We notice with dismay and regret that Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London has invited Israel's National Theatre, Habima, to perform The Merchant of Venice in its Globe to Globe festival this coming May. The general manager of Habima has declared the invitation "an honourable accomplishment for the State of Israel". But Habima has a shameful record of involvement with illegal Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestinian Territory. Last year, two large Israeli settlements established "halls of culture" and asked Israeli theatre groups to perform there. A number of Israeli theatre professionals – actors, stage directors, playwrights – declared they would not take part.
Habima, however, accepted the invitation with alacrity, and promised the Israeli minister of culture that it would "deal with any problems hindering such performances". By inviting Habima, Shakespeare's Globe is undermining the conscientious Israeli actors and playwrights who have refused to break international law.
The Globe says it wants to "include" the Hebrew language in its festival – we have no problem with that. "Inclusiveness" is a core value of arts policy in Britain, and we support it. But by inviting Habima, the Globe is associating itself with policies of exclusion practised by the Israeli state and endorsed by its national theatre company. We ask the Globe to withdraw the invitation so that the festival is not complicit with human rights violations and the illegal colonisation of occupied land.
David Aukin producer Poppy Burton-Morgan artistic director, Metta Theatre Leo Butler playwright Niall Buggy actor David Calder actor Jonathan Chadwick director Caryl Churchill playwright Michael Darlow writer, director John Graham Davies actor, writer Trevor Griffiths playwright Annie Firbank actor Paul Freeman actor Matyelok Gibbs actor Tony Graham director Janet Henfrey actor James Ivens artistic director, Flood Theatre Andrew Jarvis actor, director, teacher Neville Jason actor Ursula Jones actor Professor Adah Kay academic, playwright Mike Leigh film-maker, dramatist Sonja Linden playwright, iceandfire theatre Roger Lloyd Pack actor Cherie Lunghi actor Miriam Margolyes actor Kika Markham actor Jonathan Miller director, author and broadcaster Frances Rifkin director Mark Rylance actor Alexei Sayle comedian, writer Farhana Sheikh writer Emma Thompson actor, screenwriter Andy de la Tour actor, director Harriet Walter actor Hilary Westlake director Richard Wilson actor, director Susan Wooldridge actor, writerSo by Habima being willing to perform in front of a group of people - Jews living in their historic homeland -who are vilified and discriminated against worldwide, they are using a "policy of exclusion." But by asking them to be boycotted, that is "inclusiveness."
I was also unaware that performing in a theater in Ariel is a violation of international law. I'd love to see the legal citation for that one.
Especially interesting is their assertion that they have no problem with performances in Hebrew, only from Israel's national theater.
And who are they trying to kid? If the troupe was called the "Anti-Settlement National Theatre" the exact same self-righteous gasbags would write an identical letter decrying the fast that some actors served in the IDF, or don't support boycotting Israel, or something.
Here's a thought experiment. What would happen if a Palestinian Arab theatre in Ramallah would invite Habimah to perform? Would Habimah, those "excluders," accept? Would Palestinian Arabs, those "moderates," allow the performance? Would the director of the theatre get killed? Perhaps then these blowhards can figure out what "politics of exclusion" actually means. Or have they forgotten that it wasn't exactly an Israeli who killed Juliano Mer-Khamis?
There are some known actors and filmmakers there. Perhaps people might want to visit their Facebook pages and let them know that boycotts can go both ways.