Capital Fringe Preview: ‘It’s What We Do: A Play about the Occupation’ by Pamela Nice

What is it like for a young Israeli soldier to have to enforce the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza?

What is life like for Palestinians living under that occupation, subject to martial law, for 50 years?

Verbatim testimonies of former IDF soldiers from the Israeli NGO Breaking the Silence form the backbone of It’s What We Do: A Play about the Occupation. Their reflections and stories are enhanced by interviews I had with Palestinians and Israelis during a recent trip to Israel and Palestine. One such person was Israeli Nomika Zion, whose words had a profound effect on me:

I start with war and end with war. I go from one war to another.  I live in a country which makes war a way of life, and occupation, second nature.

This year is the 50th anniversary of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, which started after the 1967 war. Nomika lives in Sderot, the Israeli city which has been at the receiving end of most of the rockets lobbed by Hamas in Gaza. The 2014 war with Gaza was terrifying for her and her community. Yet she has started an NGO, Other Voice, which seeks online relationships with the Gazans who are now forbidden to leave Gaza. She refuses to accept the official narrative that Israel must forever be at war with Palestinians.

Most Israelis, like most Americans, would not even think of occupation as an act of war, let alone have any idea what life under this occupation might be like. That’s what IWWD is about. Checkpoints that make travel to and from work, school or hospitals long and frustrating; the daily abuse at these checkpoints; a Kafkaesque system of over 100 permits required of Palestinians to move through these checkpoints, or to use generators or solar panels on their own property; harassing house searches; unpunished settler violence; house demolitions as collective punishment.

In IWWD, we hear of these policies not from the victims, but from those who are implementing them—the Israeli soldiers. And their conclusions are chilling. As one of the soldiers says:

What stuck with me most is the feeling, which I only got in hindsight, that I was a part of a machine that spread a lot of devastation and fear.

We hear much about Palestinian violence in our media; less about this machine which instigates it. IWWD seeks to balance this picture, by giving needed visibility to an occupation that is not enhancing Israel’s security in any way, but only creating more hatred. As Nomika had warned us:

Never build a system that oppresses and humiliates other people on a daily basis.

Please join us at one of the five Fringe performances and stay for discussions after each show.

Thursday 7/13 at 5:00 PM
Saturday 7/15 at 6:00 PM
Wednesday 7/19 at 9:45 PM
Friday 7/21 at 5:30 PM
Sunday 7/23 at 11:30 AM


Online sales end 2 hours before performance, but tickets may be available at venue 45 minutes prior to show.

Atlas Performing Arts Center: Lab II
1333 H Street, NE in Washington, DC 20002


2015 Capital Fringe Review: ‘It’s What We Do: A Play About the Occupation’ by John Stoltenberg


  1. This appears to be the same slanted screed play that was performed two years ago at Fringe. Israel is evil, the Palestinians are completely innocent. For example, the above description makes it look like that Israel has been occupying Gaza for 50 years. It ignores the fact that Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, kicking out the Israeli settlers there, sometimes by force. The Gazans then elected a government controlled by the terrorist organization Hamas, which began a campaign or shooting rockets into Israel and building tunnels to send terrorists into Israel to kill Israelis. That is what caused Israel to crack down on Gaza.

    In contrast, Israel made a peace with Egypt in 1981, returning the entire Sinai peninsula in return for peace. Since then, there have been no military or police issues between Israel and Egypt. Had the Gazans not elected a government dedicated to destroying Israel and then committing acts of war against Israel, Israel would not have been forced to defends itself and, yes, would be more willing to withdraw from the West Bank. The reason why it does not do so is because the Palestinians have never accepted the existence of the State of Israel or disavowed attempting to destroy it. The last thing Israel wants is another government dedicated to its destruction in the West Bank.

    The statement purports that what Israeli soldiers do in the West Bank instigates Palestinian terrorism. This ignores the fact of Arab terrorist acts and attempts to destroy Israel since its creation in 1948, nineteen years before Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza during the Six Day War. It seems to suggest that Israeli checkpoints and the presence of soldiers was created just to put down Palestinians, not to prevent terrorism. This is a perverse reversal of the actual cause and effect present here.

    In 1998, the Palestinians rejected a proposal from Israel to withdraw from the West Bank, allowing a Palestinian state, if the Palestinians accepted the existence of Israel and made peace. The Palestinians refused. This is why there still is an occupation.

    Now, I should point out that the play does make some very good points (I saw it at Fringe two years ago). Israel is certainly not completely innocent. I am opposed to the building of settlements in the West Bank and believe that any crimes by settlers against Palestinians be punished by the full extent of the law. Demolition of houses of terrorists and their families is a stupid exercise that does the complete opposite of deterrence. However, reading the above description (by an author that won’t even give a name), one would think that only Israel was doing terrible things or instigating terrible things and the Palestinians are completely innocent.

    I ask that the management here not delete this comment. The description of the play that I am commenting on is not just a description of the play. It goes beyond a description into making a slanted political commentary that goes beyond advertising and, as such, has opened the group up to responsive comments on the political assertions that it makes therein. Note that I am not posting this in response to a review of the play itself (i.e., in response to a discussion on its artistic merit), but in response to the above commentary on Middle Eastern issues.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here