On July 24, 2015, CAMERA published a blog post in Washington Jewish Week’s online Forum section titled “Breaking the Silence – And Filling it with Propaganda” attacking “It’s What We Do: A Play About the Occupation.” CAMERA accuses us of producing, “anti-Israel agit-prop – whatever that is – questions the credibility of Breaking the Silence, a highly regarded Israeli Non-Government Organization and attempts to censor open discussion of Israel/Palestine in the Fringe Festival and elsewhere.
We are very proud that “It’s What We Do” sold out five performances, won the Fringe Audience Award for Best Drama, was selected for the Pick of the Fringe Extension Week offering four additional performances, and was well reviewed. In a 5-star review in “DC Metro Theater Arts” John Stoltenberg wrote:
This is an extraordinary work of theater—disturbing in the most important sense that it provokes real-time reckoning with real-world morals and places the meaning of human emotions center stage. “It’s What We Do”: A Play About the Occupation is a play that one must think about and talk about after. But first and foremost, it must be seen.
As Pam said in the Q&A after a recent performance, “This play dramatizes one perspective on the conflict. No one work can cover every aspect of the issue and it is important for audiences to understand the testimonies of these former soldiers and the experiences of Palestinians under occupation.” Our production uses three composite former soldiers, unidentified Palestinians and Settlers to share the testimonies from Breaking the Silence. It is not anti-Israel or an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of the Jewish State but rather promotes healthy dialogue on a very tough issue. Interestingly, soldiers and reporters who revealed Mai Lai in Vietnam and Abu Greb in Iraq suffered similar attacks to their credibility.
Regarding Breaking the Silence, many of the testimonies are in fact signed and you can go on the Breaking the Silence web site and see video testimonies from former Israeli soldiers willing to risk the shunning from family and friends and the hazards to their careers posed by testifying about their experiences. Interestingly no one questions the honesty of these former soldiers, but CAMERA seems to question their right to tell their stories.
On July 28, 2015 the Editorial Board of Haaretz published a defense of Breaking the Silence which stated:
Breaking the Silence is a legitimate organization. In a democratic country, its activities should be encouraged, not silenced. It is seemingly one of the few groups that views the Israel Defense Forces’ morality as a priority. The information the organization publicizes isn’t meant to embarrass Israel but to maintain its moral character, which is being eroded by the occupation. Channel 10’s military correspondent, Or Heller, reported last month that following the report issued by Breaking the Silence, the IDF opened eight investigations into events during last summer’s war in Gaza, which could indicate the importance the IDF ascribes to its information.
Accusing the DC Fringe Festival of an, “anti-Israel hit-job” and using an online addendum on the CAMERA web site to name and shame selected Jewish Fringe Festival donors are veiled attempts at censorship. Rather than attack our motives and those of Breaking the Silence we wish that CAMERA would conduct an honest dialogue focused on the production. Maybe next year CAMERA can produce a play for the DC Fringe Festival and share other perspectives on the challenges of Israel/Palestine.
Pamela Nice is an award-winning independent filmmaker and theater director currently living in Washington, DC. She writes and directs multimedia dance/theatre/film productions, has directed over 50 plays, and has been artistic director of two theaters in Minnesota.
Seth Morrison is a long time Jewish activist who recently retired after a career in marketing and strategic planning in the cable television industry. He is also an active volunteer focused on LGBTQ issues and advancing integrative medicine.
The authors call Breaking the Silence “highly regarded” without acknowledging its heavy European funding to produce anti-Israel Defense Forces accusations. They accuse CAMERA of attempted censorship when we challenged them or others to produce something approaching a substantive, well-rounded performance dealing with Israeli-Palestinian matters. They note the Fringe Festival’s “It’s What We Do” was well-received and well-reviewed. Andy Warhol famously said “art is anything I can get away with.” Audiences and critics may not have realized just how much Nice and Morrison were getting away with here. What the duo laments as “veiled attempts at censorship” and “naming and shaming” are in fact merely filling out the who, what, when, where, why and how record behind “It’s What We Do.” If such exposure’s uncomfortable, perhaps it should be.