Artists boycotting other artists is a form of professional suicide
Theater artists boycotting theater at the Lincoln Center
An open letter published by the anti-Israel group Adalah-NY and signed by over sixty artists has asked the Lincoln Center to cancel scheduled performances of David Grossman’s play To the End of the Land.
The signatories include, among others, the Pulitzer Prize–winning playwrights Tracy Letts, Lynn Nottage, and Annie Baker; the acclaimed director Sam Gold; actress Greta Gerwig; musician, Roger Waters; and the playwright-actor Wallace Shawn and his My Dinner with Andre costar Andre Gregory.
Their call for a boycott is not based on the content of the play which has an anti-war message. Instead, they are calling for a cancellation because they do not agree with the policies of the Israeli government.
The Lincoln Center has wisely and firmly denied the request to cancel.
This growing support among artists for a cultural boycott of Israel creates a clear and present danger to the creative community itself.
Cultural boycotts beget cultural boycotts.
Artists who support cultural boycotts may soon be targeted themselves. Witness a new petition to boycott musician, Roger Waters, the self-anointed leader of the boycott pack which at the time of this writing has over 4600 signatures.
In addition, The Israel Group has initiated a campaign to boycott the signatories to the Lincoln Center as well as other Israel boycott supporters such as Emma Thompson and Stephen Hawking.
The artist community has long recognized the importance of the US funded National Endowment of the Arts (NEA).
Just a few months ago, when there was concern that support for the NEA might be eliminated in the new federal budget, members of the community voiced their opposition in national publications across the country. They championed fiscal support for the arts as essential to cultural exchange and a lynchpin of democracy. They linked government sponsorship to the future of freedom of artistic expression.
At no time did anyone in the artist community lobby for a defunding of the program because they disagreed with the policies of the present US administration.
If lack of government funding for the arts erodes freedom of artistic expression and cultural exchange; surely, cultural boycotts do far more so.
That which is most treasured by the artist community – freedom of expression and cultural exchange – is being undermined by the community itself.
Boycotting artists from one country because the rest of the world doesn’t like the policies of its leadership sets a precedent that can easily be applied to others.
To the signatories of the Lincoln Center letter, I say be careful what you wish for.