Disputed Play on Gaza Activist Debuts in Seattle A play about an activist who died in Gaza while opposing Israeli forces moves on to Seattle. The New York Theater Workshop recently canceled performances, which many critics saw as evidence of pro-Israel bias.
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Disputed Play on Gaza Activist Debuts in Seattle

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Disputed Play on Gaza Activist Debuts in Seattle

Disputed Play on Gaza Activist Debuts in Seattle

Disputed Play on Gaza Activist Debuts in Seattle

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/9134375/9134376" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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A play about an activist who died in Gaza while opposing Israeli forces moves on to Seattle. The New York Theater Workshop recently canceled performances, which many critics saw as evidence of pro-Israel bias.

STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

And as NPR's Martin Kaste reports, controversy is still part of the show.

MARTIN KASTE: This play paints an unambiguously grim picture of the Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip.

(SOUNDBITE OF HELICOPTER)

KASTE: Where Rachel Corrie volunteered with a pro-Palestinian group in 2003. The monologues, performed here by Marya Sea Kaminski, draw from Corrie's real e-mails and diaries.

MARYA SEA KAMINSKI: March 13th, 9 PM Twelve- year-old girl shot from tower in school near national hospital. 11 PM, shooting behind west camp, came out...

KASTE: Corrie was killed while confronting an Israeli bulldozer that was demolishing Palestinian houses as part of a military operation. The circumstances of her death were hotly debated at the time. But lately, the focus has shifted to the play itself. Corrie's own writings seem to anticipate the controversy.

SEA KAMINSKI: The scariest thing for non-Jewish Americans in talking about Palestinian self-determination is the fear of being or sounding anti-Semitic.

KASTE: Now the Seattle Repertory has weighed in, and artistic director David Esbjornson has received some angry e-mails. But does he agree with the notion of a pro-Israel bias in America? The question makes him uneasy.

DAVID ESBJORNSON: You know, I think there are alliances. I think there are politics that come into play. And we are a country that has lost a little bit of its muscle in terms of having debate and dialogue.

KASTE: Pro-Israel groups in Seattle insist that they do not want to suppress the play, but they also insist on their right to criticize it. David Brummer(ph), a member of the Anti-Defamation League, says the play's timing is bad as it follows an incident last summer when a gunman barged into the Seattle offices of the Jewish Federation, spouted anti-Israel invective, and killed the woman.

DAVID BRUMMER: To put a play on that is so provocative in the polemic that it puts against Israel. Again, there is a sense that there's a demonization that is just - it can present a climate again that's not really healthy.

KASTE: The ADL and others bought a full-page ad in the Playbill entitled "Don't Be Mislead." Another ad, placed by the Jewish Federation, shows photos of Israeli women named Rachel who were killed by Palestinian terrorists.

LISA CONNICK: Unidentified Woman #1: We are.

KASTE: Unidentified Woman #1: What is it about?

CONNICK: Unidentified Woman #2: It's always...

CONNICK: Unidentified Woman #2: Oh, no it's not. Throw it away.

CONNICK: Well, you haven't taken the time to read it yet.

KASTE: And now a group of counter leafleters has also appeared, handing out pro-Palestinian literature. Still, Connick says everything has stayed civil.

CONNICK: It's still Seattle. I've had probably a dozen people come back and ask for our flyer. Oh, I got the other one. Now I need to get yours. It's such a Seattle thing...

KASTE: What? You mean, because they want to be fair and have both sides?

CONNICK: Yeah. It's because Seattleites, like, are really into being informed and, you know, I think it's so charming.

KASTE: Martin Kaste, NPR News, Seattle.

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