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“Catastrophically Misguided and Incomprehensible Policy”–Renowned Jewish Playwright Tony Kushner Speaks Out Against Israel’s Assault on Gaza

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On Monday, a group called Jews Against the Occupation staged a protest against Israel’s invasion of Gaza blocks away outside the Israeli consulate in New York. Among those protesting was renowned playwright and screenwriter Tony Kushner. Kushner won a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award for his play Angels in America, which was later made into an award-winning television mini-series. “The policy, on the part of the Israeli government, of reoccupation of Gaza seems to me catastrophically misguided,” Kushner says. “I can’t imagine this is not going to continue to be bloody and a violation of human rights.” [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: The pro-Israel rally was Sunday. On Monday, a hastily called rally by Jews Against the Occupation took place just blocks away. It was outside the Israeli consulate in New York.

Among those who came out was renowned playwright and screenwriter Tony Kushner. Kushner won a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award for his play Angels in America

, which was later made into an award-winning television mini-series. He has authored a number of other plays, including A Bright Room Called Day, Homebody/Kabul and Caroline or Change. He is also co-editor of the book Wrestling with Zion: Progressive Jewish-American Responses to the Palestinian/Israeli Conflict.

Democracy Now! producers Aaron Maté and Hany Massoud caught up with Tony Kushner at Monday’s protest against the Israeli invasion of Gaza outside the Israeli consulate.

    TONY KUSHNER: I’m really incredibly distressed and concerned about the situation in Gaza and the policy on the part of the Israeli government of reoccupation. It seems to me catastrophically misguided, and it [inaudible] incomprehensible policy. I can’t fathom what they think is ultimately going to be achieved by it.

    And I’ve been the Gaza, and I’m very worried about the people in Gaza, the Palestinian people. I can’t imagine that this is not going to continue to be bloody and a violation of human rights.

    And as a Jew and an American, I’m here to say that I want an offer of a ceasefire accepted and a withdrawal of Israeli troops and the commencement of serious peace negotiations, which we haven’t had for eight years now, which I believe could actually have an impact and make not only the Palestinian people safer, but also Israel safer. So —-

    AARON MATÉ: How has it been for you to be an outspoken Jew who’s been vocal on this issue?

    TONY KUSHNER: Well, I mean, you know, I think all Jews who talk about this issue deal with a great deal of anguish. I mean, it is a very powerful identification with the history of the Jewish people that led up to the creation of the state of Israel. And Jews have all sorts of different feelings about the existence of Israel and -— but I think Jews of conscience feel that it’s an imperative to not stand by silently while the Palestinian people are brutalized and oppressed.

    And so, you know, it’s not comfortable, and I find it very painful. I love being Jewish. I love Jews. And I don’t like being screamed at by Jews. But, you know, that’s life. You have to do what you feel like you have to do, and I think this a — it’s immensely important for the Jewish people that we not remain silent because we’re afraid of speaking out. And I think there’s a great deal of pressure from within the Jewish community to be silent. And I feel like it’s gotten easier over the last few years to speak out. I think that the dialogue has changed. And so, you know, I’m happy to be here doing it.

    AARON MATÉ: And you went to Gaza?

    TONY KUSHNER: Yeah, I’ve been twice to Gaza.

    AARON MATÉ: And what was your impression?

    TONY KUSHNER: Oh, I mean, it’s horrible. You know, I mean, it’s the highest population density on the planet, I think, and people are living there in really — I mean, this was — the last time I was there was five years ago, and I know it’s gotten much, much worse. And, you know, it’s an impossible situation for people to live in. And I think that it would change — anyone who feels that this is a simple situation and that Israel is doing nothing but sort of protecting its towns from rocket fire really needs to go there and meet Palestinian people and also look at the way that they’re being forced to live. I think that, you know, one day standing at a checkpoint is enough to change your whole way of thinking about this.

    I mean, it’s unimaginable that people have maintained any kind of individual or communal coherence in the face of this kind of suffering. And, I mean, it’s real terrible suffering. And Jews, with our millennial history of surviving oppression, really should have a deep sympathy and understanding. And it’s a shandah that we’re the authors of oppression anywhere on earth. It shouldn’t be the case. We should — we know better, and we should do better.

AMY GOODMAN: Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner, speaking on Monday outside the Israeli consulate at a protest against the attack on Gaza Strip. Kusher was among hundreds of Jewish Americans gathered there. These are some of their voices.

    JANE HIRSCHMANN: I’m Jane Hirschmann. I’m one of the organizers of this event tonight. We are Jews standing here together. We want our voices counted. We are opposed to the massacre in Palestine. We want the Israelis out of Palestine. We want a ceasefire and an end to the occupation. We feel it’s very important as Jews not to be silenced any longer. And we’re joining with Jews around the world who are saying that the Israeli government does not speak for us. Neither does the US government. Their policies have aided and abetted the slaughter in Palestine and the dehumanization of the Palestinian people, and we want it to end.

    ESTHER KAPLAN: My name’s Esther Kaplan. I’m here to raise my voice to try to stop this massacre in Gaza. There was a huge pro-Israel rally yesterday right on this spot with all the major Jewish organizations — AIPAC and the ADL — claiming that this assault is legitimately in Israel’s self-defense. It’s a ridiculous argument, and they don’t speak for the entire Jewish community. That’s what we’re here to say today.

    AARON MATÉ: It’s a big turnout today.

    ESTHER KAPLAN: Well, you know, we were ready for maybe a sorry lot of a few dozen people, but there are hundreds of people here, and I think it speaks to how dismayed people are at what’s being done.

    UNIDENTIFIED: Well, I’m a Jew, and I’m very ashamed of what’s happening in the Gaza Strip. And I’m heartbroken, because we’ve been through it. We know what it is to have a person like Hitler decide to kill all the Jews. For us to turn around and do that to other human beings that are so much like us — they look like us, they eat the same food, they helped build up Israel — it’s more than I can stand. So I’m very ashamed. I think they in the Israeli embassy should be very ashamed.

    UNIDENTIFIED: I think it’s really important. I mean, in a way, this is a human issue for every person, not just the Jewish people. But I think it’s extremely important right now that Jewish people be out and visible and make it clear that, as Jews, as people who have experienced genocide against our people, that we understand that the Palestinians are today’s Jews. And if we learned the lesson of the Holocaust, the lesson is we need to be out and we need to speak for Gaza, as we had always wanted people to speak for us.

AMY GOODMAN: Voices of protest outside the Israeli consulate in New York yesterday. The protest was organized by Jews Against the Occupation.

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