For immediate release
Liz Lauren, 212.494.0050, TheJTNY@aol.com.
The Jewish Theater of New York Condemns Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka's Anti-Semitic Remarks at the TCG Conference in Minnesota on Friday, June 8 2007
In a shameful anti-Semitic, anti-American outbursts during his speech to the largest gathering of American theater leaders, Nobel laureate and activist Wole Soyinka says that Jews complain too much about racism, that George Bush is evil, and that Louis Farrakhan is an exemplary human being.
In a keynote address to the full conference of Theatre Communications Group (TCG) held in Minnesota on June 8 and entitled "A Ritual for Our Time," Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka singled out Mr. Louis Farrakhan as an exemplary human being and suggested that we should all follow in his footsteps. During a speech that aimed at a study of contrasts, and in a childish pandering to the artistic community, he repeatedly lashed out at Mr. George Bush while continuously heaping praise on Mr. Louis Farrakhan. When our theater's artistic director, Mr. Tuvia Tenenbom, objected to putting Mr. Farrakhan on a pedestal, given his record of horrific anti-Semitic pronouncements ("Judaism is a gutter religion," "Hitler was a great man"), Mr. Soyinka angrily replied that certain groups (meaning Jews) always "complain" about racism, and then added that Mr. Farrakhan has of late scaled down his anti-Jewish remarks and therefore Mr. Tenenbom should basically just shut up.
When these responses did not earn Mr. Soyinka an overwhelming applause from the audience (though quite a few of them eagerly applauded), Mr. Soyinka went on to say that he is choosing Mr. Farrakhan not as a man but as a concept. I also object, he said, to some of Mr. Farrakhan's statements--namely his friendship with African dictators.
The TCG Conference comprises the cultural elite of this country, leaders who have the power to shape the ideology of millions. We are shocked that Soyinka's poisonous anti-Semitic remarks could be delivered in such a gathering and that no one of the 900 in attendance, with the exception of Mr. Tenenbom, rose to the task of condemning them. It is a shame to our culture that in the year 2007 we are asked to permit anti-Semitism in our midst because it's "scaled down." We are asking: What exactly does this mean? Should Farrakhan's recent claim in an interview to Al Jazeera TV (March 18, 07) that "the real anti-Semites are those who came out of Europe and settled in Palestine and now call themselves Jews" be accepted as truth?
The silence of American theater leaders at the sound of gutter anti-Semitism is probably a case of PC gone wild. We have no doubt that if a Jewish speaker had uttered similar comments about the Black community he would be taken off the podium at once. We are wondering: Is Jewish blood less red than African blood? In the Jewish Theater we have a policy of zero tolerance toward any racism: Against Asians, Blacks, Jews--or whoever--and we demand an immediate apology from Mr. Wole Soyinka. His blind racism SHOULD NOT STAND.
On May 28 of this year, the Guardian of London called Mr. Soyinka "The Voice of Conscience." We beg to differ. A man who fights one form of racism at the same time that he champions another, is a racist just like any other. It's high time that we stop allowing Black anti-Semitism--even if it's not PC to do so. Mr. Tenenbom lost most of his family by the Nazis and he has every right to object to a glorification of Nazi sympathizers in this country--and no Soyinka should be afforded the right to silence him. Anti-Semitism is racism. Hate is hate, racism is racism, no matter who engages in it. Failure to fight one form of racism only reveals how deeply racism is rooted within our so-called enlightened community.
We sincerely hope that the rest of America will not join in silence, but use every avenue afforded to them in condemning this vicious spread of hate.
For more information regarding this Press Release please call Liz Lauren at 212.494.0050 or email to TheJTNY@aol.com
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