(June 6, 2018 / JNS) Veteran playwright Yehoshua Sobol sparked controversy on Tuesday when he expressed support for Palestinian kite terrorism, which has caused dozens of fires and millions of dollars in agricultural damage in southern Israel. Still, he is not retracting his remarks.
Israel Hayom reported Sobol’s statement to the press Monday at the Olive Tree Forum, a joint meeting of Jewish and Arab artists, in which he said, “I tried to imagine myself as a kid in the Gaza Strip these days, my neighbors being killed or wounded or family members coming home disabled or as corpses. As a kid, what would I do?” he asked.
“I would send over a fire kite,” he stated.
“I remember myself as a child in the Sharon [north of Tel Aviv] in the 1940s. We flew kites—not incendiary kites because we weren’t desperate. But when a person is desperate, when youth are desperate, they don’t care about anything. They’ll leave scorched earth,” said Sobol.
Since the Hamas-organized riots on the Gaza border began on March 30, some 600 flaming kites have been released in Israel’s direction. Israel has intercepted about 400 through various methods, but some 200 landed and sparked fires. Nearly every day, Fire and Rescue Services and Jewish National Fund personnel battle fires in forests and fields, which have cost millions of dollars’ worth of damage, in addition to brush fires.
Sobol’s remarks sparked outrage on social media, with users slamming what they called his support of terrorism.
The political echelon also responded. Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis called the author’s words “another pathetic comment by those who belong to the camp that for years preached Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in exchange for ‘peace.’ ”
Akunis said that “the remarks from Sobol and those who call themselves ‘intellectuals’ prove time and again who is cut off from reality, and who always align themselves with the Arab enemy. It’s lucky that people with twisted opinions like Sobol are disappearing from the Israeli people, and the sane majority loathes them.”
Still, none of the vitriol against him prompted Sobol to retract his comments. In an interview to Army Radio on Tuesday, Sobol said “it’s really easy to attack me, and I understand the outrage because we’ve gotten used to thinking that it’s animals, not people, on the other side of the [Gaza border] fence.”
Sobol said he was aware of the criticism and accepted it because he stood by what he said.
“I don’t support setting fire to fields, and it hurts me to see it, but it also hurts me to see the suffering on the other side,” he said.
“We have to start a dialogue, and we have to talk. Things can always be solved through dialogue,” he added.
Sobol also disparaged the ecstatic celebrations over singer Netta Barzilai’s recent victory in the 2018 Eurovision song competition, saying, “In Gaza, 60 people were killed, and here people were celebrating the Eurovision win in Rabin Square until the sun came up. It’s inconceivable. How does that make us look?”