Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Friends of Palestine defeats censorship attempt

[Green Left Weekly article by Alex Bainbridge, Perth]

The Friends of Palestine WA (FOPWA) has received confirmation from the Town of Vincent that a booking of the North Perth Town Hall has been reinstated.

FOPWA made a booking on the hall in early April to stage a production of Caryl Churchill's play Seven Jewish Children. The play dramatises the answers by Jewish parents to questions by their children about aspects of Jewish and/or Israeli history including last year's assault on Gaza that killed 1400 Palestinians.

In order to avoid critical discussion of Israel's role in that episode, the Jewish Community Council has gone to extreme lengths to try to prevent the play from being performed in WA. This is despite the fact that the play has had many prestigious performances including it premier at London's Royal Court Theatre, Victoria's State Library (to an audience of 700) and a recent performance in Israel.

The JCC falsely claim that the play is anti-semitic. The JCC campaign against the play resulted in the cancellation of planned performances at Kulcha (in Fremantle) and at the Hale School.

On April 19, FOPWA was informed that its hall booking had been cancelled due to ``electrical problems'' at the hall caused by a storm in March. This rationale was exposed as false when FOPWA members anonymously were told by the booking office that the hall was available for hire on the days before and after the scheduled performance.

Vincent CEO John Giorgi has since confirmed that there was a complaint made about the play and that a staff member cancelled the booking using ``real but minor'' electrical problems as the excuse.

A lobbying campaign by Friends of Palestine proved successful and Giorgi has confirmed that the booking was cancelled in error and has been reinstated, albeit with new conditions including the onerous requirement that four registered security guards are hired for the night.

Giorgi told FOPWA and local media: ``The issue is, does local government have a role to censor speech? The answer is no.''

Seven Jewish Children will be performed at the North Perth Town Hall on May 15 at 7pm followed by discussion about art and censorship.