Suppression of Federation Criticism – The Op-Ed Canceled By The Jewish Week

This is the Op-Ed that The Editor of the Washington Jewish Week committed to publish, only to then withdraw the commitment:

Washington’s Jewish Federation Must Stop Subsidizing Anti-Israel Propaganda

by Carol Greenwald

The Washington Jewish community cannot protect Israel from Iranian nuclear weapons or Hezbollah and Hamas rockets, but it can fight anti-Israel propaganda funded by our own Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.

That propaganda has been issuing from the DCJCC’s Theater J for years.

Let us be clear at the outset. This is neither a free speech nor artistic expression issue. If Ari Roth, Theater J artistic director, wants to stage anti-Israel productions, it’s a free country. He can start his own theater company and charge admission. His dilemma is that without the patronage of the DCJCC and the Federation, he would have no legitimacy and little audience.

Our dilemma is that money donated in good faith to the Federation is being used to undermine Israel. The Boards of the DCJCC and of the Federation have abrogated their responsibilities as fiduciaries of Jewish charitable funds by sponsoring Theater J. Support by the Federation is prominently displayed on the Theater J website. Whether intended or not, it is a de facto endorsement.

In 2011, the Federation and the DCJCC recognized their problem with Theatre J and tried to take responsible action by issuing guidelines limiting anti-Israel programs on the part of beneficiaries. But these were narrowly interpreted to mean not sponsoring boycott, divestment and sanctions activities.

Roth founded the “Peace Cafe” over a decade ago with two members of the Theater J Advisory Council, Andy Shallal, and Mimi Conway. Shallal spoke at an End the Israeli Occupation rally, stating: “Palestinians continue to be ethnically cleansed, humiliated, harassed, imprisoned, serially murdered and assassinated…300,000 Palestinians have been killed.”

In 2011, the DCJCC announced that Theater J had severed all ties with the “Peace Café.” But at a Boged performance, Roth with Shallal announced the Peace Cafe 2.0 program for 2013.

Roth appears not satisfied with being the artistic director of a theater company. He is a political activist, who according to The Washington Post, presents himself “fighting for the soul of our community,” with Federation charity funds and the DCJCC Theater J as a base. Roth proudly points to praise from The Washington Post. This praise is itself damning. The Post itself often parrots the anti-Israel, Palestinian narrative.

Theater J has indicted itself in this matter. It has performed plays so anti-Israel that they border on antisemitism. For example:

  •  In 2013, the Voices from a Changing Middle East Festival produced Boged (Traitor), an adaptation of Ibsen’s play, Enemy of the People, transferred to Israel. Boged portrays Israel as poisoning the water aquifers. This is a modern variation of the medieval charge that Jews poisoned wells. At a preview reading of the play, Theater J’s artistic director, Ari Roth, excitedly blurted out “We are entering new territory here,” because no one before has portrayed Israel as an untrustworthy steward of the land.

In the real world, Israel provides safe water to the West Bank, while West Bank Arabs repeatedly violate Oslo accord commitments, dumping untreated sewage into streams and over-drilling shared aquifers. But there are no Theater J productions about Palestinian well-poisoning.

  •  To hammer home the theme of Israeli evil, Theater J, in its Tea @2 Readings during the Festival, put on “Testimonies from IDF Soldiers and Inductees,” created by the anti-Israel group Breaking the Silence, and the “Trial of the Refuseniks.”

Breaking the Silence is a European-funded non-governmental organization which peddles on American college campuses and to international media outlets uncorroborated, anonymous stories of alleged IDF wrongdoing. The group’s mission is demonizing Israel’s military.

Their hateful propaganda has spurred such outrage among Israeli reservists that they have filmed their own testimonies in Soldiers Speak Out.

It is predictable that Theater J would do a world premiere based on Breaking the Silence and not from Soldiers Speak Out.

  • In 2011, Theater J staged Return to Haifa, based on a story written by a Palestinian terrorist. It makes the historically accurate murder of a Jewish child in the Holocaust (a reality for over one and half million Jewish children) comparable to a wholly fabricated and fanciful story of an Arab child abandoned by his fleeing parents in Haifa in 1948.
  •  In 2009, Theater J had a reading of “Seven Jewish Children,” a widely condemned, anti-Jewish blood libel that described Israelis as Nazis, glorying in killing non-Jewish children.
  •  Theater J hosts and co-sponsors workshops, panels and Peace Cafes with groups and speakers dedicated to promoting the Palestinian narrative and unrelenting criticism of Israel. According to Theater J’s blog, Roth seeks out plays that promote the Palestinian narrative. J Street, the anti-AIPAC lobby that opposed sanctions on Iran and defined Palestinian terrorists launching rockets at Israel as “civilians,” plays a prominent role in these post-production panels.

The Federation needs to adopt effective guidelines banning the use of Jewish charity funds by organizations that denigrate the Jewish people or their national homeland. The Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco has done so. The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington must.

In 2011 the Federation took its first step in the right direction because it heard from outraged donors who didn’t want their contributions going to Theatre J. The Federation needs to continue to hear from donors today.

Carol Greenwald is a pro-Israel activist who serves on the boards of several pro-Israel organizations, including COPMA, Citizens Opposed to Propaganda Masquerading as Art.