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EDITIONS
Sunday, 11 August, 2002, 11:42 GMT 12:42 UK
David Hare, Playwright
David Hare
David Hare
BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST
HOSTED BY FERGAL KEANE
INTERVIEW:
DAVID HARE,
PLAYWRIGHT
AUGUST 11TH, 2002

FERGAL KEANE:
Now five years ago, to mark the 50th anniversary of the birth of the state of Israel, and to mark his own 50th birthday, the playwright David Hare went to Israel himself. He spent a number of weeks interviewing a range of people from both sides of the conflict, from ordinary settlers, others high powered political figures. He came away with enough material to devise a play - a play he ended up performing himself, alone on the stage. He's now back in the West End, coming to the end of the run of Via Dolorosa and he's here with me now to talk about his own experiences out there. He asks in the play what matters, stones or ideas. Well, what does matter? David, thank you very, very much for joining me. I went to see it the other night after reading the play, an extraordinary night at the theatre - the more so for me because it's you, as we say, alone on the stage - white shirt, black trousers - and in my own case, and certainly most of the other people in the audience, spellbound for an hour and a half. Ninety minutes of theatre. When you were first asked to go to the Middle East, what was your reaction?

DAVID HARE:
Well I was asked to go to write a play about the British mandate and Stephen Daldry and Elyse Dodgson at the international department at the Royal Court theatre, asked me to go to Israel - specifically Israel - and I said well there isn't any point in going to Israel if I don't also go to the Palestinian territory. And far from wanting to write a play about the past, I was so taken aback by what I saw and so surprised by it - I'd read a great deal but until you go first hand and experience what it's like there, I just wanted to come back with the news. And I felt that if I wrote a conventional play, in which we tried to get London actors to portray Israelis and Palestinians, we'd simply introduce a level of falsity that would be distracting from what I wanted to describe, which is the impact of the region on someone going for the first time. And so, having never acted in my life, and still not really being an actor, I decided that I would ask Stephen Daldry if he'd be willing to direct me if I stood up on the stage and told the story of my visit.

FERGAL KEANE:
You do come out on stage with a sort of, for an actor, an uncommon humility and diffidence. Are you scared when you walk out and see the audience? Because you do say, there's that great moment at the beginning where you, the house lights are kept up and you look out and say I just want to see you all. Why is that?

DAVID HARE:
Well I think that there isn't any point in pretending that I'm a professional actor. I do have to play 33 people because I, I don't think I impersonate them -

FERGAL KEANE:
Is that a record?

DAVID HARE:
No I don't think so, I think Peter Sellers would regard this as chickenfeed, but as a non actor, I'm not actually impersonating them, but I am trying to explain to people what it's like to confront the various points of view, because I suppose the shock for a visitor, the first thing you discover, is that the divisions within the societies are as profound as the divisions between the societies. So that, for instance, the difference of a point of view between say a religious settler and some, a secular person who lives in Tel Aviv, is as profound as the difference between that person who lives in Tel Aviv and an Arab living in Ramallah. And until you understand that the divisions on both sides are as profound, I don't think you can understand anything about what's going on. You interpret what's happening differently once you understand those divisions.

FERGAL KEANE:
There's that very passionate and powerful moment where you're in one of the settlements, I think in the West Bank, and you're standing, late at night, looking over a valley and you can hear from the Jewish settlement music coming from an Arab village. You're with a woman settler. And after much discussion you say to her, you turn to her in quite imploring tones, you say 'What is the future?' Now you don't answer that question in the play.

DAVID HARE:
No.

FERGAL KEANE:
I'm just wondering, in the four years since you wrote the play, do you have any sense now about the future?

DAVID HARE:
The future is - the only future for the region is the imposition of a settlement from outside, and that is why I am so deeply critical of the Americans. I think that since September 11th the promise was made, implicitly by Colin Powell, explicitly by Tony Blair, that there would be progress towards an end to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory. That promise was made and now that it appears to be an intention to go to war with Iraq, without any progress having been made whatsoever, in the situation, there's a phrase of De Gaulle's, where De Gaulle talks about in Algeria, imposing a mutually unacceptable solution - not a mutually acceptable solution but a solution which neither side likes. Now both sides have got themselves into impossible positions, and both sides have got themselves into positions which are popular with their own people. In other words, 70 per cent of the people in the Palestinian territory support the suicide bombings, 70 per cent of the people in Israel support Sharon, though they don't actually believe the policies are working. New opinion polls this week show that 60 per cent of the Israelis don't think that Sharon has the answer to their problems. However, both sides have got themselves into untenable positions.

FERGAL KEANE:
But it can be resolved - do you believe it can be resolved?

DAVID HARE:
They need us to help them get them out. They need the West to get them out of these positions because they can't get out of these positions themselves.

FERGAL KEANE:
And explicit in what you're saying is a very strong criticism of America. Now you will have been aware of the mood, certainly reading some of the media, watching some television, of anti-Americanism which prevails in parts of this country. You, I suppose, are in a fairly unique position because you work very much on both sides of the Atlantic - you took your play to Broadway, for example, you're about to write or have written the first draft of a screenplay of a major American novel, why do you think there exists such antipathy towards America - on the part of what we call the chattering classes?

DAVID HARE:
I don't think there - that's not how I see it at all. I think that at the moment these broad brush tar words are being used. In other words, anyone who is criticising the government of Sharon is called anti-Semitic, it's a nonsense! You know, there are a whole lot of people who are profoundly pro-Zionist but who are deeply critical of the government of Sharon. In the same way, I speak as a supporter of the action in Afghanistan - in other words it seemed to me that it was absolutely justified as an act of self defence for America to go -

FERGAL KEANE:
Do you still support it?

DAVID HARE:
Oh yeah, to go into Afghanistan, I don't think there was any doubt about that. But I'm deeply critical of the prospect of a war with Iraq and against Iraq simply because it's in a, it's legally not justified, it's, it's legally indefensible, it's morally indefensible, and it's probably impractical. All three. And so to call me anti-American because I happen to approve of one American policy but I happen to disapprove of another American policy, it's a nonsense word and it's used by people who don't have any arguments. And I think what's very interesting is that even when you read a writer like William Shawcross who's a very, you know, talented and brilliant journalist, and even he, who is in favour of a war against Iraq, can't find any plausible arguments for a war against Iraq. I do think that the right wing in America is desperately short of arguments to justify this action.

FERGAL KEANE:
David Hare, thank you very, very much for coming in.

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