Theater says show canceled because it sold only 3 tickets

Nixed musical about soldiers’ testimony on West Bank rights violations sparks outcry

67 culture figures decry Beersheba theater for scrapping play that showcases stories gathered by left-wing group Breaking the Silence; culture minister resists calls to intervene

Actresses in a trailer for the musical "Basic Instinct." (Screen capture/Facebook)
Actresses in a trailer for the musical "Basic Instinct." (Screen capture/Facebook)

Dozens of figures from Israel’s cultural scene signed a letter released Wednesday calling on Culture Minister Chili Tropper to intervene following the cancellation last month of a performance of a musical featuring the testimonies of female IDF soldiers serving in the West Bank that were collected by a left-wing group.

An additional letter with a similar message was sent by an umbrella organization of Israeli theater groups, Channel 12 news reported.

The musical, titled “Basic Instinct,” features three actresses in pink versions of Israel Defense Forces uniforms sharing the experiences of female soldiers who served in the West Bank.

The accounts were gathered by Breaking the Silence, a left-wing organization that collects and shares testimonies of alleged human rights violations against Palestinians from former Israeli combat soldiers who served in the West Bank.

The musical has been performed across Israel since 2019 without issue, and had been scheduled to open at the Beersheba Fringe Theater on June 16, but was canceled that morning.

The theater said that it scrapped the performance after it only sold three tickets, the Ynet news site said.

Illustrative: A Breaking the Silence banner outside the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, on July 1, 2017 (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

However, the letter from 67 leading cultural figures, including singer Aviv Geffen and author Etgar Keret, accused the theater of canceling the show following political pressure from “radical right-wing forces” allegedly placed on both the venue and on Beersheba Mayor Ruvik Danilovich.

The right-wing organization B’Tsalmo has taken credit for the play’s cancellation.

“Sometimes you need to know how to stand up to bullying and silencing attempts,” the letter read. “This is an extremely important opportunity to fight for the principle of freedom of expression.”

In a correspondence between Yael Tal, one of the play’s creators, and the manager of the Fringe Theater that was attached to the petition, the venue noted that it had canceled the performance due to the outcry that made it “simply not worth it for us” to put on the performance, Channel 12 reported.

“We are sorry that various organizations and political factors have turned the theater into a battleground,” the message read.

Tropper, the culture minister, said in response that he would not intervene in the matter because while he respects freedom of expression, “it does not seem to me that you would want to live in a country where the culture minister interferes in certain plays.”

Culture Minister Chili Tropper in Tel Aviv, April 6, 2022 (Avshalom Sassoni‎‏/Flash90)

“Today it’s me, tomorrow someone else with different opinions will sit in my place,” Tropper said.

Likud MK Miri Regev, his predecessor as culture minister, had not shied away from intervening in such matters, championing a so-called Culture Loyalty Law that would have allowed her to withhold public funding for cultural organizations “that are working against the principles of the state.”

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