October 11, 2010

Joshua Sobol suspended for speaking out against settlements


Under attack, but still smiling

Joshua Sobol

In a 9/22 New York Times article, Isabel Kershner reports:

Peace Now, the leftist Israeli group that advocates a two-state solution and monitors settlement activity, took a planeload of Israeli members of Parliament, reporters and photographers on an aerial tour of the northern West Bank on Monday.

The group’s goal was to give a bird’s-eye view of the growth of the settlements and outposts across the hilltops, and to argue that if the settlements do not stop spreading, the land between the Jordan River and the sea will soon become indivisible for all practical purposes, and the two-state option will cease to exist.

One of the passengers on the flight was renowned novelist, playwright and director Joshua Sobol, whose first novel to be translated into English, Cut Throat Dog, is being published by Melville House as the first title in its new Melville International Crime imprint. Kershner writes:

The acclaimed Israeli playwright and director Joshua Sobol also joined the flight, weeks after signing a theater artists’ letter containing a pledge not to perform in a new theater in the settlement of Ariel.

He said the flight was like an M.R.I., and the results as seen through the window were “frightening.”

“The sickness,” Mr. Sobol said, referring to the settlements, “is spreading and metastasizing.”

Cut Throat Dog by Joshua Sobol

The statements were not without consequence. After making his statements, Sobol was suspended from his position at the Ma’aleh School of Film, Television, and the Arts. Peace Now provided an English translation of the story as reported in the Israeli paper Yedioth Ahronoth, using the Hebrew spelling of Sobol’s name:

Last night, the religious film school in Jerusalem, Maale, decided to suspend the playwright, Yehoshua Sobol, who teaches there, over statements that he made during a Peace Now flight over Judea and Samaria this week. “You have blocked the channels of dialogue between us,” Neta Ariel, the school’s director, wrote to the playwright….

Yehoshua Sobol said that he loved teaching at the school a great deal. “I loved the students. I admired their level and their diligence, and I had an excellent relationship with the administration,” he said. “Perhaps the time has come for the controversy over the settlements to come to the surface, and that is my response. And if it costs me this workplace, then I am sorry. But sometimes a person has to go with his truth to the end.”

Sobol is currently on tour in the U.S. promoting Cut Throat Dog and lecturing on “the immanent conflict between constructive and destructive drives and forces in Judaism.” Tonight Joshua Sobol joins Hilary Davidson (who, like Sobol, is an established writer publishing a crime novel for the first time) for a double reading at the McNally Jackson Bookstore.