Oscar winner, artists call for festival to boycott Israeli theatre

April 14, 2013

British groups have for three months been pressing Shakespeare's Globe Theatre to withdraw its festival invitation to Israel's National Theatre, Habima, in response to the Palestinian call to boycott Israeli cultural institutions, Mondweiss.net said on March 29.

A group of nearly 50 prominent actors, playwrights and directors have joined the campaign, publishing a letter in The Guardian calling for the invitation to Habima to be cancelled.

Among others, the letter was signed by Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson, Oscar-nominated director Mike Leigh, writer and director Jonathan Miller, comedian Alexei Sayle and Harry Potter actress Miriam Margoyles.

The letter said: “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.”

The letter explained: “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'.

It said: “By inviting Habima, Shakespeare's Globe is undermining the conscientious Israeli actors and playwrights who have refused to break international law.”

The signatories insisted that while they support “inclusiveness” in art, “by inviting Habima, the Globe is associating itself with policies of exclusion practised by the Israeli state and endorsed by its national theatre company”.

The letter concluded: “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.”

[See the full list of names here.]

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