Alondon Staff (10/04/2012)
Writers and actors, including Howard Jacobson and Maureen Lipman, have sharply criticized a recent letter calling on Shakespeare's Globe (pictured) to cancel next month's performance by Israel's Habima theatre.
Jacobson further described the call to boycott Habima as “Kafkaesque”, arguing that, “with last week's letter to the Guardian, McCarthyism came to Britain.”
Jacobson’s comments echo criticism from leading figures in British theatre, including playwright Sir Arnold Wesker and actors Steven Berkoff, Maureen Lipman and Simon Callow. Callow described himself as “strongly opposed” to any calls to boycott any art, saying, “let us see what Habima has to tell us about human life, before we try to silence them.” Sir Arnold Wesker likened it to “the Nazis burning the books of the finest minds and talents of Europe.”
The original letter was signed by prominent figures such as Richard Wilson, Emma Thompson and Alexei Sayle. Published in the Guardian last week, it described Habima as having “a shameful record of involvement with illegal Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestinian Territory.” Inviting Habima, according to the letter, would make the festival “complicit with human rights violations and the illegal colonisation of occupied land.”
Shakespeare’s Globe responded to the call to withdraw Habima’s invitation in an open letter on their Facebook page, which described Habima as “the most well-known and respected Hebrew-language theatre company in the world,” saying that they are therefore “a natural choice to any programmer whishing to host a dramatic production in Hebrew.”
The letter was also criticised by Ilan Ronen, Habima’s artistic director, who said, “they don't know the true facts about our theatre activity. Somehow, they have been manipulated, they are getting it wrong.” Ronen explained that, “like other theatre companies and dance companies in Israel, we are state-financed, and financially supported to perform all over the country. This is the law,” describing the focus on Habima’s handful of performances in Ariel on the West Bank as “out of proportion”.
Habima will perform The Merchant of Venice in Hebrew at the Globe to Globe festival, part of the Cultural Olympiad, on the 28th and 29th of May. Other performances as part of the Globe to Globe festival include the Ramallah-based Ashtar theatre, who will perform Richard II in Arabic.
Read this article in Hebrew
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1. Ian Thal Author in 02/05/2012:
Actually, the letter signed by Alexi Sayles, Emma Thompson, Caryl Churchill et alia isn\'t the original boycott letter. An unsigned letter was sent to the Globe Theatre by an organization calling itself \"Boycott From Within\" months prior. The Globe Theatre, to its credit, refused to rescind their invitation to Habima in a January 2nd statement. http://ianthal.blogspot.com/2012/04/artistic-boycotts-in-uk-habima-at.html
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