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A Matter of Censorship

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Education Minister Yitzhak Navon has taken an equivocal position on the issue of censorship. He believes it should be abolished in connection with theatrical productions, but film censorship is justified.

The matter arose over a Youth Theater production of “The Explosion on Ahlan Street”, a play dealing with Jewish-Arab relations that presents a mixed marriage in a favorable light. The Youth Theater, whose productions are for young audiences, is under the aegis of the Education Ministry. Navon originally opposed the play on grounds that it could encourage marriage between Jews and Arabs. After a meeting with the Playwrights Association, he changed his mind. Asked by Israel Radio Monday why he backtracked, Navon explained that his Ministry examined the issue of theatrical censorship and decided it was not worth the effort.

“It’s much ado about nothing,” said Navon, a former President of Israel. “We found that in the democratic world, stage censorship has been abandoned. We don’t necessarily have to follow other countries, but what is important is the fact that during the past seven or eight years, 419 plays were presented to the stage censorship board before production and in only six cases were changes demanded, of a few words or lines.

“There was public debate about those few lines and instances and it was just those deletions which drew attention to the plays concerned, giving them publicity they would not otherwise have had, by quotations in the media.”

Navon noted that plays banned from the stage are published in book form or in newspapers, so the broad public gets to sec what was denied the more limited theatrical audience. In any event, he said, “the public is adult enough to make up its own mind about these plays.” If any segment of the public is offended, they have recourse to the courts, he said.

But the Education Minister favors continued censorship of films. He cited extensive studies abroad which claimed to show a direct connection between depictions of crime and violence on screen and what happens in the streets.

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