Israel may nix funding for theater over Arab actor’s Jordan Valley boycott

Arab-Israeli actor Norman Issa. Credit: Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung via Wikimedia Commons.

( Israeli Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev issued a strong rebuke of Arab-Israeli actor Norman Issa on Tuesday after Israel Hayom reported that he was unwilling to join his fellow cast members in the play “Boomerang” when they perform in the Jordan Valley.

Issa cited his objection to Israel’s presence in the area, which came under Israeli control following the 1967 Six-Day War. In response, Regev threatened to cut off state funding for the Jaffa-based Elmina Theater, which Issa runs.

“I was disappointed to learn of Issa’s decision not to appear in the upcoming production of ‘Boomerang’ in the Jordan Valley under the auspices of the Haifa Theater,” Regev wrote on Facebook. “Issa’s comments appear divorced from his philosophy of coexistence, which he has touted time and again. If Issa refuses to retract his statements, I plan to reassess my ministry’s support for Elmina Theater, which he operates.”

On Tuesday, Israel Hayom reported that “Boomerang” was originally set to play in a Jordan Valley venue on June 18, but that the plan was shelved because of Issa’s protest. Regev said she planned to summon the actor to her office as part of the disciplinary action.

“Elmina and the principles of coexistence it espouses are important; I consider coexistence to be important. I am in favor of a wide spectrum of views as part of this coexistence. Similarly, someone who talks the talk on coexistence must also walk the walk,” she said.

Issa said no one could force him to appear against his will.

“As an Israeli Arab, would you expect me to appear in a disputed venue, against my conscience?” he wrote on Facebook. “My decision is not unheard of—it has been successfully dealt with in the past. Many years ago, Israeli theaters agreed on a formula: productions will appear everywhere, but actors, Jewish and Arab alike, would be replaced by a stand-in if they refused to perform for conscientious reasons.”

Posted on June 10, 2015 .