UPDATE: Globe actors defend playing in Israel “regardless of politics”
Shakespeare’s Globe theatre has ignored Palestinian appeals and the good counsel of a number of their UK peers by going ahead with their performance of Hamlet at the Cameri Theatre in Tel Aviv on March 30.
Showing either ignorance of, or disregard for the highly politicised nature of culture in Israel-Palestine, members of the company justified their action at a press conference, stating, “It was clear to us that we would be coming to Israel, regardless of politics” and “We try not to deal with local politics of the places to which we travel”.
As is usual when the Palestinian boycott picket line is crossed by international artists, Israeli media portrayed the Globe’s appearance as a failure for the cultural boycott movement.
This English-language news report is a prime example.
Statements made at their press conference by actors Keith Bartlett and Jennifer Lang were quoted in a Hebrew language report . Thanks to Ofer Neiman for the following translations into English.
“We travel all over the world, and politics is none of our business”, said Keith Bartlett (playing Polonius), adding “We are here to tell a story, and it is exciting to see how it is received everywhere we perform. It was clear to us that we would be coming to Israel, regardless of politics”
Jennifer Lang (playing Ophelia): “We intend for this tour to tell its story to as many people across the world. Any viewer who is not a regular viewer of the Globe is an addition for us. We try not to deal with local politics of the places to which we travel”.
Why has Shakespeare’s Globe added a performance at Israel’s Cameri theatre on March 30 to the tour schedule for its production of Hamlet, in breach of the boycott of institutions that reinforce the oppression of Palestinian artists and their communities?
This is the question addressed on Friday (March 25) to artistic director Dominic Dromgoole, as his ten year stint at the celebrated London theatre draws to a close, in an open letter signed by British and Palestinian theatre professionals.
In 2012, 37 actors, writers and directors protested the fact that Shakespeare’s Globe had invited Habima, the national theatre of Israel, to take part in its Globe to Globe festival. The specific ground for the protest was that Habima regularly performs in Ariel, the largest of Israel’s illegal settlements in the Occupied Territories. A letter signed by the 37, including Mark Rylance who was Dromgoole’s predecessor as artistic director at the Globe, attracted considerable media attention and gave impetus to the cultural boycott campaign which is now supported by growing numbers of artists in all fields.
Four years on, the management of the Globe can be in no doubt that adding the Cameri theatre to its schedule attracts at least as much opprobrium as the invitation to Habima in 2012. Continue reading
Oscar nominees in the top acting and directing categories, as well as the host at tonight’s ceremony, Chris Rock, have received invitations from a coalition of groups to visit Palestine and experience life through the eyes of Palestinians living under apartheid and military occupation.
The ironic invitations were sent from musician Brian Eno on behalf of Artists for Palestine UK, the Palestinian Performing Arts Network, Jewish Voice for Peace, and the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, in response to an Israeli PR junket offered nominees as part of this year’s Oscar Swagbag.
- Mike Leigh, film director and five-times Oscar nominee said: “ A five-star trip to the land of their parents and grandparents is just what exhausted Palestinians from the refugee camps could do with. I think the world would be happy to see Israeli government money used for once to make reparations to Palestinians — and I hope the stars will agree.’
- Ken Loach, BAFTA nominee and Palme d’Or winner said: “Just think what $55,000 could do for Palestinians whose homes have been destroyed and their lands stolen. Let’s hope that film people can see through this crude propaganda.”
- Brian Eno, musician and composer suggested an alternative swag bag offering: “Visit Palestine! Enjoy a tear-gas filled weekend in an East Jerusalem ghetto!
Musician Roger Waters speaks out against the criminalisation in France of non-violent boycott in defence of Palestinian rights. We reproduce his letter, picked up from a French news agency by the website Mondoweiss.
Mes Cher Citoyens,
Along with most thinking, feeling and compassionate members of global civil society, I deplore the occupation of Palestine and the subjugation of all of its non-Jewish peoples. The State of Israel’s anti-Palestinian discrimination since 1947/8 is unacceptable.
I am anti-racist, anti-colonialist, anti-war, anti-oppression, and anti- discrimination.
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) has issued the following statement about the Zabludowicz Art Trust.
Art should not be used to cover up apartheid: Boycott the Zabludowicz Art Trust!
Occupied Palestine, October 26, 2015 — The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) calls for a boycott of the Zabludowicz Art Trust for its deep complicity in Israel’s regime of occupation, colonization and apartheid.
The Zabludowicz Art Trust directly supports Israel’s oppression of Palestinians through its funder, The Tamares Group, which is responsible for investments in Knafaim, an Israeli-based holding company, focused on the aviation industry, with major holdings in several Israeli companies including Kanfey Tachzuka, which provides maintenance services to the Israeli Air Force, notorious for its ongoing commission of war crimes against Palestinian and Lebanese civilians. Continue reading
The appearance last week of some famous UK cultural names on a statement defending Israel against boycott has sparked a wave of incredulity and outrage from fellow artists.
Artists, actors, writers, editors, musicians and filmmakers are among those queuing up to defend the boycott tactic after JK Rowling, Hilary Mantel and historian Simon Schama joined well-known pro-Israel lobbyists in attacking it. Rowling and co urged cultural ‘coexistence’ and ‘dialogue about Israel and the Palestinians’ and called the Palestinian boycott campaign “divisive and discriminatory”.
“It is Israeli policies towards Palestinians which are divisive and discriminatory,” said actress Miriam Margolyes, one of more than 1000 UK artists who have signed a commitment not to cooperate with Israeli state-funded cultural institutions as long as Palestinian rights are denied.
“Artists used the tactic of boycott against apartheid in South Africa and we are doing it again in support of Palestine– because no one else is holding Israel to account,” she said.
Composer Brian Eno, one of a number whose letters were published in the Guardian on October 27, said he appreciated the desire for dialogue, “but what kind of dialogue is realistically possible between a largely unarmed and imprisoned people whose land is disappearing before its eyes, and the heavily weaponised State that’s in the process of taking it.” Continue reading
Daniel Barenboim, Israel and Iran: an APUK statement
Newspapers in Israel, the US and Europe reported last week that Daniel Barenboim, one of the world’s foremost pianists and conductors, was planning to take a Berlin orchestra [the Staatskapelle] to Iran for a concert. Immediately, Israel’s culture minister Miri Regev stepped in to call for the concert to be cancelled:
“This melody must be stopped. Barenboim promotes an anti-Israeli line and makes sure to bash [Israel] by using culture as a lever for his anti-Israel political views.” (1)
While the world was still digesting the hypocrisy of this demand from the minister of a government which, when threatened by boycott, never fails to talk the language of ‘communication’ and ‘bridge building’, Iranian officials said that they would block the concert because of Barenboim’s Israeli citizenship:
“The conductor of Germany’s symphonic orchestra is affiliated to Israel concerning his nationality and identity ,” the Spokesman of the Culture Ministry Hossein Noushabadi told reporters in Tehran. (2)
This piece by Times of Israel founding editor David Horowitz perfectly demonstrates Israel’s desperate need for cultural nourishment from abroad to sustain its armed dominance over the Palestinian people.
The Indie band alt-J, from Leeds in northeast England, ignored weeks of appeals from pro-Palestinian campaigners and broke the boycott to play two nights in Rishon Lezion just south of Tel Aviv on August 23 and 24. Horowitz’s purple prose exalts the audience who had flocked to the concert as “young Israel — army kids and post-army kids and tomorrow’s army kids”.
Alt-J were providing much-needed R&R for the soldiers who had decimated Gaza a year earlier and will do so again if called upon. It would be hard to find a clearer justification for the Palestinian cultural boycott campaign urged upon those who wish to see an end to Israeli apartheid. (For a more prosaic write-up, see this piece in the Jerusalem Post .)
“ISRAEL’S BEAUTIFUL YOUTH LIFTED BY THE GOSPEL OF ALT-J
An English band’s soaring harmonies strike a chord with the soldiers of a year ago and tomorrow. Continue reading
A petition signed by 2,000 Israeli artists has exposed the censorious instincts of the Israeli state, epitomised by its new Culture Minister Miri Regev.
Let audiences be the judge of Palestinian theatre on UK tour
(NB this original text differs slightly from the version published by the Daily Mail on May 8)
As theatre practitioners in Britain, we are alarmed that the Daily Mail is attacking the Arts Council and the British Council for supporting a UK tour by a Palestinian theatre company.
Your piece, with its inflammatory title UK taxpayers fund ‘pro-terrorist’ play, cites “concerns” from the Board of Deputies of British Jews, an organisation with a shocking record of acting to suppress both cultural and academic events which explore the bitter reality of Palestinian existence. Only last month the University of Southampton succumbed to demonisation and threats and banned an academic conference on the legal status of Israel.
Neither the Daily Mail nor the Board of Deputies has seen Freedom Theatre’s play The Siege, yet both somehow feel qualified to suggest that it is “promoting terrorism”. Not for the first time, Palestinian voices are in danger of being drowned out by a vociferous pro-Israel lobby that smears all Palestinians as terrorists and antisemites. This lobby wants us to believe that theatre-goers in the UK cannot be trusted to hear these voices and make their own judgements.
The Palestinian West Bank, where the Freedom Theatre is based, has been under illegal Israeli military occupation since 1967. We endorse the words of British playwright Howard Brenton, an honorary director of the Freedom Theatre, who writes of the forthcoming tour:
“This is real political theatre, performed out of the both terrible and inspiring experience of a struggle for freedom and justice. [The Freedom Theatre] are living proof that telling stories and entertaining audiences are powerful acts of resistance to oppression. Do go and see them, they have news for us.”
April De Angelis
Samuel West Continue reading
The antisemitism smear was the anticipated response of Israel’s apologists to the artists’ pledge for human rights. Indeed that is what makes signatories courageous individuals. What was feared but less anticipated was the extent to which that smear would be sharpened – and then given a platform in the mainstream press – to hold pledge signatories responsible for the deadly targeting of Jews.
In the week following the publication of our letter announcing the launch of the artists’ pledge, the Guardian published several responses – on the letters page, and in Comment is Free (CiF). Of nine published letters, three were supportive. Our riposte (below) went unpublished. Novelist Kamila Shamsie’s piece on why she signed the pledge was easy to miss: it appeared only in the print edition, under ‘The week in Books’.
Unusually, an Israeli politician was given a slot in both sections of the newspaper. On the same day, a CiF piece appeared entitled ‘Those calling for a boycott of Israel are ignoring some painful truths‘, as well as a letter under the sensationalist and inflammatory headline, ‘Why no petition to protect Jewish people?‘. The author, chairperson of the Yesh Atid party, Yair Lapid, was even permitted to repeat his hasbara, so that Guardian readers are subjected twice to his derisory hyperbole suggesting an inevitable genocide of Israeli Jews would be on the consciences of the pledge signatories:
As artists – who by definition are people with imagination – are they willing to take a moment and consider what would happen if, following a call in the Guardian, the IDF puts down its weapons and stops protecting the people of Israel for 24 hours? If you don’t share the imagination of an artist let me tell you: radical Islamists would kill us all. Women and children first.
Jonathan Chadwick – artistic director of Az Theatre, and a Pledge signatory – has written a blog post about his recent trip to the West Bank, which we think is worth sharing:
I went to Palestine on Saturday 7th February and came back on Sunday 15th February. I failed to get into Gaza to pursue the work on War and Peace.
Caryl Churchill and I worked on her recent play, Love and Information, at Ashtar Theatre. The British Council accommodated us. The Royal Court Theatre provided finance for the translation. We paid for the travel and did the work for free. It was our contribution, like planting a play in Palestine! Continue reading