American Booksellers for Free Expression (ABFE) has joined a statement protesting a decision by the Miami Jewish Community Center (JCC) to cancel a play after only four performances because of complaints that it is critical of Israel.
The JCC’s Cultural Arts Theater was staging Crossing Jerusalem, a play by Julia Pascal, a British playwright who is Jewish. The play, set in Jerusalem during the Palestinian uprising in 2002, is a family drama that attempts to reflect the complex political realities of the Arab-Israeli conflict. In anticipation of the controversy the play might create, the audience was invited to express their views after each performance. However, some critics remained unsatisfied. “....You cannot have a fair discussion when the play is so unbalanced and expresses things that are so far from the truth,” one said.
On February 16, Gary J. Bomzer, the president and chief executive officer of the JCC, announced in a letter that the play had been canceled because members of the JCC believe its message is “inappropriate and troublesome.” “We have unintentionally caused pain to many in the audience; for this we are sorry,” he wrote.
In response, ABFE, a division of the American Booksellers Association, joined a February 23 statement by the National Coalition Against Censorship that was signed by the Dramatists Legal Defense Fund, Arts Integrity Initiative, and dozens of artists, dramatists, and theater advocates. “U.S. cultural institutions claim a key role in maintaining the openness of social and political debate.... The Miami JCC is failing its membership when it betrays core cultural values of open debate by succumbing to demands by some aggrieved patrons who don’t like a work of art,” the letter said.