Greta Gerwig apologizes for signing a petition to ban an Israeli play at Lincoln Center

AFI FEST 2016 - Jackie - Premiere

Last week, we discussed a very odd item in Page Six about Greta Gerwig, someone who is rarely – if ever – discussed in tabloid reporting. Gerwig is a well-respected actress, mostly in quirky, indie films, and she’s directed her first solo project, Lady Bird, which has wowed critics and audiences at various film festivals already this year. Many people believe Lady Bird will be a major Oscar contender, especially for Best Actress for Saoirse Ronan, and possibly for Gerwig as director. I felt like the Page Six item was about Lady Bird’s incipient Oscar campaign, that certain people were trying to burn her early on in the season, that someone definitely wanted people to know that Greta Gerwig once… signed a letter encouraging the Lincoln Center to ban an Israeli play. There are few subjects more touchy and third-rail-y in Hollywood than support for Israel, so yeah… I’m sure there are some people ready to “cancel” Greta based solely on her signature on one petition. I guess Greta knew that too. Because now she’s offering an apology:

Greta Gerwig — a potential Oscar frontrunner for her upcoming directorial debut “Lady Bird” — has exclusively told Page Six that it was a mistake to lend her name to a letter asking Lincoln Center to ban an Israeli-backed play. Page Six previously reported that Gerwig’s name appeared on a letter with over 60 artists calling on Lincoln Center to cancel performances of “To the End of the Land,” which is being presented “with support of Israel’s Office of Cultural Affairs in North America.” A source said, “There is an Oscar campaign afoot for Gerwig, and her team doesn’t want her controversial anti-Israel opinions hurting her chances.”

On Friday, Gerwig told us in an exclusive statement that she regrets signing the letter.

“This past summer, a close friend asked me to lend my name to a letter,” Gerwig wrote in a statement. “I am generally careful about the causes I support, but in this case I was not. I was unfamiliar with the complexities of the letter and I did not take the time to study them.”

She added, “Instead, because the letter had already been signed by many other friends and collaborators I know to be thoughtful and honorable people, I agreed to add my name. While I respect the passion and integrity of others who signed this letter, for me to put my name to something outside of my personal realm of knowledge or experience was a mistake — my mistake — and I am sorry for any confusion or hurt I may have caused.”

The letter was organized by Adalah-NY, which aims to boycott Israel, and was signed by artists including filmmaker Ken Loach, rocker Thurston Moore and playwright Tracy Letts. Lincoln Center president Debora Spar rejected calls for the play’s cancellation, as did a group of top Hollywood execs, including CAA’s Adam Berkowitz, WME’s Rick Rosen and producer Ben Silverman. They penned a response letter with 50 signatures saying, “Selectively silencing art is dangerous… Art unites us, and helps us get past what makes us different while connecting us at the core of what makes us similar.”

[From Page Six]

That was one of the most diplomatic apologies I’ve ever read! She takes ownership of her mistake but makes it clear that she didn’t really study the nuances of the arguments for and against the ban. She’s still between a rock and a hard place because even if she wanted to speak with any kind of nuance about Israeli politics, she should find it difficult to support any kind of artistic ban… because it reads as censorship in a difficult time in this country, and around the world. Like, artists shouldn’t be censored or banned because of the actions of their state. That should be her new fall-back position. God, I hope this doesn’t haunt her Oscar campaign.

AFI FEST 2016 Presented By Audi - A Tribute To Annette Bening And Gala Screening Of A24's '20th Century Women' - Arrivals

Photos courtesy of WENN.

Related stories

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

43 Responses to “Greta Gerwig apologizes for signing a petition to ban an Israeli play at Lincoln Center”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. Kate says:

    The issue is that this particular piece of art isn’t simply a piece of art by Israeli artists, it’s a piece of art supported and funded by the Israeli government as part of a PR push to improve the governments image.

    It’s like if the Trump government commissioned some people to put on a play that aims to improve their image. It’s not just art then, it’s state backed propaganda, and it should be treated as such.

    • Skylark says:

      Well said @Kate

      I really respected Gerwig for signing that letter and it’s really disappointing that she would backtrack – and in such an obviously self-serving manner – about something so important.

      • Truthful says:

        I do respect her greatly for that to. Gutted moves are rare these days. So I salute her for that

    • Yasmina says:

      Exactly, so well said. And then it’s not an individual artist, it’s an institutional product promoted by the Israeli state. State funded = state product, it’s that simple. And boycotting Israel until it complies with international law and ends its occupation, and gives Palestinians their right of return is a huge movement that is only going to grow. So boycotting that play would’ve made total sense and been the moral thing to do.

    • QueenB says:

      Im curious: How do you feel about all those movies that are supported by the various branches of the US military?

      • Kate says:

        I boycott them if I’m aware of the involvement (usually it’s obvious but occasionally they partner with some unexpected projects).

        To be fair isn’t especially hard, as those films usually suck. Apart from the ethical issues, I have no interest in paying to see a 2 hour recruitment video poorly disguised as a blockbuster.

    • seesittellsit says:

      Do you think the Chinese government lets any art out that it doesn’t support and that doesn’t support its agenda? Do you think the Saudis would let any art out to a festival that went against its agenda? Iran recently kicked a woman chess-player off its team for refusing to wear a headscarf to an international chess tournament, and a young male chessplayer for another refusal to obey a religious instruction at same. The two brave youngsters are now playing but for another countries. The irony is, chess arose in this region of the world.

      But no one is silencing Chinese art (Tibet – completely destroyed). Or Saudi art (Yemen humanitarian catastrophe, anyone?!) or Iranian art. Or any other country’s art: only Israel’s.

      The message sent is: we give the rest a pass, but Israel is always the go-to for progressive outrage. Never mind historical context.

      • Tobbs says:

        @seesittellsit This is a textbook straw man argument and it feels like when men hijack discussions about sexual violence towards women to talk about sexual violence towards men. That there are other countries that should be put to task for their wrongdoings towards their own or other countries populations does not exempt Israel from criticism. Both discussions are important to have but neither benefit by being had at the same time.

      • JG says:

        Tobbs – But your argument is exactly the old, failed argument, for keeping Jews out of Ivy League schools – one admissions officer said, “We shouldn’t admit Jews, they cheat.” Another admissions officer responded, “Well, Christians cheat as well.” The first admissions officer said, “That doesn’t matter, we’re only talking about Jews here.”

        When you only call out ONE country for alleged offenses, and that country JUST HAPPENS to be the only Jewish state IN THE WORLD, yes, there is a name for it., and I think we all know what it is.

      • Kate says:

        I’ve seen many, many protests over various state backed Chinese, Saudi, Qatari, Iranian, Russian etc. PR based art and culture events/performances.

        Protests over Chinese and Russian projects are especially common (because they do a lot more high profile things in the West) and many are much, much bigger than this little petition.

        Just recently Angelina Jolie came under fire for collaborating with the dictatorship in Cambodia on her film. It’s really not rare for people to challenge things like this.

      • Truthful says:

        @JG: yes this country happens to be the ONLY jewish country in the world… because it was fabricated that way . And no criticism isn’t anti-semitism (enough with this!)

        It’s the only country in the world CREATED by a UN resolution… That violates DOZEN of UN resolutions. So there’s that. That and the segregation-like politics that even Iran, China or Saudi Arabia don’t apply…

  2. Mia4s says:

    Welcome to Hollywood. If you don’t like my principles, I have others. Now may I please have my Oscar nomination.

    Without taking any position on the boycott, all I will say is her backtrack should surprise exactly no one. Again, welcome to Hollywood!

  3. Layla says:

    How can such a small nation have so much power in the US? Israel and its inhumane policies are to be ignored or heralded, anything else is strictly forbidden.

    • JG says:

      If you were talking about China, I would agree. Tibet, anyone?

    • seesittellsit says:

      @Layla – really? Talk to the Jewish students on college campuses these days who have never set foot in Israel being harassed about it.

      • Truthful says:

        Talk to “brown” people not even being muslim how their daily life goes lately … (try muslims too for the real shock value)… everywhere and at every time not just campuses…

      • Monica says:

        @Truthful so anti-Semitism should be ignored? Racism shouldn’t be allowed doesn’t matter who it happens too. your comments are telling…

      • Truthful says:

        @monica: sure ! *eye roll*

        because this is exactly what said* again eye roll*

        but whatever…

    • Monica says:

      You sound ignorant Israel is not ignored, hardly. Check out the UN resolutions against Israel…

      • MM says:

        It is not anti-semitism to be against the apartheid going on over there. Palestinians are robbed of their basic human rights on a daily basis and a lot of it goes unreported because mainstream medias are owned by jews.

      • Truthful says:

        @MM: fully co-signed!

        In what world are we supposed to be anti-semite because we are criticising policies critiqued by ALL over the world for basic human reasons: an apartheid-like treatment of persons.

        Most of latin America countries have stopped diplomatic relationship with Israel, so are the Scandinavian countries (epitome of tolerance) , the EU is on the verge of putting sanctions on products and goods because of the stealing of palestinian territories throughout settlements.

        This is not anti-semite to point out the awful behavior of a country, it’s political criticism of a horribly led country who happens to identify as jewish.
        Same with Iran , people don’t criticize it for being muslim but for being politically more than questionable.

        People should be treated with dignity and respect no matter what, that’s why Israel is criticized !

      • Monica says:

        No one is saying that calling out Israel is anti-Semitic but you know what is? Saying the mainstream media is owned by Jews. FYI they are not, they are owned by conglomerate of shareholders…you do know that Jews have been killed over the lies you just typed? And you wonder why Israel exists. And @Truthful thank you for showing your anti-Semtism, I suspected you were, but fully co-signing such an anti-Semitic comment is all the proof I needed.

      • Truthful says:

        Wow!

        Take a chill pill… breathe and stop accusing people of horrible things because you have no point to make (adjusted, clear and structured ones)

        and go check in the dictionary the definition of anti-semitism (for real!).

        Atavism is a plague

      • Monica says:

        I’m sorry nowhere do I see you condoning a statement about real anti-Semitism in her comment? yeah im pretty sure i know what it is, and you are an example of it. Are you mad that someone is calling you out in a celeb website?

        You would know, snake.

      • Truthful says:

        @Monica: keep your insult to yourself and if you really need to vent them out go in front of a mirror.

        There are no racist as despicable than the ones who try to change a conversation by trying to change it throughout accusing others on some other thing.

        You know there are plenty of other racism than just anti-semitism

        and semite peoples are actually anthropologically defined by the arabian peninsula and old mesopotomia territory… so you to know.

        ps: I am not mad …. pretty amused by someone losing their marbles on the internet at best :)

  4. Big D says:

    Sorry but how do you put your signature down on a petition where you have no idea what it’s about? At the very least you read maybe the title of what the thing is about if you are too lazy to read the small print before you sign it, no?

  5. KP says:

    That was a very well written apology. I don’t think for a second that she didn’t understand that letter when she signed it. She’s just decided that her Oscar campaign is a more important cause. Which I don’t have a problem with. I would make the case that state supported art can be propaganda and not “art.”

  6. Monica says:

    My comment wasn’t posted last time probably because I mentioned the name of the poster! For a celeb website, you are so obsessed with Israel.

    • Truthful says:

      LOL !
      One post in like a decade!

      • Monica says:

        nah I have been on this site for a couple of months and have seen several Israel posts–to say nothing of her comments about them “blowing up” the Peace Process (FYI its wrong)

        don’t respond to me again either, anti-Semite and before you go on about me labeling you an anti-Semite b/c of Israel your comments ignoring the anti-Semitism faced by Jews in college campuses and co-signing a comment that said “the media is owned by Jews” is all the proof I need. Now pop off, Nazi.

      • Truthful says:

        @Monica:

        You sound like a lovely and perfectly adjusted person… that’s exactly why I shouldn’t have been answering you to begin with…

        Peace out

      • Monica says:

        @Truthful you sound like an anti-Semite that just has been exposed. Please scurry along, loser.

      • Truthful says:

        @Monica: you do sound like a winner … indeed… that’s how exactly winning at life sounds like…cheers! *sip tea*

  7. Monica says:

    @Truthful MAd I called out your anti-Semitism? Racist always are.

    • Truthful says:

      yeah indeed… everyday in front of your mirror

    • MM says:

      Being accused of racism just for stating facts…no wonder why the Palestinian genocide keeps going. How come we never hear about anti-sionist jews protesting in Israel against the atrocities inflicted upon Palestinians? Would you accuse them of antisemitism or standing for basic respect of human rights?

  8. MM says:

    Exactly!!

  9. Ksenia says:

    I agree with you. My husband—who is half black and half Jewish—cringes at Israeli politics, as I do. We can’t bear the ongoing settlements, the land stealing, the overt prejudice and discrimination against Palestine and its people. You want to know why other countries w sketchy human rights (i.e.China, Russia) aren’t as regularly criticized as Israel? It’s not usually anti-Semitism, it’s the way that, unlike those other nations, Israel touts itself as a “democracy” while flagrantly denying part of their population their basic human rights. It’s an apartheid state that claims to be a democracy, and it’s that hypocrisy (and its results) which troubles so many people…Of course, the harassment of and intolerance towards Jews in the name of freeing Palestine, is simply an excuse by anti-Semites to treat Jews terribly and unjustly. The idea of blaming a whole group of people for the Israeli government or abusively singling Jews out is NOT helping Palestine one bit, but it is harming Jews, inexcusably, with the transparent excuse of demonstrating against Israel’s politics: that’s pure anti Semitism. However, criticizing a nation’s policies is NOT anti Semitic—especially when those policies are sustaining a brutal apartheid regime. There are some Jews, a minority of them, who absolutely can’t separate the two—heartfelt concern about Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and anti-Semitism; they can’t hear criticism of Israel AT ALL w/out screaming, Anti Semite, rather than teaching, or learning anything about the subject at all. They simply and narrow mindedly refuse to listen to or hear any critique about Israeli politics, period. It’s as if, when it comes to Israel, they become so defensive that they are unable to see inhumane behavior and immorality, the central ability to tell right from wrong.

  10. 123soleils says:

    Thank you!