Simon Wiesenthal Center denounces ‘Israel-bashing’ Romeo and Juliet play

Set in contemporary East Jerusalem, production includes uniformed Israeli soldiers lording over Palestinians

William Shakespeare (John Taylor, National Portrait Gallery, Wikimedia Commons, public domain)
William Shakespeare (John Taylor, National Portrait Gallery, Wikimedia Commons, public domain)

A new adaptation of William Shakespeare’s famous play Romeo and Juliet was denounced by the Simon Wiesenthal Center for its perceived “Israel-bashing.”

The play, currently in previews at Theatricum Botanicum in California’s Topanga Canyon, is set in contemporary East Jerusalem and includes uniformed Israeli soldiers lording over Palestinians. In the play, a character depicting an Israeli soldier executes an unarmed Palestinian woman at close range.

“Shakespeare’s classic love story has been hijacked to demonize the State of Israel,” Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the Jewish NGO’s associate dean, said in a statement. “We do not believe in censorship, but this production has degraded a classic play into a heavy-handed, anti-Israel propaganda platform.”

“As currently staged, Romeo and Juliet is a ‘lose-lose’ proposition,” Cooper continued. “The play loses, the public loses and the truth loses. The genius of Shakespeare should be used to illuminate the human condition and promote understanding of issues, not the distortion of reality,” he concluded.

Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, SWC Director of Interfaith Affairs, issued a complaint over the production to Steve Zimmer, president of Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education.

“The production could easily have contemporized the play without feeding an ugly myth about Israelis, whose standard procedure is to use crowd-dispersal tools — but not live ammunition — in dealing with crowds hurling large stones that kill and maim,” Rabbi Adlerstein said. “The decision to turn Israel into a beast was malicious, and should not be countenanced by LA theatergoers.”

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