Israel’s ambassador to Norway, Raphael Schutz, said that a video that emerged over the weekend is anti-Israeli “propaganda of the worst kind”.
“It should be in the National Theatre's own interest to make it absolutely clear that the video is not representative of the theatre's own position, which is the impression one can get from watching the video,” Schutz told Klassekampen.
The video Schutz is referring to is an art project which made it appear as if National Theatre was issuing a formal apology for having collaborated with Habima from 2013 to 2015 and thus “normalizing the Israeli occupation”. It was accompanied by an article published in Morgenbladet on Friday headlined ‘The National Theatre of Norway apologizes’.
The video and article, however, were not created by the National Theatre but rather by the art project Monsters of Reality as part of the International Isben Festival.
After the video began garnering attention, the National Theatre felt compelled to release an official statement emphasizing that it was not directly involved in its production.
“The article and video are not made by The National Theatre of Norway – and do not represent The National Theatre of Norway's attitude – they are an expression of artistic freedom,” the statement read.
“The National Theatre of Norway still has greater faith in collaboration with artists across national borders and from regimes we are critical to, than boycotts and silence,” it continued.
The video received a fair amount of attention in the Israeli media over the weekend and led to strong reactions from Jerusalem.
“Hypocritically hiding behind the guise of freedom of speech, Norwegian actors have produced a video – using official funding – in which a fake spokesperson for the National Theatre of Norway disgracefully calls for a boycott of Israel’s national theater, HaBima, and the entire State of Israel,” a statement released by Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs reads.
“This disinformation clip is reminiscent of the works of the Reich Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, or the Nazi filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl. Israel calls on the National Theatre of Norway, in whose name the libelous statements were made, to clearly and immediately repudiate them as well as to take the necessary measures to have the video removed from every site,” it continues.
Pia Maria Roll, one of the artists behind the project, said she was surprised that the video elicited such strong reactions.
“Maybe I'm naive, but being labelled a Nazi by another state that calls itself democratic, is something I had not expected. That Israel is demanding that a large Norwegian art institution should censor their own artists is also surprising,” Roll told Klassekampen.
She said she was disappointed in the Norwegian Embassy in Israel, which told media that the video is not in line with official Norwegian policies.
“The Norwegian authorities should have instead given Israel the clear message that it cannot censor Norwegian artists,” Roll said.