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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Rooted in fantasy, Peace is impossible — Critical judgment crucial

Zealotry deliberately sidesteps truth, camouflages an obedience to narrow, often-private interests

From Democracy Now interview today with playwright Tony Kushner to whom City University of New York offered, tabled amidst “Jewish” controversy, then reoffered an honorary degree to be conferred in June
Excerpt, editing, re-reporting, comment by Carolyn Bennett

Kushner has an acute sensibility for complexity and the far reach of politics and religion, historical verity and reality. These are some of his comments bearing on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and the imperative adult duty in relation to government policy.

U.S. policy in the Middle East “based on right-wing fantasies and theocratic fantasies and scripture-based fantasies of what history and on-the-ground reality tell us,” he says, “is catastrophic and is going to lead to the destruction of the state of Israel.”

Zealots, Zionists, those who censor and attempt to silence critics are not defending Israel, he said. “They are not supporting it.” Exerting “a tremendous influence in Israel and [supporting] right-wing politicians who, I think, have led the country into a very dark and dangerous place — they are in fact … causing a distortion of U.S. policy regarding Israel and a distortion of the internal politics of Israel itself.”

People who are “really concerned about the continued existence of Israel …  should take a look at what has happened in the past, going all the way back to 1947 and 1948, and what actually happened when the state of Israel was founded. Try to understand the reality that the country faces now. Understand the realities that the Palestinian people face — because it is impossible to shape a legitimate and successful path toward peace based on rhetoric and demagoguery and fantasy.”

“When they look at reality, adults should be critical. That’s [part] of the job of being an adult.”

Sources and notes

“EXCLUSIVE: Playwright Tony Kushner Speaks Out on CUNY Controversy, Academic Freedom and Israel,” May 10, 2011,

“I am in no way an enemy of the state of Israel,” Kushner said in that interview with Amy Goodman. “I am in fact a vocal and ardent supporter of the state of Israel but I don’t believe that criticism of state policy means that one seeks the destruction of a state.  I’m Jewish [and] very proud to be a Jew. … I am very aware of the existence of anti-Semitism in the world. I think it is still a virulent and serious threat to the existence of the Jewish people. I think that it is very difficult, for that reason, to discuss what feel like sort of inter-family politics and political choices and strategies in a world that feels… hostile to the continued existence of the Jewish people. I think anti-Semitism is something that has to be taken very, very seriously.

Tony Kushner

Anthony Robert ‘Tony’ Kushner (b. 1956 in New York City, formative years in Lake Charles, Louisiana) is a U.S. playwright and screenwriter.

His play ‘Angels in American: Millennium Approaches and Perestroika,’ was awarded the 1995 Joseph Jefferson Award for Play Production in Chicago, Illinois. ‘Angels in America: Parts I and II,’ at the Journeymen Theatre in Chicago, Illinois, was awarded the 1998 Joseph Jefferson Award for Play Production; in 1993 ‘Angels’ won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. His musical, ‘Caroline, or Change,’ at the Court Theatre in Chicago, Illinois, was awarded the 2009 Joseph Jefferson Award for Best Production of a Musical in a Large Venue. Pierre Corneille and Kushner’s play ‘The Illusion,’ at the Court Theatre in Chicago, Illinois, received a nomination for a 2010 Joseph Jefferson Award for Production of a Play (Large).

In 2006, Brandeis University awarded Kushner an honorary doctorate amidst controversy. “Conservative members of the Brandeis student body, faculty, staff, and alumni had objected to Kushner because they perceived his co-authorship of ‘Munich’ (2005) and some of his stated views to be anti-Israel and anti-Semitic.” Kushner reportedly responded with a letter to the editor of The Forward, a Jewish newspaper, stating that “he is ‘a proud Jew, a Jewish-American man’ who ‘love[s] Israel’ but whose ‘opinions about Israel are characterized by a serious ambivalence.’”

In a general audience U.S. magazine, he was quoted saying that “his statements about Israel have been taken out of context and ‘anybody who thinks there’s a simple line to be taken on the Middle East is an idiot.’” 

Kushner is scheduled to receive a City University of New York (CUNY) honorary degree in June of this year. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tony_Kushner; http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1065785/bio

The playwright’s latest play, now opening at the Public Theater in New York City, is “The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures,” http://www.publictheater.org/component/option,com_shows/task,view/Itemid,141/id,1017


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