HABIMA, GUNTER GRASS AND BONKERS BOY­COTTS

The Jewish Chronicle - - Comment -

I note the sadly de­pleted sig­na­tur­ists in the de­fence of fur­ther per­se­cu­tion of the Habima com­pany ( Let­ters, April 13). Have the Aukins, Thomp­sons and Leighs moved their outrage on to Syria or the Su­dan?

What is left is a col­lec­tion of mem­bers of the PSC and the So­cial­ist Work­ers Party who might con­sider ex­plain­ing to other mys­ti­fied artists why they want to ban an Is­raeli com­pany for play­ing to a set­tle­ment au­di­ence but are happy to watch Zim­bab­wean ac­tors from a coun­try which sup­presses all op­po­si­tion and starves its peo­ple. Come on Miriam [Mar­golyes], you’re not short of a loud opin­ion, you must have an an­swer to al­low­ing China to play at the Globe but not the only democ­racy in the Mid­dle East. The Jewish com­mu­nity waits with oft­baited breath. Mau­reen Lip­man London

The Habima boy­cotters do protest too much, me­thinks. They ac­cuse the Is­raeli theatre of be­ing “com­plicit in hu­man rights abuses” be­cause it per­forms in the set­tle­ments.

What then will they make of my milk­man’s de­liv­ery round, which in­cludes the Con­ser­va­tive Party’s con­stituency of­fice, the So­cial­ist Work­ers’ Col­lec­tive, a BP oil re­fin­ery and the lo­cal branch of Green Peace? Does my milk­man sup­port the aims of all or in­deed any one of these? I doubt it.

For Habima, per­form­ing in the set­tle­ments is not a po­lit­i­cal state­ment; it’s just an­other gig. When will the boy­cotters grasp the es­sen­tial truth that artis­tic free­dom is univer­sal and in­di­vis­i­ble? You ei­ther sup­port it for ev­ery­body 100 per cent — or you don’t be­lieve in it at all.

So Nor­man Le­brecht is right to lam­bast Is­rael for ban­ning en­try to Gunter Grass ( Ban­ning him is a big er­ror, April 13). The cor­rect re­sponse is to in­vite Grass to Is­rael in the hope that he will even­tu­ally re­gret, re­cant and re­pent. An artis­tic boy­cott of other artists is not just big­otry. It’s bonkers. Sel­wyn Dorf­man Hol­low Oak Lane, Cheshire, CW8

I sup­pose it may be taken as a com­pli­ment that peo­ple ex­pect a Jewish state should be­have so much bet­ter than any other state; even up to the point of al­low­ing it­self to be de­stroyed for what oth­ers see as a greater good. Alas, it is a state like any other; a mix­ture of good and bad, in­tel­li­gence and stu­pid­ity. JM Levy El­dred Road, Liver­pool, L16

I as­sume Emma Thompson and her col­leagues will be ad­her­ing to their prin­ci­ples and be boy­cotting the newly de­vel­oped anti-can­cer vac­cine de­vel­oped by re­searchers at Tel Aviv Univer­sity. This, not mat­ter how much it will ben­e­fit mankind in the fu­ture. Irv­ing A Gold­stein ir­vag@o2.co.uk

In­stead of sim­ply con­demn­ing Gunter Grass, the In­te­rior Min­istry should have in­vited him to de­bate his wacky Mid­dle East­ern the­sis in Is­rael. Is Grass’s sta­tus as per­sona non grata that dif­fer­ent to Bri­tish ac­tors wish­ing to ban Habima from the Globe? Stan Labovitch Vale Road, Wind­sor, SL4

Nor­man Le­brecht sug­gests that Is­rael’s decision to ban Grass “un­der­mines Is­rael’s free speech prin­ci­ples”. I beg to dif­fer. Free speech re­quires a ba­sic re­spect of one’s in­ter­locu­tor. Grass’s for­mer mem­ber­ship of the Waf­fen SS is it­self suf­fi­cient to ques­tion whether this ex­ists. On top of that Grass has ac­cused Is­rael of plan­ning a nu­clear at­tack on Iran and sug­gested that Is­rael is a threat to world peace.

To sug­gest Is­rael is a threat to peace for de­fend­ing it­self from a de­ranged leader who wishes it erased from the map is pos­si­bly the most egre­gious moral in­ver­sion imag­in­able. It is per­fectly in­tel­lec­tu­ally hon­est to de­fend the decision to ban Grass and to at­tack the cul­tural ter­ror­ists who sab­o­tage Is­raeli cul­tural events in London. Le­brecht — who ar­gues the op­po­site — is draw­ing a false moral equiv­a­lence. Jonathan Hoffman Jonathan.hoffman@bt­in­ter­net.com

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