It seems hard to imagine, a quarter century later, but in 1993 there really seemed to be a chance for lasting peace in the Middle East between Israelis and Palistinians.
Actual, fruitful negotiations took place over the course of many months, secretly brokered by the country of Norway, that produced an actual, binding peace document signed by Israeli prime minister. The result was an incredible photo and an incredible moment in the fall of 1993, when Yassir Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin met at the White House and shook hands. I remember feeling incredibly hopeful watching that, as I’m sure millions of others felt the same way.
Of course, the peace didn’t last, but there’s been a fantastic play made about the Oslo accords now kicking butt on Broadway. The wife and I saw “Oslo” Saturday night, and while I know most of you don’t live in NYC and probably won’t see it, it’s definitely worth checking out if you’re ever here, or if it comes to your city.
The play focuses on a Norwegian couple who you’d think would be the last people to make peace in the Middle East, small-time diplomats named Terje Rod-Larsen and his wife, Mona Juul. The two of them, through charm and diplomatic skill, manage to originally get very low-level representatives from Israel, and the PLO finance minister, to just come to Norway to talk, to see what can be done.
The play takes us from that point all the way through a final, intense phone call between Arafat and Israeli foreign minister (and 20th century legend) Shimon Peres, hammering out the final details of an agreement that sadly held for not even a year.
“Oslo” is filled with incredible acting performances, especially by Anthony Azizi as the lead Palestinian negotiator, and the flamboyant Israeli negotiator Uri Savir (Michael Aronov). There’s a ton of dense material to keep track of, but the Norwegians keep the play moving by talking directly to the audience sometimes, and the play is a hell of a lot funnier than I would’ve expected (plenty of jokes are made at the expense of the USA, which everyone on stage blames for a lot of things).
The play is careful not to take sides here, presenting what I thought were equally-weighted arguments from both groups (although in our audience Saturday night several older folks groaned and gasps at some of the dialogue from the Palestinian side; hey, it’s New York City, where most of the world’s old Jews live, I can’t be surprised!)
Even though you know how it turned out, it’s incredibly tense to watch these huge discussions and feel like you’re in the room with them. And the final scenes, even though I know it’s only a play, gave me hope that maybe, maybe one day, the violence and bloodshed will stop.
“Oslo” is up for a whole bunch of Tony Awards; I hope it wins them all. Definitely worth seeing.
**Next up today, I have repeatedly expressed disgust to my tennis fan friends, and in this space, about how bad a broadcaster John McEnroe is. He’s totally unprepared to call matches (seriously he only watches tennis during the Slams), he never, ever shuts up during play, and has an ego the size of the Grand Canyon.
But hey, even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometimes, and Johnny Mac deserves huge praise for the above video. Last week Australian tennis legend Margaret Court, who won 24 Grand Slam singles titles, continued her decades-long homophobic remarks, declaring that the women’s tennis tour is “full of lesbians,” that same-sex marriage is horrible, that women’s pros lure young players into a lesbian lifestyle.
It’s all absolute crap, and she’s a doddy old woman who’s only being listened to because she’s a tennis legend. I’m proud as a tennis fan to say that just about every top pro has denounced her, but none went as far as McEnroe in the above video for the BBC.
The whole three minutes is blistering and fantastic (warning, NSFW. A few curse words are heard.)
**Finally today, another brutal weekend for terror, as London was once again attacked, with murderers striking with trucks and knives and attempting once again to keep the whole free world on edge. It’s incredibly depressing to think about how frequently these attacks are now happening, and I’m not going to harp on the fact that the President of the United States, in one of his many, many moronic Tweets, made fun of the new mayor of London a few hours after this happened.
No, I want to focus on something positive, like the response of London citizens. They kept living their lives this weekend, with one restaurant patron returning to the site of his meal just yards from the attack Friday to pay his bill.
And this response, from a Londoner named Richard Angell, brought me great hope. His words are pitch-perfect here, and express the tone so many New Yorkers like myself felt after 9/11.
Good on you, Richard Angell. All of us freedom-loving people around the world are with you.