HABIMA BOYCOTTERS: WE ARE NOT PICKING ON ISRAEL BECAUSE IT IS JEWISH
HOW sad that Sir Arnold Wesker, Steven Berkoff and Maureen Lipman should suggest that challenging the Israeli national theatre’s fitness to take part in the Globe Shakespeare festival is “tantamount to Nazi-era book-burning” ( Theatre ban ‘like Nazi book burning’ say West End stars, April 4).
Can they really have intended to cast this Nazi slur at Mark Rylance, Emma Thompson and the many others who believe that theatre should uphold resistance to injustice, rather than pretend opposition to Israel’s policies while continuing business as usual with an unjust state? Doesn’t that cheap insult demean them rather than us? Our call on the Globe to withdraw their invitation to Habima explicitly targets an institution that does the state’s bidding by performing for Israelis illegally settled on occupied Palestinian territory. Habima is directly complicit in human rights abuses, and we think our profession has a responsibility, if not a duty, to speak up on the matter.
We are not targeting individual actors, directors or authors, nor the content of their work, and have no intention of doing so. We are not picking on Israel because it is Jewish, as Berkoff and Lipman allege. We are responding to a Palestinian call to insist that Israel lives up to the civilised standards it claims to uphold. In the process, we are celebrating and endorsing those brave Israelis who have refused to work in the illegal settlements. Niall Buggy, actor; David Calder, actor; Caryl Churchill, playwright; Michael Darlow, writer; John Graham Davies, actor; Trevor Griffiths, playwright; James Ivens, artistic director, Flood Theatre; Roger Lloyd Pack, actor; Miriam Margolyes, actor; Alexei Sayle, comedian; Hilary Westlake, director; Susan Wooldridge, actor; Andy de la Tour, actor
SO a group of British actors, directors and writers have called for a boycott of Israel’s Habima National Theatre on the basis that they have performed in ‘settlements’ in ‘occupied’ territories, and therefore we in London must not be ‘complicit’ in these human rights abuses.
On this basis, what are we to do about athletes coming to take part in the Olympics? Most countries can be accused of human rights abuses, including those where conversion away from Islam can lead to capital punishment. Who will decide which are banned? Joseph Feld email@example.com
Would Emma Thompson and her fellow boycotters boycott a Palestinian Arabic or a Chinese theatre for human rights violations, notably in Gaza and Tibet? Are actors responsible for the policies of their governments? Is she responsible for the policies, stupid or otherwise, of the current British Government? No, I thought not.
To boycott only an Israeli theatre group out of 37 foreign language ones is discrimination of the worst kind, akin to antisemitism. It is a good example of what can only be called “liberal fascism,” —the wellintentioned supporting the evilintentioned for dubious reasons. settlements in Palestinian territory.” Jack Cohen Netanya Israel