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Culture war takes center stage at Israeli theater festival

Israeli artists widely condemn the decision by the Acre Festival of Alternative Theater to exclude Einat Weitzman's play about Palestinian prisoners, saying the move is part of a dangerous trend of self-censorship in Israel.
Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Gali Tibbon/Pool - RTSRFK0
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On May 30, various playwrights, directors and other artists announced their withdrawal from the Acre Festival of Alternative Theater, in which they were scheduled to take part in October 2017, following the organizers’ decision to ban the play “Prisoners of the Occupation” by Einat Weitzman. Their boycott of the play is another stage in the culture war being waged in Israel in recent years. The ban was not the result of a direct order by Culture Minister Miri Regev, who since taking office in 2015 has made it her practice to intervene in the contents of publicly funded events. But her activities have clearly created a threatening climate that limits free expression and leads theaters to practice self-censorship so as not to clash with her and endanger their funding.

The Israeli Actors Union called on all its 2,300 members not to take part in the festival and not to fill in for the artists who have withdrawn in protest. Theater actors throughout Israel have read statements of support to their audiences at the end of performances: “We support our fellow creators in their move and call on you to protect freedom of expression in the State of Israel.”

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