Artists on the front line

Some of you may remember the effective ousting of some Israeli art performances at the Edinburgh Festival last year. This story from the Scotsman suggests an improved situation where all is sweetness and light:

Fringe artists bid to quell Middle East tensions

PERFORMERS from across the Middle East, including Israelis and Palestinians, will appear on stage together at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe in response to the cultural boycott and last-minute cancellation of two shows that marred last year’s event.

A late-night political cabaret show, featuring artists from across the region, is being set up by one of the leading Fringe venues in response to the events that unfolded last summer when protesters targeted two arts companies understood to have received funding from the Israeli government.

Northern Stage, one of the Fringe’s theatrical powerhouses, has programmed the nightly event, which will see Middle Eastern artists perform new specially commissioned plays, songs, music and poems.

Inspired by a late-night Fringe cabaret created two years ago by Northern Stage to tackle the Scottish independence debate, the company says the show will use human stories to look at the “past, present and possible futures of a region of incredible complexity and diversity”. 
A revolving cast will take to the stage at Summerhall for the work in the show entitled Here Is The News From Over There (Over There Is The News From Here).

Twitter will be used to ensure the pieces reach a wider audience during the run of the show but also to inspire artists in the Middle East to create new work.

Sounds hopeful, doesn’t it?

Now some detail:

“Northern Stage is joining forces on the project with one of Scotland’s leading playwrights, David Greig…”

Who is David Greig?

The British Council says this:

“David Greig has been described in the Daily Telegraph as ‘one of the most interesting and adventurous British dramatists of his generation’. He is also one of Britain’s most prolific modern playwrights.”

And Wikipedia says this:

“David Greig (born 1969) is a Scottish playwright and theatre director. His work has been performed at all of the major theatres in Britain, including the Traverse Theatre, Royal Court Theatre, Royal National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company, and been produced around the world.”

And the Scotsman article says this:

“…[he] ran a crowdfunding campaign last year to enable Palestinian and Israeli artists to be represented at the Fringe without reliance on Israeli government funding.”

And, crucially:

“Greig, who was one of those to support the cultural boycott…”

So, not an Israel supporter.

When it is reported that:

“We are still putting the line-up of performers together, but there will absolutely be a representation of Israeli voices in there. There are two Israeli companies performing in the Summerhall programme.”

That does not fill me with enthusiasm. It does not make me confident about what type of message these artists will deliver. Indeed, reading the complete article again in light of that last comment, it becomes clear that this is a nasty development. Apparently free speech is not open to those who take money from Israel. (Because Israel is so uniquely nasty and evil, you know…) The Israeli national theater cannot take part. The kids at the local school cannot take part. Way to go, guys. Another Israel bashing event. What a great contribution to peace and harmony that will be.

Note that Greig is somewhat hypocritical. He seems to take a stance against Israel, but not against the UK. It’s OK in his eyes to take money from the UK government, (as seen by his plays being put on at these at least partially state funded venues mentioned above) because it’s never done anything wrong, of course.

To close, I cannot resist quoting (Scotsman website) commenter Lobey Dosser:

“This is such exciting news! I can’t wait to read the endorsements from last year’s Hezbollah-supporting demonstrators. But I can’t help thinking, should it be discovered that any of the budding Israeli thespians have pocket-money from uncle Bibi, David Greig will revert to type and the deal will be off!”

With a BDS proponent like Greig at the helm, there’s bound to be a healthy dose of antisemitism anti-Zionism on show.