D.C. theater retools controversial play about Palestinians

A Washington Jewish theater funded in part by the local Jewish federation scaled back its plans to produce a controversial play concerning how Palestinians were treated when Israel became a state.

Rather than showing the entire play, Theater J instead will present “The Admission” as a workshop in which viewers will be invited to give their feedback. A spokesman for the Washington DC Jewish Community Center, which houses Theater J, said the play will be used as a platform for discussion on how difficult subjects are treated.

Washington DC JCC officials told the Forward that outside pressure had nothing to do with the decision.

A small group known as COPMA — Citizens Opposed to Propaganda Masquerading as Art — in an advertisement in the Washington Jewish Week and an email campaign on several Jewish listservs urged potential donors not to give to either Theater J or the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.

Robert Samet, COPMA’s chairman, said his group was not against showing the play and does not believe in censorship. However, he said his group was opposed to any Jewish federation funds being used to put on the play, which is set to open in March 2014.

“The Admission” is a fictionalization of a controversy over whether Israeli troops carried out a massacre in Tantura, a small village on the coast, during the 1948-49 Israel Independence War.

Playwright Motti Lerner, an Israeli native, said this is not the first time he has been accused of writing anti-Israeli plays and added that he was proud to live in Israel, where such works that allow dialogue are permitted. — jta