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It's chic to be anti-Israel: Israeli-born academic's play at Capital Fringe
July 8, 2009 by Howard Blas

Doron Ben-Atar is difficult to place in a neat category. The former Macabi Tel Aviv basketball player was born in Israel, chairs the history department at Fordham University in New York, is a member of the school’s Middle East Studies and Women’s Studies programs and is working on his third play.

His Peace Warriors will premier July 10 at the Capital Fringe Festival in the District. The festival presents one-act plays, comedies, dramas, musicals, dance, puppetry, improvisation, clowns, hip-hop, jazz, poetry, mime and more through July 26.

Ben-Atar, of New Haven, Conn., describes Peace Warriors as “a dramatic exploration of the fashion of taking anti-Israel positions among the American intellectual elite.” In the play, four academics and one teenage girl “flaunt their peace activism. A visit from an old family friend sparks rivalries and hidden affairs.”

Ben-Atar wrote Peace Warriors “because we are living through a worrisome dramatic rise in global anti-Semitism. Leading the charge is the intellectual elite who are demonizing Israel and delegitimizing its existence.”

He reports on the situation on college campuses where professors “teach students that Israel is the new Nazi state, and that terrorism against Jewish targets in Israel and around the globe is a justifiable anti-colonial act of resistance,” and where Israeli academics are subject to boycotts and harassment.

Perhaps ironically, Ben-Atar is himself a member of “the peace camp” in Israel and is opposed to what he calls “the occupation” and “settlement policy.”

“But the conversation about this subject is reduced to a vile shrill,” reports Ben-Atar. “Settlers are the most demonized group in the world. Not to acknowledge their humanity and the life they live — that they live in constant threat — is not fair.”

He feels it is ironic that members of the peace camp know more Palestinians than “settlers,” whom they imagine are “beastly violent fascist fanatics.”

A call from the Hillel director at Yale University, requesting that Ben-Atar house a troupe of coexistence actresses, inspired the play. Ben-Atar recalls, “The Israeli Arab refused to stay at our house because she hated the Israeli activist and could not bear to be in the same house with her.”

Director Michael Behar notes, “This show is about coexistence, not only with others whose views may different, but with many elements in our own person.”

Ben-Atar’s first play, Behave Yourself Quietly, based on the book he co-wrote with his mother, Roma Nutkiewicz Ben-Atar, about her experience at Auschwitz, was performed for one night in 2007 in New Haven. Ben-Atar’s next play is set at an old age home and looks at the question of “who are the real children?”

Another Jewish-themed show in the festival is Jay Nachman’s I’m Not Oedipus, a comedy about death, full of themes of religion, sex and rock ‘n’ roll. Publicity for the show by Nachman, public relations manager at the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia, describes it as “[a] cheery little tale about the death of the performer’s mother, laced with themes of religion, sex, loss, and rock & roll. The perfect show for anyone who has, or has ever had, a mother.”

Peace Warriors will be shown at Warehouse-Mainstage in the District on July 10 at 6pm, July 12 at 11am, July 23 at 9pm and July 25 at 1pm I’m Not Oedipus will be at the DC Arts Center on July 10 and July 11 at 9:15pm. All tickets are $15 (plus a one-time purchase of a $5 Fringe button) and can be purchased at http://www.capitalfringe.org or by calling 866-811-4111.
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