Saturday, 19 May 2012

Boycott the Habima Theatre

Habima is Actively Complicit in the Occupation of the West Bank
Odelia Friedman, Benny Tzarfati, Nicholas Hytner, Ilan Ronen, Jim Betri
and Julia Smith (the British Council) - not an Arab in sight
because this is an Israeli Jewish theatre group
One of the more frequent lies perpetrated by those who support Apartheid is that ‘politics and culture (sport,music) don’t mix.’  We shouldn’t disturb the ‘beautiful music’ of whoever.  This was the ritual cry of those who defended Apartheid, like the BBC, which carried coverage of the Springbok cricketers to the very end.  But it still remains a lie.  Every repressive country and state tries to show its ‘nicer’ cultural side.  Not for nothing were the Jerusalem Quartet designated cultural ambassadors to the world.  

I have a simple question, which so far no Zionist has been able to answer.
Would it have been acceptable to protest and disrupt concerts by Wilhelm Furtwangler, its conductor and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra?  They were funded by the Nazi state and seen by Goebbels as an excellent way to win people to the Nazi cause.
Bethlehem as seen inside the checkpoint
Palestinian girl from Gaza plays cello - 

Yitzhak Laor, Israel’s most famous poet, but a stern critic of Zionism, points out in Haaretz of 31.7.08: that section 12 of the contract that all Israeli artists who receive state sponsorship must sign, states that
"The service provider undertakes to act faithfully, responsibly and tirelessly to provide the Ministry with the highest professional services. The service provider is aware that the purpose of ordering services from him is to promote the policy interests of the State of Israel via culture and art, including contributing to creating a positive image for Israel."
So anyone picketing or asking the theatre group a few questions should feel perfectly entitled to do so.
Habima's Shylock - demanding a Palestinian pound of flesh
A Call to Shakespeare's Globe Theatre

The directors
World Shakespeare Festival 2012
c/o Shakespeare's Globe Theatre
21 New Globe Walk

Dear Sir/Madam

Israel's Habima Theatre is due to present, in your forthcoming festival, "The Merchant of Venice". As noted on your website, this play includes the role of "Shylock, the most famous and controversial Jewish character in the theatre canon" – which naturally, presents particularly acute problems and dilemmas to an Israeli theatre.  

 As told to the Israeli media, the Habima Theatre did not sidestep the problems inherent to this particular element of the Shakespeare canon, but faced them and dealt with them in a socially engaged and committed manner. According to the designated director Ilan Ronen, Habima's presentation of "The Merchant of Venice" will emphasize the issue of xenophobia – persecution of the Jew in particular but also of hatred of ethnic and religious minorities in general. As such, it would have of direct relevance to audiences in contemporary Britain, as in all times and places. 

It must be said, however, that Habima's praiseworthy outspoken position on this issue seems at variance with its stance on another issue which is highly  controversial here in Israel –  the creation and the expansion of settlements in occupied Palestinian territory – a policy which has recently impacted the sphere of Israeli Theatre in a very direct manner.

In the past year, two large settlements – Ariel in the northern part of the West Bank and Kiryat Arba in its south – set up "Halls of Culture" and asked theatres to come and present their plays there. Last year, a large group of Israeli theatre professionals – actors, stage directors, playwrights – declared they would not take part in such performances; among them were such well-known people as Joshua Sobol, Edna Mazia, Shmuel Hasfari and Anat Gov. For several weeks, this was a major issue on the Israeli public agenda, and the aforementioned Israeli theatre professionals have received much support from colleagues abroad, such as Stephen Sondheim, Mary Rodgers, Tony Kushner, Mandy Patinkin, Theodore Bikel, Mira Nair, Julianne Moore, Vanessa Redgrave, Hal Prince, Roseanne Barr and other Broadway and Hollywood stars.

The dissident Israeli theatre professionals have argued that the West bank settlements had been created in violation of International Law and with the specific aim of blocking any possibility of achieving peace with the  Palestinians; that the expropriation of land in an occupied territory and the creation and maintenance of armed settlement enclaves are the very opposite of what is commonly termed "Culture"; and that therefore, a settlement maintaining a "Hall of Culture" was a blatant contradiction in terms.

It is especially noteworthy that Ariel and Kiryat Arba, like most settlements, are surrounded by walls and fences, closely guarded by soldiers and their own armed security personnel. A theatrical performance in a settlement is by definition a performance to an exclusively Israeli audience, with Palestinians living even in the nearest village being physically excluded from any chance of attending.

Despite all of the above, however, on this issue the management of Habima has taken a position which is remote from any kind of social engagement. Claiming to be "non-political", the management has reiterated its decision to perform in West Bank settlements, "like everywhere else". Moreover, the management specifically promised Limor Livnat, Minister of Culture in the Netanyahu Government, to "deal with any problems hindering such performances", i.e. to pressure recalcitrant actors into taking part in them, even against the dictates of their conscience.  And it must be pointed out that for several months, Habima has indeed sent out its actors to hold theatrical performances in West Bank settlements, on a regular basis.

As Israeli citizens who are deeply concerned about the future of all people living in the region we deplore this attitude. We cannot help seeing the positions taken by Habima Theatre on the two issues – presentation of "The Merchant of Venice" in London and regular performances in West Bank settlements - as inherently incompatible.  By inviting Habima to perform in London, you are siding with its administrators in the debate on settlement performances, and you are taking a step against the conscientious Israeli actors and playwrights who have refused to perform in the settlements.

We would be grateful to you for taking this issue up with your colleagues of Habima, ahead of its scheduled performance in London on May 28-29, 2012.

See also:

Hath not an Israeli theater company eyes? Does it not bleed?

Pro-Palestinian activists, including A-list actors, are calling for a boycott of Habima's upcoming London production of 'The Merchant of Venice.'  

See also Culture Ministry accuses Habima national theater of damaging Israel- Israel's national theater fails to pay $160,000 in copyright fees for plays it purchased for translation.


  1. Did you say that :
    "As for Greenstein, he has written that attacks on the pro-Israel Lobby “are the first step towards holocaust denial.” You certainly are in fine company, Gabriel."

  2. Oh please. Why would I say something that I don't believe. It contrasts with attacks by rabid Zionist Paul Bogdanor since I said that I wouldn't lose a minute's sleep if the whole of the Aipac Zionist leadership were vaporised. See below. Not it is a lie but hey, these are holocaust deniers so lies come easily to them.

    "To my knowledge, Nolte has yet to advocate the mass murder of American Jews. By contrast, Greenstein has announced that �If every staffer in AIPAC were to be vaporised tomorrow, alongside Bush, Blair and Cheney, I wouldn�t lose a minute�s sleep� because they are an �anti-Semitic caricature... determined to act out the lines prepared in the Protocols of Elders of Zion�"

  3. mmmmm tonyle is using names......
    pick up a more appealing one (medusa.... haha) maybe
    the judeo-nazi will fit.

  4. As they say Atzmon, you should wear the cap that fits you. And we all know that holocaust denial cap suits you best, though for some reason you don't like the cut.


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