Category Archives: israel

NIGEL KENNEDY CONDEMNS BBC’S “CENSORSHIP AND IMPERIAL LACK OF IMPARTIALITY”

The following statement has been issued on behalf of violin maestro Nigel Kennedy in response to the BBC’s decision to censor a remark he made  during a Prom concert with young Palestinian musicians on August 8 (see previous post for details).

Will the BBC now have the courage to restore Kennedy’s comment to its rightful place in the TV broadcast of the concert on August 23?  Will they continue with his scheduled appearance as one of the stars in the gala Last Night of the Proms on September 7?

As Kennedy says,  the BBC may have done us a favour by inadvertently generating “discussion of the miserable apartheid forced on the Palestinian people by the Israeli government supported by so many governments from the outside world.”

A spokesperson for Nigel Kennedy said:

“Nigel Kennedy finds it incredible and quite frightening that in the 21st century it is still such an insurmountable problem to call things the way they are. He thinks that once we can all face issues for what they really are we can finally have a chance of finding solutions to problems such as human rights, equal rights and even, perhaps, free speech. His first reaction to the BBC’s censorship & imperial lack of impartiality was to refuse to play for an employer who is influenced by such dubious outside forces.

Mr Kennedy has, however, reminded himself that his main purpose is to provide the audience with the best music he can deliver. To withdraw his services would be akin to a taxi driver refusing to drive their customer due to their political incorrectness. He, therefore, is not withdrawing his services that he owes to his audience, but is half expecting to be replaced by someone deemed more suitable than him due to their surplus of opportunism and career aspirations.

Mr Kennedy is glad, however, that by censoring him the BBC has created such a huge platform for the discussion of its own impartiality, its respect (or lack of it) for free speech and for the discussion of the miserable apartheid forced on the Palestinian people by the Israeli government supported by so many governments from the outside world.

Mr Kennedy believes his very small statement during his concert was purely descriptive and not political whatsoever.”

EURO 2013 IN ISRAEL DRAWS PALESTINIAN, ISRAELI AND OPERATIC PROTESTS

Israel’s shameful hosting of the UEFA under-21 men’s football finals, due to conclude when defending champions Spain face five-time champions Italy on Tuesday June 18, has elicited a range of creative protests from Israelis and Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and from operatic singers in the UK.

In the West Bank village of Nabih Saleh, regular protests against the course of Israel's Apartheid wall deployed the Red Card symbol. See a series of photos here.

In the West Bank village of Nabih Saleh, regular protests against the course of Israel’s Apartheid wall deployed the Red Card symbol. See a series of photos here.

Israeli activists staged a series of Red Card protests linking the UEFA tournament to 65 years of confiscation of Palestinian land.

Israeli activists staged a series of Red Card protests linking the UEFA tournament to 65 years of confiscation of Palestinian land.

In London, J-BIG soprano Deborah Fink and baritone Willem Meijs gave football's favourite operatic number a new twist.

In London, J-BIG soprano Deborah Fink and baritone Willem Meijs gave football’s favourite operatic number a new twist. See YouTube video of their performance.

HIGH PROFILE SUPPORT FOR UEFA CAMPAIGN FOLLOWS STRING OF BDS VICTORIES

Mahmoud Sarsak, Palestinian footballer and former detainee, currently in the UK as part of a European tour

Mahmoud Sarsak, Palestinian footballer and former detainee, currently in the UK as part of a European tour

The past couple of months have been a high-octane period for the BDS movement – more than this modest blog could keep up with!

Stephen Hawking raised the bar for scientists and others in the academic community when he declined an invitation to take part in Israel’s President’s Conference, while Zionists resorting to legal weapons had their fingers scorched when they took the UK’s Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) to a tribunal.
See reports on both from the British Committee for the Universities of  Palestine (BRICUP)
The campaign exposing toxic global security firm G4S for its many human rights transgressions in Palestine and elsewhere, hit the headlines with protests at its AGM in the City of London on Thursday June 6.
Currently J-BIG is proud to be playing a leading role in the Red Card Israeli Racism campaign which has highlighted the grotesque injustice of Israel being allowed to host a major football tournament this month while denying fundamental rights to Palestinians.
This campaign is receiving a huge boost thanks to the inspiring presence in the UK of Palestinian footballer Mahmoud Sarsak, former political prisoner and hunger striker.
Sarsak with poster of football hero Eric Cantona at the Manchester United ground

Sarsak with poster of football hero Eric Cantona at the Manchester United ground

Mahmoud’s career as a promising midfielder in the Palestinian national team was blighted by his arrest, interrogation, torture and three years’ detention without trial in various Israeli jails. After his eventual release less than a year ago, following a global campaign on his behalf, he has resolved to use sport as a medium to express his solidarity with all victims of oppression, focusing on political prisoners and especially those in Israel and Palestine.  He explains his evolution in an interview here.
After many weeks of tense anticipation as the Mahmoud Sarsak 2013 UK Tour support group worked with friends in Gaza to negotiate hurdles thrown up by visa applications, flight arrangements and sealed borders, Mahmoud arrived in London in time to lead protests at the Annual Congress in London on May 24 of European football’s governing body UEFA.
TV footage showed Mahmoud accompanied by Jewish comedian and author Alexei Sayle as he presented petitions calling on UEFA not to hold its under-21 finals in Israel this month.
On May 28th his message was underwritten by prominent individuals including veteran anti-apartheid campaigner Archbishop Desmond Tutu and top-ranking professional footballer Frederic Kanoute in a letter published in the Guardian newspaper.
They draw a contrast between UEFA’s resolve at its congress in London to punish racism in football and its “total insensitivity to the blatant and entrenched discrimination inflicted on Palestinian sportsmen and women by Israel.”
Sarsak’s UK tour has taken him so far to Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield,  Newcastle and Scotland.
Mahmoud in Sheffield with Football Unites, Racism Divides

Mahmoud in Sheffield with Football Unites, Racism Divides

The tour is supported by leading members of anti-racist football organisations Show Racism the Red Card, the FARE network, Football Beyond Borders and the Professional Footballers’ Association, plus Jews for Justice for Palestinians, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Friends of Al-Aqsa and J-BIG. 
On the eve of the final match in the European under-21 competition, at 6.30pm on Monday June 17 at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, Mahmoud will be part of  an expert panel exploring the impact of politics and racism in football and the role of sport as a means for Palestinians to resist discrimination.
The event will include a screening of a new short documentary  from Philosophy Football,  filmed days before the under-21 tournament kicked off in Israel on June 5.
As during the earlier leg of his European tour, which took him to France, Belgium, Norway, the Netherlands and Italy in March and April, Mahmoud and his message have attracted considerable media interest, especially from sports journalists.
Here are just a few examples:
Here is some of the coverage of the controversy Red Card has generated:

TOP FOOTBALLERS CHALLENGE UEFA TOURNAMENT IN ISRAEL

A statement signed by 52  European football players has dramatically raised the profile of the campaign challenging European football’s governing body UEFA for staging its 2013 under-21 finals in Israel.

KANOUTENews of the statement, published on Friday November 30 on the website of former Tottenham and Sevilla striker Frederic Kanoute (pictured above), was picked up by the Guardian online and then by many other media worldwide (see references below).

The group of UK premier league footballers and players in other major European leagues said that holding Euro 2013 in Israel was tantamount to rewarding it for the assault on Gaza which killed 170 Palestinians in November, including boys playing football. Israeli aerial attacks also destroyed the Palestinian Paralympic Committee offices, along with a stadium and sports complex where the Palestine team prepared for the 2012 Olympics.

The Guardian story explained:

The signatories, who include Eden Hazard of Chelsea, Abou Diaby of Arsenal and five Newcastle players – Papiss Cissé, Cheick Tioté, Sylvain Marveaux, Yohan Cabaye and Demba Ba – also criticised Israel’s continued detention without charge or trial of two Palestinian footballers.

 Several former Premier League players have also signed the letter, including Didier Drogba and Frédéric Kanouté, both of whom now play in China. Players with QPR, Stoke, Blackburn and Ipswich are among the signatories along with footballers in France, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Turkey.

The statement roundly condemns the Israeli assault on Gaza, describing it as “yet another stain on the world’s conscience” and expresses “solidarity with the people of Gaza who are living under siege and denied basic human dignity and freedom”.

It then focuses on the destruction of a football stadium which the Israeli military said had previously been used by Hamas as a rocket launching site but which at the time of the bombing was not.

The statement had originally been signed by 62 players. Ten, including Drogba, dropped out, possibly due to Zionist pressure.

The statement was welcomed by the Red Card Israeli Racism campaign which has been working with activists around Europe to challenge the staging of the U-21 finals in Israel since UEFA announced its decision in early 2011.

Last Tuesday, ahead of the draw for the competition in Tel Aviv, the campaign circulated the text of a statement from a group of public figures including filmmaker Ken Loach saying:  “it is inappropriate for European football’s governing body to be staging international competitions in a country responsible for systematic discrimination against Palestinians.”

Twenty-two British Members of Parliament  have signed a motion (EDM 640) in the House of Commons registering “with profound disapproval . . . that the FA is prepared to participate in the European Under-21 football tournament to be played in Israel in June 2013, even though Israel is geographically not in Europe and is a country which has policies of racial apartheid against Palestinians.”

ACTION:

Call on your MP to sign EDM 640

Sign the petition calling on UEFA to move the Euro 2013 final away from Israel

Links to some of the extensive media coverage:

http://www.agencemediapalestine.fr/blog/2012/12/01/bonne-couverture-mediatique-de-lappel-de-footballeurs-en-soutien-a-gaza/

http://www.tdg.ch/monde/afrique/Les-footballeurs-ne-veulent-pas-d-un-Euro-en-Israel/story/28143281?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

http://www.saphirnews.com/Kanoute-Drogba-Menez-Mandanda-Des-stars-du-football-soutiennent-la-Palestine_a15800.html

http://www.insideworldfootball.biz/worldfootball/asia/11647-gaza-conflict-damages-vital-sporting-infrastructure.

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/sport/football/article3616788.ece

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/news/9715577/Premier-League-players-call-on-Uefa-to-remove-Israel-as-European-U-21-hosts.html

http://www.france24.com/en/20121130-top-footballers-urge-rethink-israel-venue

http://soccernet.espn.go.com/news/story/_/id/1246310/didier-drogba-among-stars-declaring-support-for-palestine?cc=5739

http://itisallaboutfootball.tumblr.com/post/36899657123/european-football-players-declare-support-to-palestine

http://www.101greatgoals.com/blog/freddie-kanoute-is-joined-by-hazard-diaby-papiss-cisse-tiote-demba-ba-in-condemning-plans-to-hold-u21-euros-in-israel/

http://www.twtd.co.uk/ipswich-town-news/21988/ellington-amongst-players-in-israel-protest

http://www.todayszaman.com/news-299857-football-players-stand-in-solidarity-with-palestinians-amid-recent-israeli-aggression.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/01/sports/soccer/soccer-players-protest-european-under-21-championship-tournament-in-israel.html

http://www.foxnews.com/sports/2012/11/30/footballers-sign-statement-protesting-israel-hosting-euro-u21-tournament-after/

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/sport/football/israel-risky-hosts-for-under-21-euro-championships/story-e6frfg8x-1226527893532

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/nov/30/footballers-u21-european-championship-israel

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/footballers-protest-israel-hosting-uefa-euro-u21

http://www.timesofisrael.com/soccer-players-protest-israel-hosting-uefa-under-21-tournament/

HUMANISING THOSE ISRAEL SEEKS TO DEMONISE

Click the caption to read the names and ages of the victims of Israel’s current assault on Gaza.
The letter below has appeared in the Guardian newspaper, along with several others commenting on the attacks. Initiated by Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, it has been signed by the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network and more than 30 individuals including actress Miriam Margolyes, comedian, author and actor Alexei Sayle, writer/musician Leon Rosselson and author Mike Marqusee. (Not all the names appear in the Guardian).

Letter to the editor
As Jewish supporters of Palestinian rights, we have once again watched in horror as Israel escalates its lethal bombardment on the civilian population of Gaza.  Numerous people including children are being killed or wounded.  Israeli casualties came only after Israel, having started the slaughter by killing a 13-year-old boy in Gaza on November 8, shattered a truce by assassinating the Gazan military leader who had negotiated it. So who is the terrorist and who wants peace?

Israel’s political-military leaders cynically escalate the conflict, trying to justify their blockade on Gaza and acting tough in the run-up to government elections. Having turned Gaza into an open-air prison, they again punish the Palestinians for electing leaders who attempt to resist the illegal Occupation.

Too much of our media, the BBC in particular, collude with the official Israeli version: that the attacks are ‘targeted’ retaliation for rockets launched from Gaza. Despite hand-wringing by some Western governments, they encourage Israeli belligerence by labelling Hamas as a terrorist organisation, supporting the Gaza siege and denying Palestinian rights, both within and outside Israel. We support the peaceful campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) designed to help achieve those rights.

ISRAELI EMBASSY ORCHESTRATES TWITTER DEFENCE OF HABIMA

VIDEO MESSAGE FROM MIRIAM MARGOLYES

Israel’s pretence of keeping culture separate from politics has disintegrated in the days leading up the appearance of the flagship theatre company Habima at Shakespeare’s Globe in London on May

No doubt under extreme pressure from the Zionist lobby, the Globe  is imposing unprecedented security measures on audiences on Monday and Tuesday, in a misguided attempt to prevent protesters expressing their outrage at the presence of Habima, which entertains colonists illegally settled on Palestinian land.

Link to video here.

In moves that will make the theatre resemble an Israeli checkpoint, bags “and audience members” will be subjected to “extensive searches”; the audience will be required to check in an hour and a half before the start of the performance and no bags larger than a medium-sized purse will be allowed into the auditorium.

Now evidence has emerged that the Israeli Embassy is instructing Israel’s supporters in the UK on how to use Twitter in Habima’s defence.

In emails circulated to some sections of the Jewish community, the embassy is launching a Twitter campaign using “the hashtag #LoveCulture as it is short enough to fit on a substantial tweet and won’t be taken at first glance as a political statement” (our emphasis).

Suggested hasbara tweets from Tuesday morning onwards include:

Great to see @HabimaTheatre celebrating the Cultural Olympiad @the_globe…all the world’s a stage #LoveCulture

 Fantastic seeing the foremost Hebrew speaking theatre company perform the Merchant of Venice @the_globe #LoveCulture

and, with an ungrateful dig at Conservative MP Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, who has made a point of promising to attend the Israeli cultural ambassadors’ performance on Monday:

 Was great to hear @edvaizey enjoyed watching @HabimaTheatre…did he understand any of it though? #LoveCulture

Those interested in helping the Brand Israel Hasbara effort are invited to email the embassy at this address: pr-asst3@london.mfa.gov.il

For those who, on the other hand, respect the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions and recognise cultural boycott as a legitimate weapon in the non-violent struggle for freedom, justice and equality, we recommend joining a mass protest outside the Globe at 6pm on Monday May 28 and again on Tuesday 29th.

The protest is a joint effort by the full range of Palestinian solidarity organisations including Jews for Justice for Palestinians, J-BIG, the Boycott Israel Network, PSC and many more.

Film maker Ken Loach said in statement before the protests that Habima, in common with other Israeli cultural institutions travelling abroad, was part of Israel’s propaganda campaign.

“These performances attempt to normalize the unacceptable, the occupation of land that belongs to the Palestinians,” said Loach. “This complicity makes a mockery of Habima’s claim to freedom in its work.”

Despite appeals over recent months from Israeli campaigners and many respected UK theatre actors, directors and playwrights, the Globe has declined to respect the Palestinian boycott call aimed at institutions, like Habima, that use culture to legitimise the Israeli state’s infringements of human rights and breaches of international law.

See actors David Calder, Miriam Margolyes and John Davies explaining their support for the  cultural boycott of Israeli National Theatre, Habima.

Join the campaign facebook page.

TRIUMPHANT PALESTINIAN RICHARD II AT SHAKESPEARE’S GLOBE

“London loved the Palestinian Theatre’s performance of Richard II in Arabic at the Globe World Shakespeare Festival on4th May 2012 – a wonderful play beautifully performed.”

Sami Metwasi, Ashtar’s witty and tragic King Richard, addresses the post performance discussion audience.

So commented one audience member who joined a packed and lively post-performance discussion on Friday evening with more than a dozen members of the ASHTAR theatre company and British theatre professionals and enthusiasts.

Also on the panel were UK writer and broadcaster Bidisha and Sonja Linden, founder of iceandfire theatre . There is a full audio recording of the discussion here.  Ashtar’s Richard II is on film here.

Based in Ramallah in the Occupied West Bank, Ashtar was formed in 1991 by two prominent Palestinian actors and directors, Iman Aoun and Edward Muallem, both of whom were on stage in Richard II at the Globe on May 4 and 5.

Iman Aoun, artistic director of Ashtar

Their Gaza Monologues, created in 2010 and performed by more than 60 companies in 36 countries, was their artistic response to the Israeli assault on Gaza which killed almost 1,400 Palestinians in Dec/Jan 2008/09. It told the personal stories of a group of children from Gaza. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs tried to stop its performance in Norway.

Edward Muallem, co-founder of Ashtar, Northumberland in Richard II

At the beginning of Friday’s discussion, Aoun, Muallem and 11 other cast members introduced themselves, each drawing warm applause from the audience as they revealed the richness and complexity of their lives as Palestinian artists living and working all over Palestine and the diaspora.

Many are established figures in Palestinian society as directors, playwrights, film-makers, theatre group founders and artistic directors, and educators.

Amer Khalil, Bagot in Richard II, works in theatre with young people in Gaza and the West Bank.

Ashtar’s artistic director Aoun said that in interpreting a Shakespeare play outside their usual repertoire, they had to work hard to understand the setting for Richard II, to explore its meaning at the human level, and to consider what it meant to them.

“With help from our Irish director Connall Morrison we eventually made our starting point the end of the play, where Henry Bolingbroke (Henry IV of England) says he will go to Jerusalem to clean his hands of the blood he had shed – and to dirty our land!,” said Aoun.

“Britain occupied Ireland as it later occupied Palestine. But the play speaks far beyond our situation. Shakespeare talks about every tyrant, every power struggle in every place and time.”

At the Globe’s reception for Ashtar, after their second performance of Richard II on Saturday May 5, Globe artistic director Dominic Dromgoole hailed Ashtar’s interpretation of a play which the English habitually did not “get”.

“It took a Palestinian company to show us what it’s really about,” he said.

The discussion on Friday, held in a lecture theatre at the Globe but organised independently by Ashtar with help from London-based campaigners for Palestinian rights, repeatedly highlighted Ashtar’s role as artists performing universal work.

“When Palestinian artists perform, they are not only representing their lives under military occupation,” said Bidisha, noting that resistance may take political, diplomatic or cultural forms.

Writer and broadcaster Bidisha

She said the play’s bloody action gave us claustrophobic character studies reminiscent of a rich Saudi family scheming and fighting for wealth and power.

Linden, whose own work explores stories that are often passed over or ignored, said artists have a duty to engage and bear witness. She called theatre “a form of non-violent resistance.”

Playwright Sonja Linden

The audience  included a number of actors, directors and playwrights who had signed a letter calling on the Globe to rescind its invitation to the Israeli National Theatre, Habima, in the Shakespeare festival.

Actors Roger Lloyd-Pack (centre) and Kika Markham (right)

BDS campaigner Les Levidow asks Ashtar’s view of the boycott movement

The Habima issue was one of those raised in audience questions.

Aoun stated unequivocally that all the theatre companies represented by Ashtar’s members support the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS), and specifically cultural boycott.

“We cannot agree to any hostile presence on the West Bank, or engage with anyone complicit in it,” she said. “Remember we have to LIVE the Occupation. Even coming here, to perform  at the Globe, I was strip searched at Tel Aviv airport.”

Nicola Zreineh, Iman Aoun, George Ibrahim

Nicola Zreineh, who played Richard II’s deposer Bolingbroke in the play, said the boycott was not just about Habima.

“Any institution of the Israeli state should be cut off as long as justice is denied,” he said.

George Ibrahim, sharing the platform with Aoun and Zreineh, reminded the audience;  “We Palestinians are all besieged. Even in Jerusalem the cruel, ugly wall separates us.”

Another Ashtar member, Firas Farah, joked that checkpoints and closures made it easier to get from Jerusalem to London than to Ramallah.

Firas Farah, Aumerle in Richard II

“When Henry Bolingbroke says he is going to Jerusalem, I think – ‘How will he get a permit?’” said Farah.

In an interview with journalist Eleanor Kilroy before coming to London, Aoun addressed the idea that cultural boycott prevents communication between artists on different sides of a conflict. She agreed that art can build bridges and bring people together,  but she appealed for “a bit of sanity.”

“At night Israeli artists want to perform with us and in the morning they serve in the army. What is the use of going on producing art when deep down they know they are breaking basic human rights by supporting the occupation and its apartheid regime and settlements? Israelis need to work inside their own society; changes have to occur on the ground in Israel for there to be real justice.”

Other members of the Ashtar team were pictured at the discussion by Abbas from inminds.

Bayan Shbib, the Queen

Mohammad Eid, Ross

Ihab Zahdeh, Mowbray and two other parts

Iyad Hurani, Percy in Richard II

Hussein Nakhleh (standing), John of Gaunt

Raed Ayasa, plays Ross and a gardener

George Ibrahim, Duke of Gloucester & Duke of York

Nicola Zreineh, Henry Bolinbroke

See here for an excellent resume by Eleanor Kilroy of the arguments for Habima’s exclusion from the Globe’s festival.

Bidisha is launching her new book, Beyond the Wall: Writing a Path Through Palestine, on Wednesday May 16.

Some examples of media coverage for Ashtar:

http://www.theartsdesk.com/theatre/globe-globe-richard-ii-shakespeares-globe

http://arabshakespeare.blogspot.co.uk/

http://jn1.tv/video/culture/?media_id=22210

http://www.alalamiatv.com/news/?p=4850

http://danhutton.wordpress.com/tag/ashtar-theatre/

BAD WEEK FOR PERES AS BDS VICTORIES MOUNT

Israeli President Shimon Peres appeared in contemplative mood on Israel’s 64th Independence Day, April 25, bemoaning the power of the boycott movement in an interview in Maariv.

After listing Israel’s huge achievements, Peres mused on why such a successful nation should seek peace. Not, evidently, because peace is good for humanity, that would be just silly. No. Israel should seek peace:

“Because if Israel’s image gets worse, it will begin to suffer boycotts. There is already an artistic boycott against us — they won’t let Habimah Theatre enter London — and signs of an undeclared financial boycott are beginning to emerge.”

The good president actually slightly overestimates the success of the BDS campaign against the presence of the Israeli National Theatre at the Globe-to-Globe festival, though it has made great strides.

But within hours of publication of his Maariv interview, Peres’s words seemed quite prophetic.

That very day, delegates to the Annual Conference of the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC), the umbrella group for every trade union in Scotland, voted unanimously for a range of resolutions condemning Israeli apartheid, including supporting the StoptheJNF campaign to expose the role of the racist JNF (Jewish National Fund).

Then on Friday April 27, tireless work from BDS activists paid off massively with the decision of the UK’s fifth biggest food retailer, The Co-operative Group, to “no longer engage with any supplier of produce known to be sourcing from the Israeli settlements”.

The Co-op’s decision, notified to campaigners in a statement, will immediately impact four suppliers, Agrexco, Arava Export Growers, Adafresh and Mehadrin, Israel’s largest agricultural export company.

Coverage of this major development spread rapidly in the British and Israeli media. The Guardian’s coverage, which for a time was the second most viewed item on its website, relied heavily on the statement put out by the Boycott Israel Network.

The Jerusalem Post was among many Israeli outlets to take up the story, and pro-Israel bloggers quickly leapt into action to demand a boycott of the Co-op.

Globe Olympic Shakespeare Festival challenged for inviting Israeli National Theatre

This news release went into circulation on Friday March 29, just in time for Palestine Land Day and the Global March for Jerusalem, with publication of a letter signed by leading actors, directors and playwrights, challenging the Globe Theatre for inviting Israel’s national theatre, Habima, to take part in London’s Oultural Olympiad. Habima is complicit in Israel’s illegal settlement of Palestinian land.

ATTENTION EDITORS – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

  •  David Calder, Trevor Griffiths, Jonathan Miller, Mark Rylance, Emma Thompson, Harriet Walter call on Globe to withdraw invitation to Israeli theatre, Habima
  •  Rylance – “support Israeli artists resisting illegal settlements”
  •  Calder – Habima “a cultural fig-leaf” for Israeli brutality

Leading British actors, directors and authors are challenging the Globe to Globe World Shakespeare Festival, part of the Cultural Olympiad, over its invitation to an Israeli theatre company which performs for settlers on illegally occupied Palestinian land.

In an open letter published in The Guardian (March 29), David Calder, Trevor Griffiths, Jonathan Miller, Mark Rylance, Emma Thompson and Harriet Walter, along with 31 others, say the Israeli National Theatre, Habima, “has a shameful record of involvement with illegal Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestinian Territory”.

They call on Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, on London’s South Bank, to withdraw the invitation “so the festival is not complicit with human rights violations and the illegal colonisation of occupied land”.

Habima is scheduled to perform The Merchant of Venice in Hebrew at the Globe on May 28 and 29 as one of 37 Shakespeare plays in 37 world languages during the seven week festival.

The Guardian letter notes that a number of Israeli theatre professionals have declared that they will not take part in performances in “halls of culture” built in two large Israeli settlements. Habima, however, has pledged to continue doing so.

“I sign this letter in support of those artists within Israel who are resisting the requests to play in the illegal settlements,” said actor Mark Rylance.   He drew a parallel with earlier campaigns supporting change in apartheid South Africa.

“Acting in the illegal settlements seems to me an act of provocation and disrespect. Surely peace will only be born when each person respects the other’s boundaries,” Rylance said.

The Globe’s response to appeals from Israeli, Palestinian and British campaigners for Habima’s invitation to be withdrawn has been to insist that the World Shakespeare Festival must be inclusive and keep channels of cultural communication open.

David Calder, whose roles include Shylock with the Royal Shakespeare Company and Lear with the Globe Theatre Company, said that Habima “placed itself outside the general case of ‘bridge-making culture’ by being prepared to play before a segregated audience of illegal settlers in a theatre from which Palestinians themselves are barred”.

Calder said that leading Israeli company Habima are part of “a cultural fig leaf” forIsrael’s daily brutality.

Notes for editors:

1. FULL TEXT OF LETTER + TOP 13 SIGNATORIES, REMAINING SIGS BELOW, ALL IN PERSONAL CAPACITY.

We notice with dismay and regret that Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in Londonhas invited Israel’s National Theatre, Habima, to perform The Merchant of Venice in its Globe to Globe festival this coming May.

The general manager of Habima has declared the invitation ‘an honourable accomplishment for the State of Israel’ (i).   But Habima has a shameful record of involvement with illegal Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestinian Territory.

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 (ii) 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.

The Globe says it wants to ‘include’ the Hebrew language in its festival – we have no problem with that.   ‘Inclusiveness’ is a core value of arts policy in Britain, and we support it.   But by inviting Habima, the Globe is associating itself with policies of exclusion practised by the Israeli state and endorsed by its national theatre company.   We ask the Globe to withdraw the invitation so the festival is not complicit with human rights violations and the illegal colonisation of occupied land.

Yours sincerely,

David Calder, actor

Caryl Churchill, playwright

Trevor Griffiths, playwright

Mike Leigh, filmmaker, dramatist

Roger Lloyd Pack, actor

Cherie Lunghi, actor

Miriam Margolyes OBE, actor

Kika Markham, actor

Jonathan Miller, director, author and broadcaster

Mark Rylance, actor

Emma Thompson, actor, screenwriter

Harriet Walter DBE, actor

Richard Wilson, actor, director

Full list of further signatories:

David Aukin, producer

Poppy Burton-Morgan, artistic director, Metta Theatre

Leo Butler, playwright

Niall Buggy, actor

Jonathan Chadwick, director

Michael Darlow, writer, director

Annie Firbank, actor

Paul Freeman, actor

Matyelok Gibbs, actor

Tony Graham, director

John Graham Davies, actor, writer

Janet Henfrey, actor

James Ivens, artistic director, Flood Theatre

Andrew Jarvis, actor, director, teacher

Neville Jason, actor

Ursula Jones, actor

Professor Adah Kay, academic, playwright

Sonja Linden, playwright, iceandfire theatre

Frances Rifkin, director

Alexei Sayle, comedian, writer

Farhana Sheikh, writer

Andy de la Tour, actor, director

Hilary Westlake, director

Susan Wooldridge, actor, writer

(i) http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4170210,00.html

(ii) http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/aug/29/actors-boycott-west-bank-theatre

2. Habima’s planned involvement in the Globe to Globe festival aroused opposition initially from the Israeli organisation Boycott from Within, who wrote to Globe Theatre Artistic Director Dominic Dromgoole in January 2012:

http://boycottisrael.info/content/call-shakespeares-globe-theatre

3. This was soon followed by a Palestinian appeal.

Excerpt from letter to the Globe from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI):

“Just as British theatres in the 1980s avoided inviting South African theatres that were part of the apartheid system and took a stance in opposition to apartheid, so must the Globe today disinvite Habima, a cultural ambassador of Israel and a defender of Israel’s illegal colonies.

All main Palestinian theatre artists and other cultural figures endorse  the cultural boycott of Israel and its complicit institutions as a minimal, peaceful form of resistance to the occupation and other forms of Israeli oppression.”

“We again call on the Globe to cancel this invitation which conflicts with its commitment to human rights.”[1]

4. Israeli, British and theatrical media picked up the story:

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4170210,00.html

http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2012/jan/17/globe-theatre-controversial-israeli-company

http://www.thestage.co.uk/news/newsstory.php/34932/globe-defends-invitation-to-israeli-theatre

5. Habima’s general manager Odelia Friedman declared the invitation to perform at the Globe “an honourable accomplishment for the State of Israel”

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4170210,00.html

6.  A Palestinian theatre group, Ashtar, based in Ramallah in the Occupied West Bank, is to stage Richard II in Arabic on May 4 and  5.  A Habima spokesperson, Rut Tonn, described Ashtar’s appearance in the same festival as Habima as an example of “collaborations which will help with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

http://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/55939/israelis-fear-protests-globe-shakespeare-festival

But Ashtar has refuted any suggestion that its appearance in the festival four weeks before Habima’s implies any sort of balance or equivalence, and said in a letter to the Globe:

“They have insinuated cooperation with us to undermine the growing cultural boycott of complicit Israeli institutions.”[2]

7. The Israeli state explicitly utilises culture as a propaganda tool under the auspices of its Foreign Affairs ministry which launched a ‘Brand Israel’ campaign in 2005.

Nissim Ben-Sheetrit of Israel’s Foreign Ministry said: “We see culture as a propaganda tool of the first rank, and I do not differentiate between propaganda and culture.”

Artists who accept funding from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs are required to sign a contract which states that the artist “is aware that the purpose of ordering services from him is to promote the policy interests of the State of Israel via culture and art, including contributing to creating a positive image for Israel.”

http://www.haaretz.com/putting-out-a-contract-on-art-1.250388

8. Israeli journalist Gideon Levy has highlighted the role of theatre in bolstering the state’s policy of relentless settlement and colonisation and predicted that theatres around the world would lock their doors to Habima.

http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/puppet-theater-1.310770

9. The failure of the international community to hold Israel to account for its persistent infringements of human rights, flouting of UN resolution and breaches of international law has led to a Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions modelled on the non-violent campaign to end South African apartheid.

http://pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=869

[1] Full text available on request

[2] Full text available on request

UK FOOTBALL FANS SHOW ISRAEL THE RED CARD FOR RACISM

Thousands of football supporters at three UK grounds heard the message “Show Israel the Red Card”  on Wednesday February 22, when campaigners handed out leaflets at UEFA under-21 matches at Middlesborough, Wrexham and Paisley.

Their call for Europe’s football governing body to withdraw the under-21 finals from Israel in 2013 attracted friendly attention from fans.

At Wrexham, a banner proclaimed the message “No to Israeli apartheid” and campaigners raised the cry: “Change the finals toWales”.

As part of the run-up to UEFA’s Annual Open Congress, due to be held in Istanbul on March 22, leaflets were delivered for Welsh manager Brian Flynn and the head of the Welsh Football Association Phil Pritchard.

“The Palestinian people are treated worse than black people were during South African apartheid or in the segregated southern states ofAmerica,” the leaflets said.

“We are urging all the European football associations to support the 42 Palestinian clubs in the Gaza Strip who have called on UEFA President Michel Platini not to reward Israel for its racist discrimination against Palestinians,” said Geoff Lee, UK coordinator of Red Card Israeli Apartheid.

In Middlesborough the campaign team included members of the Northumberland County UNISON trade union branch. Leaflets were snapped up by receptive fans, said Mick Bowman of Newcastle Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

The Red Card Israeli Apartheid campaign began a year ago, after UEFA announced its decision to award Israel the 2013 under-21 finals. See here for a report on campaign action to date.