Dozens of figures from Israel’s cultural scene signed a letter released Wednesday calling on far-right Culture Minister Chili Tropper to intervene following the cancellation last month at the Fringe Theater in Beersheba of a performance of a musical featuring the testimonies of female occupation soldiers serving in the West Bank that were collected by Breaking the Silence.
The letter from 67 leading cultural figures, including singer Aviv Geffen, authors Etgar Keret, Yonatan Geffen, Dorit Rabinyan and David Grossman, accused the theater of canceling the show following political pressure from “radical right-wing forces” allegedly placed on both the venue and on Beersheba Mayor Ruvik Danilovich.
An additional letter with a similar message was sent by an umbrella organization of Israeli theater groups, Channel 12 news reported. The decision to scrap the play drew condemnation from groups like the Israeli Actors Guild, and the Directors Guild said it would boycott the Fringe Theater. “A place where artists are silenced is a place that is not appropriate for plays or audiences,” the Directors Guild said on its Facebook.
The musical “Basic Instinct” on Tzavta Theater in Tel-Aviv, last January 2022
In a correspondence between Yael Tal, one of the play’s creators, and the manager of the Fringe Theater that was attached to the petition, the venue noted that it had canceled the performance due to the outcry that made it “simply not worth it for us” to put on the performance, Zo Haderech reported. The fascist organization B’Tsalmo has taken credit for the play’s cancellation.
The musical, titled “Basic Instinct”, features three actresses in pink versions of Israeli army uniforms sharing the experiences of female soldiers who served in the occupied West Bank. The accounts were gathered by Breaking the Silence, a soldier’s organization that collects and shares testimonies of human rights violations against Palestinians from former Israeli occupation soldiers who served in the West Bank. The musical has been performed across Israel since 2019 without issue, and had been scheduled to open at the Beersheba Fringe Theater on June 16.