Playwright Tony Kushner accuses Toronto federation of ‘McCarthyism’

(JTA) – Award-winning Jewish playwright Tony Kushner accused Toronto’s Jewish federation of “McCarthyism” for disassociating itself from his appearance under the auspices of a beneficiary agency.

In an interview with the Globe and Mail published a day before his May 9 speech for the Koffler Centre for the Arts, Kushner – best known for the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Angels in America” and the screenplay for Steven Spielberg’s “Munich” – said he was “disgusted” by the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto’s action, describing it as a “smear campaign.”

The federation in March said it was pulling back from Kushner’s appearance because he is on the advisory board of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), a group that promotes Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel.

While acknowledging that Kushner himself has publicly stated he does not support BDS, the federation, which received complaints after its logo appeared on publicity materials for the Kushner event, said it “has concerns about [his] association with JVP, and we will not support an event where there is any link to organizations supporting BDS.”

During his Koffler Centre appearance Monday, Kushner repeated his criticism, according to the Canadian Jewish News. Describing his own opinions about the “situation in the Middle East” as “pretty middle of the road,” Kushner said it is “hugely depressing to think that somebody with the level of criticism I voiced about the treatment of Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli Defense Forces or the Israeli government should cause this kind of alarm and consternation.”

While Monday’s appearance focused on his experiences as a playwright and screenwriter, Kushner, according to the Canadian Jewish News, spent several minutes responding to a question about the federation’s decision.

Kushner said he has thought a lot about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and feels “a moral obligation that comes directly from the ethical teachings I received as a young Jewish kid to tell the truth as I see it and engage in discussion.”

“The UJA, in deciding that this event was too dangerous for Jews to listen to, is upholding a fantasy version of the State of Israel and a fantasy version of Israeli policy,” Kushner added.

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