Actress Emma Thompson is joining three dozen of her fellow actors and industry professionals to protest the participation of an Israeli theater in an upcoming Shakespeare festival in England. Thompson, a two-time Oscar winner, signed on to a letter that expresses “dismay and regret” that Tel Aviv’s Habimah theater will be a part of the Globe to Globe festival.
The Israeli theater was invited to the festival to perform “The Merchant of Venice” this upcoming May. The directors, actors and writers — including Thompson — who signed on allege that Habimah has “a shameful record of involvement with illegal Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestinian Territory.” The letter continues:
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”. By inviting Habima, Shakespeare’s Globe is undermining the conscientious Israeli actors and playwrights who have refused to break international law.
While the performers said they have no problem with inclusiveness and with having the Hebrew language be included in the festival, they allege that Habimah isn’t an appropriate theater to bring into the fold. Commentary’s Jonathan Tobin writes the following about the letter and the controversy surrounding Habimah:
Let’s understand what’s at work in this vile letter. Habimah, as even Thompson and her cohorts surely know, is not exactly a bulwark of the Israeli right. If anything, it is, like the rest of the Israeli arts community, very much part of the country’s left and no friend to the settlement movement. Indeed, its choice to perform Shakespeare’s anti-Semitic “Merchant of Venice” at the Globe is a decision that many Jews would question. But by not agreeing to join in a boycott of a theater constructed in Ariel (a large town located not far from the green line), Habimah is, in the eyes of Israel-haters like Thompson, equally guilty.
The letter concludes with the entertainers asking that the Globe to Globe rescind the Israeli invitation “so that the festival is not complicit with human rights violations and the illegal colonization of occupied land.”
(H/T: The Times of Israel)