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Thread: The Middle East Map for Palestine

  1. #61
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    Play About Demonstrator's Death Is Delayed

    By JESSE McKINLEY
    NY Times
    February 28, 2006

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/28/th...es/28thea.html

    A potential Off Broadway production of "My Name Is Rachel Corrie," an acclaimed solo show about an American demonstrator killed by an Israeli bulldozer while trying to stop the destruction of a Palestinian home, has been postponed because of concerns about the show's political content.

    The production, a hit at the Royal Court Theater in London last year, had been tentatively scheduled to start performances at the New York Theater Workshop in the East Village on March 22. But yesterday, James C. Nicola, the artistic director of the workshop, said he had decided to postpone the show after polling local Jewish religious and community leaders as to their feelings about the work.

    "The uniform answer we got was that the fantasy that we could present the work of this writer simply as a work of art without appearing to take a position was just that, a fantasy," he said.

    In particular, the recent electoral upset by Hamas, the militant Palestinian group, and the sickness of Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister, had made "this community very defensive and very edgy," Mr. Nicola said, "and that seemed reasonable to me."

    The play, which received strong reviews in London, follows the story of Rachel Corrie, an idealistic American demonstrator and Palestinian-rights activist who was crushed to death in March 2003 in the Gaza Strip.

    The play was written by the actor Alan Rickman, who directed the piece, and Katherine Viner, a journalist at The Guardian newspaper in London, who pieced together snippets of Ms. Corrie's journals and e-mail messages to create the script. And while the show had not been formally announced, Ms. Viner said yesterday that she and Mr. Rickman had already bought plane tickets to see the production at the workshop.

    "I was devastated and really surprised," Ms. Viner said in a telephone interview from London. "And in my view, I think they're misjudging the New York audience. It's a piece of art, not a piece of agitprop."

    But Mr. Nicola said he was less worried about those who saw the show than those who simply heard about it
    .
    "I don't think we were worried about the audience," he said. "I think we were more worried that those who had never encountered her writing, never encountered the piece, would be using this as an opportunity to position their arguments."

    Mr. Nicola said that he still hoped to produce the play during the 2006-7 season but that he hadn't heard back from the Royal Court yet. A call for comment to the Royal Court's general manager, Diane Borger, was not returned.

    "It seemed as though if we proceeded, we would be taking a stand we didn't want to take," he said.

    Copyright 2006The New York Times Company

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    Default More on "Rachel Corrie"

    Tensions Increase Over Delay of a Play

    By JESSE McKINLEY
    NY Times
    March 7, 2006

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/07/th...es/07corr.html

    Just a week after a potential production of the controversial British play "My Name Is Rachel Corrie" was delayed at the New York Theater Workshop because of political concerns, the Royal Court Theater in London said it was considering several other offers to take the play to New York.

    Ewan Thomson, a spokesman for the Royal Court, confirmed that officials there wanted to stage it in New York "as soon as we possibly can" and have talked to other producers. Mr. Thomson said the company was hoping to capitalize on the show's momentum from a coming run in London's West End, where it will play from March 28 to May 7, approximately the same dates it had been tentatively scheduled to run at New York Theater Workshop.

    And in a sign of heightened tensions between the two theaters, the Royal Court also issued a statement to address "factual inaccuracies" in a letter posted on the workshop's Web site and assertions made by James C. Nicola, the workshop's artistic director.

    In particular, the Royal Court's statement took issue with the workshop's assertion that the planned production of "Rachel Corrie" was not definite, saying that press releases had been finalized, previews set, budgets approved, flights booked and tickets listed for sale. "I don't want this to become a spat between two theaters," said Mr. Thomson, who faxed a copy of the statement to The New York Times. "But there were certain factual inaccuracies we wanted to address."

    Mr. Nicola was traveling yesterday and unavailable for comment, but Lynn Moffat, the workshop's managing director, disputed the Royal Court's statement, saying that many production details and creative elements were still being settled when the show was delayed.

    "Everything was in the soup," Ms. Moffat said. "But we were going on good faith. We were moving forward."

    Mr. Nicola said last week that he had decided to postpone the show after polling local Jewish leaders as to their feelings about the play, which follows the story of Rachel Corrie, an idealistic American demonstrator who was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer in March 2003 while trying to prevent the destruction of a home in the Gaza Strip.

    Written by Alan Rickman, the actor, and Katherine Viner, a journalist with The Guardian newspaper in London, and pieced together from Ms. Corrie's own journals and e-mail messages, the show was a hit in London and garnered strong reviews. But Mr. Nicola said recent conversations with Jewish leaders had uncovered an unease about the play's message at a time when Hamas, the militant Palestinian group, had scored a victory in recent elections.

    The workshop later posted a statement on its Web site elaborating on the decision, saying it had not canceled or censored the production and that time pressures — particularly "Alan Rickman's pre-existing film commitments" — had driven it to delay the show.

    "We asked a rather routine question, or so we thought, to our London colleagues about altering the time frame," the workshop's statement read.

    "Our intent in asking for the postponement was to allow us enough time to contextualize the work so Rachel Corrie's powerful voice could best be heard above the din of others shouting for their own purposes."

    But the announcement of the play's delay caused some concern in artistic circles on both sides of the Atlantic. In a letter posted on the political Web site Counterpunch.org, for example, the actress Vanessa Redgrave, a longtime supporter of the Palestinian cause, called the workshop's decision "censorship of the worst kind" and the "blacklisting of a dead girl and her diaries."

    In New York, the playwright Christopher Shinn — a member of the workshop's extended artistic ensemble, the Usual Suspects — also published a short essay online calling for more playwrights to come forward to protest the workshop's decision. "If I were a young playwright, I would get the message loud and clear: don't write political plays if you want to get them produced," Mr. Shinn wrote. "And if you write a play that gets scheduled, and then pulled for political reasons, don't expect the theater community to come out and support your freedom of expression. This is a ghastly message to send."

    Ms. Moffat said that she and Mr. Nicola were surprised by the reaction, in particular an op-ed piece by Ms. Viner in The Los Angeles Times that accused Mr. Nicola of "exercising prior censorship."

    "The charge of censorship is what's really distressing to us," Ms. Moffat said. "We didn't take the word postponement to mean censorship."

    Ms. Moffat added that the workshop still intended to present "Rachel Corrie" next season.

    But the Royal Court's statement yesterday made that seem less likely.

    "A postponement at any time, but especially at this late stage, is not the action of an organization committed to producing 'My Name Is Rachel Corrie,' " the statement read, adding that there was no assurance that the political climate in the Middle East would change anytime soon.



  3. #63
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    NYTW Con't

    More on Rachel Corrie

    Parabisis
    March 03, 2006

    http://parabasis.typepad.com/

    I'd love to write really long, complicated, in depth and intelligent analysis of this whole NYTW/Rachel Corrie fracas. After all, few political issues have been as important to me over the past few years as the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, which (along with the Florida Recount/Bloodless Coup) was a major part of my political re-awakening from several years of apathy.

    The problem is that George and Garrett are doing really masterful jobs of writing about it, and so I guess I'm just happy to be hosting a really great conversation about the politics involved.

    Garrett's post today I specifically recommend. And since he is asking "Broader Picture" questions, here's one to put to all you theater people out there:
    How much do you think this is about Jim Nicola polling some Zionist organizations, getting flack and retreating and how much of this is about the Board of NYTW? I have this sneaking suspicion that there is a story behind the story. One which we will never know unless someone leaks something.

    This is based on nothing other than my own experiences with theater politics, I have no inside information, I just have to think that the board is somehow involved in this.

    Speaking of which, here's a list of the board members of NYTW. This list includes Doug Wright, whose plays I Am My Own Wife and Qullis both deal with issues thematically that are, well, related to say the least. Hopefully if we are not hearing from him publicly, it is because he is handling it privately with the theater.

    UPDATE:

    Christopher Shinn wrote in a letter to Garrett Eisler's "Playgoer" which he has posted in full. I am re-blogging it here (hope there's no offense, Garrett) as I think it gets to the heart of the issue:
    I was so surprised by the silence after the Times article came out on Monday that I felt I must be missing something, that there must be a rational reason for the lack of response from my community. I remembered protesting with my colleagues outside of Manhattan Theatre Club when they pulled "Corpus Christi," and expected a similar if not identical response here -- as you point out, the circumstances are in some ways different. But the basic principle is the same.

    I decided to speak out on Thursday when I played the following imagined scenario out in my head: I am a young playwright, just finishing up with school and getting ready to write plays I hope will get produced. I consider myself a political playwright with aspirations to speak to the mainstream. New York Theatre Workshop, having produced Kushner and Churchill and many others, is a theatre I dream about one day being produced at.

    Monday morning I open up the New York Times. I read that "James C. Nicola, the artistic director of the workshop, said he had decided to postpone [My Name is Rachel Corrie] after polling local Jewish religious and community leaders as to their feelings about the work."

    In the same section of the paper, I read a review of another play about terrorism. The play gets a rave review but also alerts me, "Don't expect deep psychological portraiture or specific political insights."

    In the following days, I scour the internet, waiting to see how the theatre community responds to Nicola's decision to postpone "Rachel Corrie" because of its political content. But I find nothing.

    Instead I read that the play about terrorism sans "deep
    psychological portraiture or specific political insights" is moving to Broadway, and that "Rachel Corrie" will not be seen either on the Lower East Side or anywhere in New York.

    I have not seen or read Martin McDonagh's play, but the point is this: if I were a young playwright, I would get the message loud and clear -- don't write political plays if you want to get them produced. And if you write a play that gets scheduled, and then pulled for political reasons, don't expect the theatre community to come out and support your freedom of expression. This is a ghastly message to send.

    The kinds of plays our future playwrights produce will in part be a result of what values we are willing to support and defend in public forums. Plays do not happen in a vacuum; we have to speak out.



  4. #64
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    Wanna do something to tell NYTW that you disapprove of them cancelling My Name is Rachel Corrie?

    Why not sign this E-Petition

  5. #65
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    Thanks. 234 sigs as of just now.

  6. #66
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    And then there is this ( http://time.blogs.com/daily_dish/200..._year_old.html ) ...

    Eleven Year Olds as Martyrs

    08 Mar 2006

    Check out this video from Palestinian television. And weep.

    Shahada comes from the word similar to the Hebrew: "AID" or Witness.
    Shahada means two things.
    1. SHAHADA: —To die for Allah—one's death is "witness" that death was for Allah.
    2. SHAHADA: To make a statement to "testify" that "Allah is God and Mohammed his prophet"
    By using the same term as the "testimony" for death, the act of dying for Allah is elevated by the declaration of faith. Please watch the tape to understand more fully the use of the term, and its current application in Palestinian culture. You will hear children, a TV personality and clerics use the term to describe MARTYRDOM, and you will hear songs expressing Shahada as martyrdom as well.

    Please send this tape to your contacts so that everyone is very clear about the definition of this term.

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    Petition is over 350 signatures now.

  8. #68
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    A Scandal for Our Time:
    Rachel Corrie Ignites Uproar

    By John Heilpern
    NY Observer

    March 13, 2006

    http://www.observer.com/20060313/200...erntheatre.asp

    For me, the most disturbing aspect of the craven postponement of the production of My Name Is Rachel Corrie isn’t that it happened, but that it was the adventurous downtown New York Theatre Workshop that did the postponing.

    We have reached the unacceptable face of the New York arts scene when the theater that produced the original Rent—and, more to the point, the conscience plays of Tony Kushner and Caryl Churchill—should cave in like this to peculiar, unspecific pressure.

    We’ve heard about unnamed Zionist pressure groups and anonymous theater donors who object to the telling of a humane story about a utopian 23-year-old American girl who was killed by an Israeli bulldozer in the Gaza Strip as she protested the destruction of a Palestinian’s home. We’ve heard the theater’s cornered artistic director, James Nicola, talk darkly about realizing suddenly that there existed “a very edgy situation” that had taken root in the city “after Ariel Sharon’s illness and the election of Hamas.” We’ve heard it all—including the whirring sound of the New York Theatre Workshop backpedaling all it can to rationalize its weird decisions.

    But when I asked Mr. Nicola, as well as the president of the board of trustees and the New York Theatre Workshop’s managing director, exactly who—and how many—have been protesting about the play, no one could tell me. Mr. Nicola was in Italy last week, and he kindly responded to my questions via e-mail. Here’s the substance of our exchange:

    “How many members of the Jewish community in New York have made their feelings known to you opposing the play?”

    “I haven’t personally spoken to any members of the Jewish community who’ve opposed the play,” he replied. “I have spoken to many Jewish friends who have had degrees of discomfort with the topic.”

    “When you said in The Times that it was a ‘fantasy’ to present the piece as a work of art ‘without appearing to take a position’—what is the position that would prevent you from doing what you do?”

    “ … when I first read this play, it affected me deeply,” he said. “I thought it presented an opportunity to share with our community a powerful message that the good fortune to be born into comfortable circumstances comes with the responsibility of conscience. One must always be aware of the misery of others and take compassionate action.”

    He went on to explain that “there was much unsubstantiated speculation from different quarters on the circumstances of Rachel’s time in Gaza. It became apparent that by presenting the play on the current schedule this speculation might become the event itself instead of the play …. ”

    What do we have so far? Mr. Nicola hasn’t actually spoken to anyone who opposes the play. He has spoken to Jewish friends only “with degrees of discomfort with the topic.” The play itself affected him deeply. But he fears its production would open him and his theater to the accusation of “taking a position.” While he empathized with the tragedy of the young American activist with a conscience, the “unsubstantiated speculation” about the play might become bigger than the play. He therefore postponed the play.

    Almost all of us, I might add—including myself—had never heard of the play until its postponement. But in a tight production schedule, Mr. Nicola said, “our goal … was to enable ourselves more time to thoughtfully prepare.” He explained, for example, that Homebody/Kabul, Tony Kushner’s clairvoyant epic about Afghanistan, was twice delayed before its production.

    But Homebody/Kabul was pre-empted by a New York in darkest trauma and mourning (and Mr. Kushner agreed with the postponement). My Name Is Rachel Corrie is a one-woman show that was due to arrive later this month via its successful—and peaceful—run at the Royal Court Theatre. It’s about to transfer to the West End.

    Katharine Viner of The Guardian, the co-author of My Name Is … with the renowned actor Alan Rickman, believes the play has been censored here for political reasons. “The political climate, we were told, had changed dramatically since the play was booked,” she wrote, and asked, “If a voice like this cannot be heard on a New York stage, what hope is there for anyone else?”

    She also criticized Mr. Nicola for telling The Times that it wasn’t the people who saw the play he was actually worried about. “I don’t think we were worried about the audience,” he said. “I think we were worried that those who had never encountered her writing, never encountered the piece, would be using this as an opportunity to position their arguments.”

    Ms. Viner then asked, “Since when did theater come to be about those who don’t go to see it?”

    I asked Mr. Nicola: “Why do you think the play was produced without difficulty or apparent protest in London?”

    “I think it’s dangerous to speculate as to why an audience did or did not behave in a particular way, because I don’t know the London community nearly as well as I know my own,” he said.

    The London community either lives far more dangerously than the New York theater scene (and Mr. Nicola), or its nonprofit theater is more phlegmatically open to risk. England also possesses a strong element of anti-Zionism. But there’s a powerful Jewish community whose vigilant Jewish Board of Deputies has been known to prosecute all forms of anti-Semitism.

    “What do you think your decision is saying to the Arab community?” I asked Mr. Nicola.

    He replied, “We haven’t heard from anyone in that community, and I can’t speculate as to their reactions.”

    “Dangerous to speculate …. ” “Can’t speculate …. ” The enraged American Arabs with whom I’ve spoken find Mr. Nicola’s decision to postpone the play condescending and naïve. He talks a lot about “our community,” they point out, but it excludes them.

    “Who produces a play according to opinion polls?” asked the Palestinian-American comedienne Maysoon Zayid derisively. “I mean, what’s that? How many other plays have they polled? It’s insane. An American woman wrote the play. Who else has to be polled before we can hear her voice?”

    “Maybe they’re waiting for peace in the Middle East,” said Maha Chehaoui of the Nibras Theater, a small Arab-American theater company in New York. Ms. Chehaoui is one among her own marginalized community who, like Ms. Zayid, is making her voice heard.

    May the New York Theatre Workshop cease their poll-takings and ‘‘soundings” and listen to them. This has not been Mr. Nicola’s finest hour. We look to his theater—and all great theaters—to be our forum, pulpit, truth-teller and witness to a world that has lost its reason. Plays written in blood are not meant to be “acceptable” or “reach consensus.” That is for weaselly politicians. Give us plays of consequence, for heaven’s sake—not caution, compliance and fear.

    copyright © 2005 the new york observer, L.P.

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    Legendary Actor Vanessa Redgrave Calls Cancellation of Rachel Corrie Play an “Act of Catastrophic Cowardice”

    Democracy Now
    March 8th, 2006

    http://www.democracynow.org/article..../03/08/1620208

    A New York theater company is coming under criticism for backing out of an agreement to stage a play based on the life of U.S. peace activist Rachel Corrie. The play’s producers are calling the decision censorship...

    Rachel Corrie was 23 years old when she was crushed by the bulldozer. The play, entitled “My Name is Rachel Corrie”, is based on her writings before her death. James Nicola, artistic director of the New York Theatre Workshop, said "In our pre-production planning and our talking around and listening in our communities in New York, what we heard was that after Ariel Sharon’s illness and the election of Hamas, we had a very edgy situation. We found that our plan to present a work of art would be seen as us taking a stand in a political conflict, that we didn’t want to take."

    Last night we spoke with Oscar award-winning actress and activist, Vanessa Redgrave.
    VANESSA REDGRAVE: Well, I expect your viewers know that My Name Is Rachel Corrie was supposed to be opening in New York at the New York Theatre Workshop in the week beginning March the 20th, and the Royal Court Theatre, who are the producers of My Name Is Rachel Corrie, were raising money for the 50,000 pounds that was their share of the production, and Alan Rickman had underwritten it, and suddenly, the New York Theatre Workshop said something strange over the phone to the Royal Court, like maybe we’ve got to postpone this because we have consulted with a number of groups in New York City and we just don’t think – and then, I believe, from some other emails I’ve heard, the New York Theatre Workshop referred to “contextualization,” which nobody what that means.

    But the basic thing is that -- what's horrible about it is that, first of all, the text of this production – because it isn’t a play – was taken from Rachel's diaries. Rachel was a fantastic young American girl, who any country, anybody of any faith or race should be just so proud and thrilled that the human race can produce a girl like that. So the entire text was taken, edited from her diaries by Alan Rickman, who directed, and Megan Dodds, playing Rachel, and performed at the Royal Court Theatre to overwhelming critical wonder, let alone acclaim, and to all of us who went to the see the place once, twice or more.

    And the theater was full of young people, full of young people who hadn't been to the Royal Court Theatre before, but had the idea that this was a play about a young girl and therefore it might have something to do with something they might care about. In fact, I was with Alan one night in the Royal Court bar downstairs, and there were loads of young girls, and, of course, they were all coming up to Alan and saying, “Well, you know, we didn't know what to expect, but this is really -- this is extraordinary, extraordinary,” because they hadn’t even, some of them, been in the theater before, any theater before, let alone the Royal Court Theatre before.

    And Rachel, as anyone who’s seen this production, based entirely on her diaries until she was killed trying to defend these Palestinian lives, who were in this house, that an Israeli army bulldozer was heading for to demolish, and Rachel knew they were in the house, and so she just stood in front of the house like all the international volunteers have been doing and like some wonderful Israeli human rights people who I know have been doing, and the bulldozer kept coming, and her back was broken and she died.

    And it was canceled, although they used the word “postponed.” But we all know in the theater that if you use the word "postponed," you mean “canceled.” Let alone that there were jobs at stake, let alone that money that was at stake, the main issue, and now it’s important in a blacklisting kind of time where we are, but the terrible thing was that it was silencing that girl, and she was killed to be silenced. These volunteers, they stand, whether Israeli or American or from whichever country they were coming, in her case, American, they stand in front of a house or some children or a building to prevent the families being shot at and the houses being demolished, and they crawl out and wave white flags.

    So, her voice was silenced by an IDF bulldozer, a Caterpillar bulldozer, but then the Theatre Workshop in New York, they not only then silenced her by canceling this production, but at the end of the production, there's a little, little moment from a speech that Rachel made when she was ten years old at a school ceremony, and the children must have all been told to prepare speeches about what they cared about in the world, and Rachel made this speech about world poverty and the misery that poverty causes and her wish and desire and belief that the world could and would end poverty, and that this must be done. So the New York Theatre Workshop also silenced that little girl, too, who is speaking for everybody all over the world, whoever they are. It’s a very, very bad situation.

    AMY GOODMAN: So, this play did not -- this production did not cause controversy in London?

    VANESSA REDGRAVE: Oh, I suppose behind the scenes it did. In fact, I know it did, because the Royal Court Theatre were getting various letters and phone calls and so on, but you know, I mean, that's normal. What are we all about? Supposed to be a democracy where people can say what they want and make a phone call or write a letter saying, “I don't agree” or “This is awful” or whatever, but the Royal Court quite rightly didn't pay any attention at all, and the audiences packed in.

    AMY GOODMAN: And what about the argument that in this time of, I guess they had said, the Prime Minister Sharon in a coma and the Hamas election, that they didn't think it was the proper time?

    VANESSA REDGRAVE: Is that what they said? I hadn’t read that. Is that what they said?

    AMY GOODMAN: I think there was some mumbling about that.

    VANESSA REDGRAVE: Oh, well, I'm sure there’s a hell of a lot of mumbling behind, but it doesn't matter. I mean, the essence of life and the essence of theater is to communicate about lives, either lives that have ended or lives that are still alive, beliefs, what is in those beliefs, and this was an extraordinary young girl. It wasn’t -- she didn't take sides, although she went to defend Palestinians. It isn't about taking sides. It’s about defending human life. That's the basis of all human rights. That's the basis of what every country proclaims it stands for.

    I don't know of a single government that actually abides by international human rights law, not one, including my own. In fact, violate these laws in the most despicable and obscene way, I would say. But to cancel a play, and it wasn't really a play, to cancel a voice, because it was her voice, is an act of such catastrophic cowardice, because we are living in times when people are quite fearful enough about speaking out, for losing their career or, you know, whatever, and I think it’s -- people in the theater, in film, radio, television, dance, music, we have to do what we must do.

    AMY GOODMAN: Do you think times have changed since you won the Oscar about a quarter of a century ago and spoke out for Palestinians then?

    VANESSA REDGRAVE: Oh, yes. Times have changed, alright. The human rights movement, the nongovernmental organizations, the U.N. agencies have got stronger and stronger. There are communities all over the world who work with human rights groups. In contradistinction to this wonderful development, you have governments that are violating human rights. Now, if you have an artistic enterprise that then moves in and opens the door for all the censorship-directed policies of any government, then that becomes a conduit for silencing of an awful lot of people who have got things to say about many other things. So I’ve never known -- I must say, in my experience, I had the support of Jewish communities. I had the support of American Actors Equity, because, you know, efforts were made to silence me along the way, and I had to, you know, go to several court cases, in fact, and I did. I sued, and it was in the suing that the truth came out --

    AMY GOODMAN: Who did you sue?

    VANESSA REDGRAVE: -- that, actually, there’s many more people want the freedom to communicate, as long as it’s not blasphemous and destructive in a rotten way of other people, in other words, racist. I mean, those cartoons, for instance, that have shocked us all were racist. They were fascist in character, the cartoons of the Prophet with a bomb on his head. I mean, that's a very rightwing paper, Jyllands-Posten, and it’s not surprising that they published those cartoons as a sort of provocation. We have got these sort of fascist kind of things happening in the world, and we don't need any more of them.

    However, the play, because the New York Theatre Workshop canceled, there’s a producer in London, and it’s going to open in London at a major West End theater, My Name Is Rachel Corrie, and the press night’s March the 28th. So, while every attempt has been made to suppress by governments, I think we’ve got that reminder of what Shakespeare said, “The truth will rise, though all the earth o’erwhelm it, to men's eyes.”

    AMY GOODMAN: Vanessa Redgrave, the last time we saw you was in New York. You had come with a delegation, and you were headed to Washington speaking out about the detainees at Guantanamo. You were with your brother, Corin, as well, I believe, Moazzam Begg’s father --

    VANESSA REDGRAVE: Mr. Azmat Begg, and the lawyers of some of the European prisoners in Guantanamo.

    AMY GOODMAN: Moazzam Begg has since been released, but many others remain. What has come of the movement that you have helped to found?

    VANESSA REDGRAVE: Well, we were just a small hard-working part of it. Those lawyers everywhere, not only the wonderful American lawyers, like the Center for Constitutional Rights, like the American Civil Liberties Union, but many, many big firms have poured in to assist, because they are so horrified at what is being done in Guantanamo Bay, and the same is true, I would say, in a different way here in England, because we not only had a whole number of U.K. citizens in Guantanamo Bay, but we still have British families who have got U.K. fathers, brothers, sons, who are held in Guantanamo. So we have a particular responsibility to free them.

    Long, long ago we said, “If they have done anything wrong” -- this is what Moazzam’s father said, “If he has done anything wrong, let him be brought back and tried here in the U.K.” But, of course, they hadn't done anything wrong at all, and Guantanamo Bay was an interrogation center where torture is practiced, and when they went on hunger strikes starting last August -- I think there’s only two or three left now, they were force-fed and force-feeding is a torture, too, and it’s despicable that, in my view, that our government, the British government, has been complicit in these men being seized in the first place and then rendered from wherever to Afghanistan and then to Guantanamo.

    AMY GOODMAN: Have you seen Moazzam Begg since he has come home?

    VANESSA REDGRAVE: Oh, yes, of course. Yes, and we’ve marched together with the mothers and sisters and wives of the Guantanamo Bay prisoners.

    AMY GOODMAN: Cherie Booth, the wife of the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has spoken out against torture. What is your response to that?

    VANESSA REDGRAVE: To what? Torture or --

    AMY GOODMAN: To her, the wife of the Prime Minister of Britain speaking out. Does that surprise you?

    VANESSA REDGRAVE: Well, she’s saying the right thing, but you know, it’s not quite the issue. She has the right, and she has exercised that right to say her mind. I haven't read that she said this, but I believe you, anyway. She is a human rights Q.C. practicing in the bar. She would adhere to human rights law, but we have this phenomenon in which a very strange language is being used that is the product of brains that have convinced themselves that the United Nations is an impediment in our times, that international human rights law is an obstacle, that Amnesty International, that the United Nations Rapporteur on Torture, that even the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbor, that magnificent Canadian who presided over the Rwanda war crime tribunal and also Yugoslavia, that these are “pressure groups,” was the word used by our Home Secretary in August, and are transmitting and fueling a xenophobia in Britain with various statements that are made to certain media that can be absolutely counted upon for front-page xenophobic alarms, and so on and so forth. It’s a very, very bad time.

    The good thing is that there's more support for Amnesty International, for Human Rights Watch, for our own U.K. civil liberties organization, which is called Liberty, than there has ever been before, ever, ever, ever before.

    AMY GOODMAN: Vanessa Redgrave, you also have been focusing on the issue of Chechnya, and you have made a film, Voices of Dissent. Can you talk about that?

    VANESSA REDGRAVE: Yes, well, this is a 47-minute documentary, based primarily on an extraordinary Soviet dissident, an absolutely heroic guy called Vladimir Bukovsky, who was one of the young people in the 1960s who were inspired by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as was Nelson Mandela, as was Martin Luther King. And that generation of young Soviet people who campaigned for human rights in the Soviet Union were sent to gulags, they were beaten up in the K.G.B. cells, that’s the old Soviet intelligence services, for those young people of today who don't know what that was, and who were sent to the infamous Secret Services psychiatric prisons, where they were tortured both physically and psychologically. And it was thanks to Amnesty that a number of these dissidents, including Vladimir Bukovsky, were saved and brought out.
    So, through the voices of dissidents and of Russians today, and also Mr. Zakayev, who lives here and who has political asylum here in the U.K. and who was the main representative of the former president, Maskhadov, who was murdered by the Russian special forces in Chechnya last year, we tell in 47 minutes, thanks to Bukovsky and Mr. Zakayev and some of these wonderful Russians, we hear their view of today and how today happened and that the war against Chechnya was used to bring the real old K.G.B. secret services and the military and intelligence back into power both in the Kremlin and in the army and in business and even in culture, and the war in Chechnya helped that to happen.
    AMY GOODMAN: Vanessa Redgrave, Oscar Award-winning actor, speaking to us at her home last night in West London.

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    Amy Goodman- one of the only real news reporters left in America.

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    Excuses, equivocations, back-bends ... spinelessness:

    Theater Addresses Tension Over Play

    By JESSE McKINLEY
    NY Times
    March 16, 2006

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/16/th...es/16corr.html

    Today is the third anniversary of the death of Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old from Washington State who was killed by an Israeli Army bulldozer in the Gaza Strip as she tried to protect a Palestinian home. But the focus of many of the commemorations scheduled by supporters around the world is a small nonprofit stage, the New York Theater Workshop, that recently delayed a production of a British play based on her e-mail messages and diary entries, "My Name Is Rachel Corrie."

    Criticized by celebrities like Harold Pinter, Tony Kushner, Vanessa Redgrave and lesser-known theater artists for censorship and artistic cowardice, the leaders of the workshop blame the entire brouhaha on a simple misunderstanding. In an interview this week James C. Nicola, the workshop's artistic director, and Lynn Moffat, its managing director, insisted that they wanted only to postpone, not cancel, the show — despite declarations by the authors and the Royal Court Theater, the London troupe that initially produced the award-winning play, that the workshop pulled the plug on a done deal.

    Neither Mr. Nicola nor Ms. Moffat had seen the play in London and neither would say exactly who they spoke to before they decided to delay the show.
    Mr. Nicola originally said that he had spoken to "religious leaders" in making his decision; this week he said that the workshop did a "wide reaching out into the complexity of the community of New York" that included reading Palestinian views on Web sites. Mr. Nicola did say he had had a conversation with one board member who said that his rabbi had concerns about the play. An old friend, who is Jewish, also questioned the play's message.

    Ms. Moffat said that she and Mr. Nicola — who are not Jewish — took advice from members of their in-house artistic staff, as well as "colleagues and colleagues of colleagues."

    Given the sharply divided opinions of Ms. Corrie — idealistic or recklessly naïve, depending on one's political point of view — Mr. Nicola said on Monday that the workshop needed "more time to learn more and figure a way to proceed."

    Whether a misunderstanding or not, how the workshop, an artistically bold and popular company, found itself in such an embarrassing public jam still baffles Mr. Nicola and Ms. Moffat, who said they did not know the extent of the public relations damage and financial cost.

    But Ms. Moffat was adamant that no outside force — including donors, artists or potential business partners — had threatened the company. "Not one person said to us, 'Don't do the play,' " Ms. Moffat said.

    Although some details remain murky, what is certain is that discussions between the workshop and the actor Alan Rickman, who assembled the play with Katharine Viner, an editor at The Guardian in London, began late last year. Mr. Nicola said that he read the play in December and was impressed.

    "I read what I think the authors intended for me to read, which was that this life, in her own words, was an example to Americans, who are in some fog of avoidance right now," Mr. Nicola said, adding, "I thought that this, in the voice of this young, pure, innocent woman, was a very powerful thing to say right now."

    Meanwhile in January, the political situation in the Middle East intensified after a stroke suffered by the Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, and electoral victories by Hamas, the militant Palestinian group. At the same time, Mr. Nicola said his company's dramaturge raised some red flags about the symbolism of Ms. Corrie's tale.

    Said Ms. Moffat, "As we went deeper and deeper into it, we discovered what we didn't know was getting to be too great a burden."

    Stephen Graham, the founding trustee on the theater's board, said that one or two board members raised questions in mid-January. "We asked, 'Was it biased?,' and Jim said, "It's an important piece,' and we said 'O.K.,' " Mr. Graham recalled yesterday.

    Wayne S. Kabak, president of the board, said Mr. Nicola was asked whether the play's production had a political agenda and that he said no. "There was no pressure from the board on the theater whether to produce the play," Mr. Kabak said. "That's how this theater works."

    Still, by February Mr. Nicola and Ms. Moffat decided that the workshop might need to organize nightly postshow talk-backs to provide context as it had done with plays like Mr. Kushner's "Homebody/Kabul."

    Mr. Nicola said that they soon realized there was not enough time to work out the concerns and complete the general artistic process and informed the Royal Court on Feb. 17 that the workshop would delay the production. Mr. Nicola said that he had not heard from anyone at the Royal Court since.

    The Royal Court, which issued a statement in last week, offers a different account, saying the deal was definite, an opinion Ms. Viner seconded yesterday. "They read the play and liked it," Ms. Viner said. "And then they changed their mind." The play is running in the West End in London until May 7.

    Criticism of the workshop started slowly and gained momentum. Mr. Nicola, who had traveled to Italy to work on a project, returned to New York. The tenor was also raised when Mr. Nicola made vague comments about the delay's cause. Subsequently, other groups in New York have offered to stage the play.

    Last night artists were to read excerpts of Ms. Corrie's writing at a bar next to the workshop. Other events are planned. But there is also sympathy for the workshop's plight from other artistic directors who know the difficulty of trying to be artistically and politically relevant — as well as sensitive — amid powerful opinions and constituencies.

    Joseph V. Melillo, the executive producer of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, described himself as "a walking target," who is in a "vortex of information, constantly being bombarded" by people's views on the academy's work.

    Mr. Melillo added that he supported the workshop. "The last time I looked in the dictionary," he said, "postponement did not mean cancellation."

    Oskar Eustis, the artistic director of the Public Theater, said Mr. Nicola "has a tremendous amount of integrity," but that he also felt the idea of artistic freedom needed to be at the forefront.

    "I think it was a mistake for Jim to postpone the show and I'm sorry he did it," Mr. Eustis said. "But I think it's important in this moment that we try to help the workshop and defend the principle that we don't not do work because it's politically provocative."

    Mr. Graham, who founded the workshop in 1979, said he lamented the postponement, but understood how it happened. "I can see that every move that happened, step by step, was a rational decision," he said. "But the sum total, I regret."

    Copyright 2006The New York Times Company

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    Up to at least 705 signatures.

    The script can be preordered here:

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/185...Fencoding=UTF8

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    NYTW is back pedaling. I thought it was interesting that they did a "wide reaching out into the complexity of the community of New York." Now, that begs the question: how often do you do that for other shows? Of course, "Rent" was a show that helped put NYTW on the theater map. You watch any of the multitude of interviews with Nicola regarding that piece and he talks about his "commitment from the beginning."

    I do hope some other theater company stages the work. The great aspect of this is that the story of Rachel Corrie is getting some coverage. I remember seeing Patti Smith two years ago in Williamsburg after her new album, "Trampin", came out. She wrote a song on the album specifically about Rachel Corrie and talked about the incident. She's an intense performer and storyteller and you could hear a pin drop in the club as she told the story. Powerful stuff.

  14. #74

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    March 28, 2006

    Crucial Vote in Israel

    By GREG MYRE

    JERUSALEM, March 27 — Israelis vote Tuesday in their fourth national election in seven years, and it is widely billed as one of the most important — and least inspiring — ballots in Israel's history.

    Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his centrist Kadima Party, the overwhelming favorite, say they are prepared to fix Israel's eastern border in the next four years in what would be a wrenching process involving the removal of tens of thousands of Jewish settlers from the West Bank.

    As with all previous Israeli governments, Kadima faces the prospect of building a coalition with other parties.

    While the final shape of a new government probably will not be clear for weeks, a Kadima victory on its platform of unilateral territorial concessions would signal a major political realignment.

    Israel has already halted most of its dealings with the Palestinian Authority after the January election victory by Hamas, the radical Islamic movement, and that policy is expected to be further entrenched in the coming days.

    Ismail Haniya, the Palestinian prime minister-designate and leader of Hamas, presented his cabinet to the legislators on Monday, with the expectation that its members will be sworn in by Wednesday.

    But despite the high stakes, Israeli pollsters are predicting voter turnout of only around 60 percent, which would be Israel's lowest ever and more than 10 percentage points below the norm.

    Campaign rallies, which in the past have been raucous affairs drawing tens of thousands of people, have been far smaller and more sedate this time. Billboards and bumper stickers have been fewer.

    Some Jewish settlers removed from the Gaza Strip last summer say they are so disillusioned with the Israeli political system that they may not vote, though several parties are fighting to prevent additional withdrawals from the West Bank.

    "It does not matter who will be in power, it won't change anything for us," said Talya Eluz, 36, part of a group of evacuated settlers who have been protesting for months by living in a roadside tent camp in Yad Mordechai, just outside Gaza. "They forgot us, all of us."

    Commentators have been berating prospective nonvoters.

    "How can one explain eschewing voting in a country like ours, in which the issues on the table are nothing short of life and death?" wrote Amnon Danker, the editor in chief of Maariv, a leading Israeli daily.

    "The differences between the right, the center and the left are decisive and immediate: Should we withdraw to new borders, or not? Should we evacuate tens of thousands of settlers from thousand of homes and dozens of settlements, or not?"

    A low turnout could hurt Kadima, the party formed last November by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who suffered a major stroke in January and remains comatose. Some pollsters have described Kadima's support as soft and therefore more likely than its rivals' to reflect voter indifference.

    Nor is it clear whether Kadima yet has the machinery to get out the vote that more established parties have. The Labor Party, for instance, is counting on strong organization to help it gain a few extra seats.

    Opinion polls published Monday varied slightly, though the centrist Kadima remained well ahead in all of them, and is forecast to receive around 35 of the 120 seats in the legislature. Until about a month ago, polls predicted the party would win 40 or more seats, but its support has been slipping steadily.

    The nearest rival, the dovish Labor Party, led by a former trade unionist, Amir Peretz, is expected to win around 20 seats.

    Kadima will need partners for a coalition, and Labor, which supports the evacuation of Jewish settlements, is considered the most likely one.

    But Labor's price for a coalition, in terms of ministries and policies, will increase the more seats it wins, or the fewer Kadima takes.

    The hawkish Likud, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, is hovering around 15 seats. If the vote remains at that level — a loss of 23 seats since the last election — Mr. Netanyahu could face a challenge for party leadership from a former foreign minister, Silvan Shalom.

    Religious parties, which have often been crucial in previous coalitions, are not expected to do particularly well. Since Israel's founding in 1948, one of two parties — Labor on the left or Likud on the right — has won every election. Yet both have seen their support fall sharply.

    Labor's vision of a negotiated peace settlement with the Palestinians crumbled after peace talks during the 1990's failed to produce an agreement. With Hamas about to assume power, prospects for peace talks seem even more remote.

    Israel's security forces planned a huge deployment on Tuesday to prevent any Palestinian attacks, though the level of violence has been relatively low during the campaign. Soldiers were allowed to vote Monday.

    Likud has won past elections, including the last one, in 2003, with tough security policies toward the Palestinians and calls for Israel to retain its settlements in the West Bank and Gaza.

    Both positions have been pushed aside by the idea of Israel's unilaterally separating itself from the Palestinians, which has become the dominant theme in Israeli politics since Mr. Sharon first proposed the Israeli pullout from Gaza at the end of 2003.

    Today, especially since the Hamas victory, that idea appeals to many moderate Israelis who see no possibility of peace negotiations, yet view some of the settlements as a burden to be shed rather than defended.

    "The Kadima idea of unilateral action has popularity because it allows Israel to be proactive," said Dan Schueftan, a leading proponent of that policy and a senior fellow at the Shalem Center, a private research organization. "This approach doesn't give the Palestinians veto power over Israel. It doesn't allow them to paralyze us."

    Mr. Olmert has not said exactly where he would like to set a border, though he indicated he would take Israel's separation barrier in the West Bank as a starting point. The current route of the barrier leaves about 10 percent of the West Bank on the Israeli side.

    The Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, and his secular Fatah movement have sought a Palestinian state on all the land that Israel captured and occupied in the 1967 war — Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem as its capital.

    Hamas, however, has refused to recognize Israel's claim on any land in the region, saying only that it might consider a long-term truce if Israel withdrew to its 1967 borders.

    Hamas has always rejected negotiations with Israel, though Mr. Haniya told his legislators on Monday that Hamas was willing to hold talks with the so-called quartet: the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia.

    The United States and the European Union regard Hamas as a terrorist group and have refused to deal with the organization, though Russia invited a Hamas delegation to Moscow earlier this month.

    Hamas has largely observed a truce for the past year. But the group says it will not lay down its weapons, and Mr. Haniya said, "We will protect the right of our people to defend themselves against the occupation."

    Dina Kraft contributed reporting from Yad Mordechai for this article.

    * Copyright 2006The New York Times Company

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    What the elections mean - an array of views

    THE JERUSALEM POST Mar. 30, 2006

    Abe Foxman: The majority of public is saying that they agree with the idea that Israel has no peace partner and must act unilaterally to determine Israel's future. They are saying that the social agenda is important to them, something fairly new in Israeli elections. And, they are saying that they want the center to be the prevailing view but aren't sure about the individual leadership, which is understandable since Sharon was seen as the leader and Olmert has never stood before the public in this role. Finally, by the strong vote for smaller and special-issue parties, they are expressing less confidence in the system as a whole.

    Israel faces major strategic challenges - Iran, Hamas, US-Israel relations, another disengagement, social and economic questions. I hope the parties that are for Israel determining its own destiny will come together under Olmert to form a government, one that is strong enough to act. This may require concessions to Labor on social issues and horse-trading with other parties. This is democratic politics in order to assure that Israel can be strong in the face of enemies who mean business.

    The writer is national director of the ADL (New York).

    Jack Straw: I warmly congratulate Ehud Olmert and the Kadima party on their election victory. We will have new governments in place in both Israel and the Palestinian Authority within the coming weeks. I hope that both sides will do all they can to find a permanent solution to the conflict. I look forward to meeting Mr. Olmert soon to discuss how we can take the peace process forward.

    The writer is UK secretary of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs (London).

    Jonathan Rosenblum: The two major results of Tuesday's election were the marginalization of the political Right (32 seats even including Israel Beiteinu) and the repudiation of free-market economics and its avatar Binyamin Netanyahu.

    In forming a coalition, Ehud Olmert can expect expensive demands from Labor, Shas and the Pensioners. Where the money can be found to meet those demands - and for further withdrawals as well - is anybody's guess.

    If Amir Peretz - who understands nothing of economics and what he does understand is wrong - becomes finance minister, look for the stock market to plummet and the Israeli economy to resemble the stagnant economies of Western Europe.

    The writer, a columnist for The Jerusalem Post and Maariv, is director of Am Echad, an Orthodox media resource organization (Jerusalem).

    Yehuda Avner: Though dull, this election was exceptional in that our political leaders for once did not mean the opposite of what they said, but said what they actually meant. Hence, it was, indeed, a referendum on Ehud Olmert's plan to separate from the Palestinians by circling the wagons and slamming shut the gates of the security fence.

    This election did not empower him to go that far, nor will his coalition. It will be a coalition with a strong social agenda, but little coherence concerning Olmert's radical unilateral pull-out plan. If he, nevertheless, seeks to implement it, as Sharon did his, we shall have new elections in two years time.

    The writer is a veteran diplomat who has served on the staff of five prime ministers (Jerusalem).

    Itzhak Oren: The message of the election is: "We are sick and tired of all this. Even tired of protesting. Let us rest (Kadima) and/ or retire."

    I was surprised, but I always am. Next? Free kalnoit (electric vehicle used by the elderly) to every worker?

    The writer is a retired diplomat and senior research fellow at the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies (Ramat Gan).

    Seymour D. Reich: Israel Policy Forum congratulates Israel's Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the Kadima Party on their victory in today's election, one of the most important in Israel's history. The election amounted to a referendum on Israel's withdrawal from the West Bank. The Israeli voters have spoken. A clear majority endorses the platforms of those parties advocating withdrawal from most of the West Bank, either through negotiations or unilaterally.

    I'd like to see American Jews and Americans who care about Israel's future to heed the declared wishes of the Israeli people. IPF has explicitly and consistently supported a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is the preferred solution of most Israelis.

    The writer is president of the Israel Policy Forum (Washington).

    David Bedein: The Likud and National Union/ National Religious Party lost because they gave the impression to the Israeli public that they cared only about themselves. The outreach campaign of the "national union/national religious camp" articulately addressed the suffering of Israelis who were evicted from their homes in Gush Katif and Samaria, yet without a word as to the suffering endured by economically depressed Israeli development towns that border on Gaza in the Negev, who now live under daily artillery bombardment as a direct result of Israel's hasty retreat from Gaza six months ago.

    Likud sealed its fate in the spring of 2003 when Binyamin Netanyahu, as the minister of finance, slashed allocations for pensioners, for handicapped people and for children without providing a viable alternative.

    So there you have it. The Likud and the National Union/National Religious Party presented a clear, strong security program, yet both neglected to address the vital health, economic and social disaster of the indigent sector of Israeli society

    The writer heads the Israel Resource News Agency (Jerusalem).

    Aryeh Green: This is no vindication of Sharon. Israel voted against the corruption and economic callousness of Likud, against the economic socialism (and corruption) of Labor, against the ideological anti-religious stance of the hard Left and against the impractical inflexibility of the hard Right.

    And of course the majority of the electorate voted against Kadima and Olmert by voting for other parties. Perhaps a rejection of the Greater Israel ideology, this vote does not reflect any consensus on how, when and where this rejection should be expressed.

    The writer is a business consultant and former adviser to Natan Sharansky (Jerusalem).

    Stewart Weiss: The embarrassingly low voter turnout, coupled with the lack of an unequivocal mandate for any one party, indicates that Israel is still searching for a movement and a leader who can challenge, inspire and invigorate an increasingly cynical and disillusioned populace. Until then, we seem fated to playing trading places with the same folks and faces.

    The writer is director of the Ohel Ari Jewish Outreach Center (Ra'anana).

    Roy Wagner: The Israeli public's low attendance at this election expresses a profound insight: that democracy has very little to do with elections. As no single vote ever decided the allocation of any seat in the parliament, voting is essentially a symbolic act (just like "democratic elections" held by dictators).

    Democracy, unlike elections, is about the participation of citizens in setting agendas and making decisions, about civic action and non-governmental organization. As long as citizens are denied the opportunity to make a genuine difference, democracy is nothing but a euphemism.

    The many people who chose not to vote this time (notably Arab citizens) demonstrate a deep understanding of this fact.

    The writer is a board member of Kav LaOved - The Worker's Hotline (Tel Aviv)

    Shmuel Katz: I'm glad Olmert didn't do as well as expected, but I'm afraid that what the people of Israel are saying is very disturbing. There is a definite listlessness - as seen from the low voter turnout. Nobody seemed to be very concerned which way the race would go. No one expressed strong opinions about anything. All the while, Olmert never really spoke about what he expected from the Arabs - only what the Jews would give up.

    The listlessness I referred to reminds me of 1933, the year Hitler was elected, and the Oxford Union passed a resolution that "this house will not fight for king and country." Has that become our attitude as well?

    I had no suspicion that the Pensioners' Party would do so well. Many young people (probably left-wing) seemed to have found a way out of not voting by supporting the pensioners.

    As for the Likud, it should hide its head in shame! I had advised Uzi Landau to leave the Likud. He's a man of principle and doesn't belong there.

    The national camp has no Churchill. But it must nevertheless take a line straight from Jabotinsky: Tell the people to prepare for war with the Arabs, because the enemy is thinking of war all the time. And we need to go back to the basics and explain - to the West and to ourselves - what this struggle is about.

    The writer was a member of the first Knesset from the Herut Party and is an essayist and historian (Tel Aviv).

    Michael Boyden: Few anticipated the extent of Likud's decline or that, by contrast, the Pensioners' Party would enter the next Knesset. At the same time, the swift and steep fall in support for Kadima harbingers a weak government dependent upon its coalition partners to remain in power.

    It is, nevertheless, heartening to note that the social agenda, so often overshadowed by security considerations, is beginning to receive public attention. Unfortunately, Shas and United Torah Judaism are likely to be back in power and we can say good-bye for the present to any hopes of breaking the Orthodox stranglehold on marriage and divorce in Israel, which leaves hundreds of thousands of Israelis unable to marry in their own land.

    The writer is director of the Rabbinic Court of the Israel Council of Progressive Rabbis (Hod Hasharon).

    Isi Leibler: Weary politically disillusioned Israelis used people power to mortgage their social and economic concerns as exemplified by the extraordinary success of the pensioners, the punishment of the Likud and the substantial reduction of anticipated support for Kadima.

    Ehud Olmert will become prime minister of a center-left government which will concentrate on societal issues. But his success as a statesman will be determined by the extent in which he succeeds in healing relations with the anguished groups who bitterly opposed him.

    His priority must be to reverse the dark internecine hatred that threatens to engulf the House of Israel and restore harmony and unity. Given greater tolerance and genuine dialogue the issues which divide us can be substantially narrowed, especially now with the Hamas barbarians at the gate.

    The writer chairs the Diaspora-Israel relations committee of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, and is a veteran Jewish international leader (Jerusalem).

    Ellen W. Horowitz: Based on the incredibly low voter turnout, I would say that a rather large, apathetic or frustrated portion of the nation is saying that they simply don't care. Security via a strong Israel, as well as preserving the sanctity of the Land of Israel no longer seems to be at the top the of nation's agenda (for now), but it will continue to be a major priority for a consistent, spirited and significant segment of the country.

    I'm surprised and disappointed that the Israeli electorate was so easily duped by a relentless and treacherous media blitz against one of the more competent and concerned political leaders of this nation, and that the national camp remains too politically immature and unsophisticated to effectively and strategically unite in a crisis. We will need to establish a solid, organized and fierce opposition until the ever-erratic and shifting Israeli political landscape is ready to change again.

    The writer is a columnist for Arutz-7 and author of The Oslo Years: A Mother's Journal (Golan Heights).

    Yisrael Medad: On the one hand, any further unilateral retreat most certainly did not earn voter approval in these elections as Kadima failed to break 30 and Likud, the party that actually fulfilled disengagement, was abandoned. As Avigdor Lieberman's home is in Nokdim, coalition talks will be difficult. And on the other hand, Israel's population displayed a bit of immaturity in the surprise Pensioners win, the recipient of the protest vote. Stability still eludes our political system.

    The writer is a settler activist/spokesperson (Shiloh).

    Efraim Inbar: The new Israeli political map is more fragmented than ever. Kadima, with about 28 Knesset seats, much less than expected, will have difficulty maintaining a stable coalition for the next four years. It remains to be seen whether it will stay a united party. The relatively low support for Kadima affects also its ability to carry out a grand unilateral withdrawal.

    The writer is professor of political studies and director of the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies (Ramat Gan).

    Berel Wein: The demise of the haters. No more Shinui, Hetz, and the weakening of Meretz. In the stalemate of the election results one thing is clear. The Jewish people living here want Israel to be a Jewish state and not merely a "democratic" one.

    The writer is a rabbi and popular historian (Jerusalem).

    Shlomo Avineri: Voters are saying that both Labor's outstretched hand and Likud's iron fist failed to achieve an agreement with the Palestinians, hence further disengagement ("convergence") is the only game in town.

    I was surprised by the Pensioners' List success: apparently, a lot of Labor old-timers, who became alienated from their own party, still didn't feel comfortable voting for Kadima, and chose the Pensioners as the default option.

    What next? Hopefully a quick setting up of a coalition based on Kadima-Labor-Shas, going ahead with disengagement as well as rectifying some of Netanyahu's harsh Thatcherite policies.

    The writer is professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Jerusalem).

    Avraham Feder: No, this is not Chelm. It is Israeli democracy reflecting bits of ideology, political opportunism, gut feelings, thirst for revenge and ethnic pride.

    Our current "father-dictator" - lying in a coma - has bulldozed his way through our political landscape creating a virtual party which will now try to muddle through the political center.

    Will it become a real center with a national-religious Right and a social-democratic Left in constructive opposition? Who knows?

    In the meantime, our neighbors have voted Hamas and the world including the US is still interested in its own interests. Therefore - like the old song - let us praise the Lord but continue to pass the ammunition.

    The writer is rabbi emeritus of Moreshet Israel (Jerusalem).

    Elwood McQuaid: The people of Israel have clearly turned a new page in the history of the nation. Old alliances have folded and a new political era is at center stage. To say that I was surprised at the outcome is indeed an understatement, but I tend to believe it a reflection of public confidence rather than concession. What's next? Hoping they are correct.

    The writer is Editor-in-Chief and Director of Publications and Media for the Friends of Israel, Bellmawr, New Jersey.

    Shira Leibowitz Schmidt: There is a loss of trust in the large, dominant parties ("a plague on both your houses") and preference for small, sectorial parties as the repositories of our hopes. There was indifference to the future of the State of Israel by Arabs and Jews, demonstrated by low turnout, collapse of the Shinui and Likud parties, and the rise of the ersatz Kadima party (which has no institutions, no past, no real substance, no future).

    In contrast, and paradoxically, the haredi sector showed keen interest in the future of the Zionist state, with the Ashkenazi and Sephardi haredi parties increasing (UTJ from five to six, Shas from 10 to 13).

    The worthlessness of polls was confirmed by the seven mandates for the Pensioners' Party, for which the surveys predicted zero, and by the underestimates for Shas.

    The vote for the innocuous Pensioners confirms the lack of interest by masses in the geo-political future of the Jewish state. In a "morning after" conversation with religious Arabs, they told me that more than half their village did not bother to vote - something that surprised me.

    "Someone who troubles to prepare for Shabbat will have something to eat on Shabbat." The Jewish religious parties for decades have not only preached but actually practiced their platform: education, family values, respect for their leaders, and more education. Therefore they will continue to increase their impact on the future, the three religious parties having garnered fully one quarter of the total Knesset seats.

    The writer, a translator, is affiliated with the Shas school network and the Haredi College in Jerusalem.

    Hebrew press: The National Religious Party newspaper Hatzofeh says the election results "constitute a very serious blow to the Right," and warns that "these elections are liable to bring about additional expulsions." The editors believe "there should be no doubts; we are heading into a difficult period."

    The mass-circulation Yediot Aharonot says: "Today, regardless of the result of the Knesset elections, we should consider the significance of political involvement in the period in between elections. It is much more important and influential than the question of whether we bothered - on the public holiday that we received - to leave home and put an envelope in a box."

    Maariv's Avi Betelheim writes that "The real surprise is [Tuesday's] mighty achievement of the Pensioners' Party [and] was the dimensions of the protest vote of the Israeli voter who expressed his view about what is happening in our political arena in the most sane way possible. Not only pensioners, but people who are chronologically far removed from this definition, chose the option of the Pensioners' Party out of feelings of abhorrence at Israeli politics and disgust at the widening circle of corruption in recent years."

    Saeb Erekat (chief Palestinian negotiator): Two months ago Palestinian voters managed to confuse and surprise Israelis. Now Israeli voters managed to confuse and surprise us.

    Mahmoud Abbas (PA chairman): The result was expected. But what is more important now is that Olmert changes his agenda and abandons his unilateral plans to fix the borders.

    Amr Moussa (Arab League secretary-general): It's not comprehensible, leaving the issue of Jerusalem or accepting unilateral withdrawals according to Israeli whims. This will only lead to worsening matters.

    It is impossible to accept Israeli proposals that we have seen so far. Is there anything new the Israeli government can come up with? Many Arabs don't think so, so the Arab world has to look at all the possibilities.

    Ismail Haniyeh (Hamas prime minister): We said from the beginning that any Israeli step that will impose facts on the ground or undermine Palestinian rights, such as creating so-called temporary borders, is rejected and unacceptable policy.

    This article can also be read at http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satelli...cle%2FShowFull

    Copyright 1995-2006 The Jerusalem Post - http://www.jpost.com/

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