups that refuse to perform in settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The suggested connection between the upcoming Habima performance in the territories and the anti-BDS position of the culture minister represented the overall narrative of the Guardian piece.  

However, there’s one big problem with this argument.  It was undermined by a quote from Habima’s general manager, Odelia Friedman, in an interview that aired yesterday morning on Army Radio. 

As Haaretz reported in their Oct. 26th print edition (Habima denies Regev behind West Bank performance, Oct. 26), Friedman denied during the interview that Regev pressured the theater to perform in Kiryat Arba.  She added that “Habima as performed for many years in Ariel and Ma’ale Adumim”, that the policy of performing across the green line was “arrived at a few years ago and it has nothing to do with any particular minister”.

Tellingly, though Beaumont did cite Friedman’s interview on Army Radio at the end of his article, he only included the bit where she broadly defended Habima’s decision to perform in the settlement.

[Habima’s] general manager, Odelia Friedman, told Israeli public radio that settlers had the same right to government-subsidised culture as any other Israeli citizen. “We appear everywhere where we are required,” she added.

He conveniently omitted the part of the interview where Friedman categorically denied that their decision had anything whatsoever to do with pressure from Israel’s “abrasive rightwing culture and sport minister” Miri Regev.

Once again, the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent published a BDS related article which omitted key information in order to buttress the desired narrative and lend greater legitimacy to promoters of boycotting the Jewish state.


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