ISRAELI THEATRE BOYCOTT DEBATE GOES MAINSTREAM

An unexplored question to emerge from the furore over the prospect of Israel’s National Theatre, Habima, coming to Shakespeare’s Globe theatre next month, is why liberal thinkers who want to see Palestinians achieve their rights are so reluctant to hold Israel to account for denying them.
Playwright David Edgar, for example, in a Comment piece for the Guardian  elegantly deflected the Nazi and McCarthyite epithets hurled at Mark Rylance, Emma Thompson, Jonathan Miller and other actors, directors and writers opposed to the involvement of Habima in the Cultural Olympiad.
But he fell into the trap of what he himself termed “easy conflations” by allowing Habima’s “Jewishness” to determine his attitude towards boycotting it. The full story, by J-BIG’s Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, appeared on the OpenDemocracy blog on Friday April 27.
In the weeks since the March 30 publication in the Guardian of a letter signed by leading theatre names opposing the invitation to Habima, media debate about the cultural boycott issue has deepened and broadened.
Some of the responses have been predictably dismissive of Palestinian rights. For a grim example of this, see (below a sane letter about Israel’s nuclear capability) a letter to the Guardian on April 21 from five MPs – members of the select committee for Culture, Media and Sport, no less – claiming that it was no crime to perform in the illegal settlements since they were bound to be part of Israel in due course.  This argument was seen off in no uncertain terms in  further letters on April 23.

Hisham's Palace near Jericho, where Ashtar staged Richard ll in preparation for taking it to Shakespeare's Globe

A recent example of excellent mainstream coverage appears on the Economist arts blog Prospero, which gave full attention to the campaign against Habima for its complicity in Israel’s persistent human rights abuses and to the courage of Palestinian theatre company Ashtar, which is to perform Richard ll at the Globe on May 4 &5.

Now the debate is set to ascend to a yet higher level with the  staging by Ashtar of an open discussion with members of the audience for its matinee performance on Friday May4.

The discussion, in the Globe’s lecture theatre, will be open to holders of tickets for that day’s performance.

Some of the signatories to the original Guardian letter will be taking part.

Full details will be available nearer the time.

Tickets for both the Friday matinee and the Saturday evening performance can be booked here.

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