Monthly Archives: March 2012

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

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J-BIG joins wave of support for Jenny Tonge, champion of Palestinian rights

Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods can confirm what so many others have been saying since Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg forced Jenny Tonge to resign from the party:  She is a consistent friend of Palestinian human rights, always willing to work with campaigners trying to bring an end to Israel’s unrelenting denial of justice to the Palestinian people.

“My experience of working with Jenny is of a warm, kind and genuine person, always supportive on a personal level and an enthusiastic participant in J-BIG events,” said Deborah Fink, a founding member of the  group. “Suggestions that she is an extremist who dislikes Jews are absurd.”

The report below, from Friends of Al-Aqsa, explains the circumstances surrounding Baroness Tonge’s departure from the Lib Dems and includes a call to act in her defence.

Guardian columnist Michael White says that her remarks about Israel were not as outrageous as Clegg made out.

Picture: Friends of Al-Aqsa

Baroness Jenny Tonge was given an ultimatum by Lib Dem Party leader Nick Clegg when she made a fair and accurate statement about the state of Israel – ‘retract the statement or leave the party’

Baroness Tonge, a long time champion of the Palestinian struggle for freedom chose to leave the party rather than be forced to toe the party line where Israel is concerned.

The exact statement she made at Middlesex University last week was:

“Israel is not going to be there forever in its present form. One day, the United States of America will get sick of giving £70bn a year to Israel to support what I call America’s aircraft carrier in the Middle East – that is Israel. One day, the American people are going to say to the Israel lobby in the USA: enough is enough. Israel will lose support and then they will reap what they have sown.”

Ismail Patel, Chair of Friends of Al-Aqsa stated: “There was nothing in her statement which was unfair or inappropriate. The fact is that Israel in its present form is a racist state which has been occupying Palestinian land for over 44 years. This cannot and will not last forever. Millions of people around the world who form the ‘Free Palestine’ solidarity movement will work hard to ensure that Israel ends its occupation and that Arab Israeli’s are given equal rights within Israel. These aims merely represent international legal standards.”

Party leader Nick Clegg’s ultimatum was unnecessary and reflects the unacceptable sway the pro-Israel lobby appears to have on the party’s policies towards Israel.

ACTION ALERT

1. Write to Nick Clegg condemning his ultimatum to Jenny Tonge.

Email: leader@libdems.org.uk

2. Write to Baroness Jenny Tonge expressing support for her brave stand and continued solidarity with the Palestinian people.

Email: tongej@parliament.uk

Read FOA’s letter expressing our disappointment to Nick Clegg and our letter of support to Jenny Tonge.

Friends of Al-Aqsa

GREEN PARTY TARGETS RACIST JEWISH NATIONAL FUND

An uncharacteristically fair-minded article from the Jewish Chronicle told this story on March 1. A full statement from the StoptheJNF campaign appears below.

The Green Party has called for the JNF to be stripped of its charity status and has pledged to sign up to a campaign which calls the charity “racist”.

Delegates voted unanimously in favour of a motion condemning JNF’s activities and denouncing its “claims to be an ecological agency” at the England and Wales party’s spring conference on Sunday.

The motion was proposed by Deborah Fink, co-founder of Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods.

StoptheJNF Media Release: Israel ‘charity’ accused of racism suffers another blow
27 February 2012

The Jewish National Fund (JNF), a British charity implicated in human rights violations in Israel, received yet another blow when Green Party of England and Wales members voted overwhelmingly to support an international call for action against JNF practices in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and to revoke its charity status in the UK.
Green Party member Deborah Fink, who is co-founder of Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, moved the motion on Sunday.  Fink alerted the conference to “JNF greenwash” and said that “the Green Party stands for environmental and social justice, the upholding of human rights, is against racism and is officially in solidarity with the Palestinian people who have called for this campaign.  The JNF is a major impediment to realisation of Green Party policy on the Middle East, therefore the JNF should be condemned.  As a charity, the JNF gets tax advantages, so through our taxes, we are subsidising injustice”.  The motion passed with no one speaking in opposition and with only three people voting against.
The Green Party endorsement of the Stop the JNF Campaigns comes after similar motions were passed last year by the Scottish Green Party and Scottish Friends of the Earth, all repudiating the JNF’s claim to be an “environmental charity”.  The JNF is known for establishing forests and parks over the remains of destroyed Palestinian villages.  Last year the JNF lost high level political protection when David Cameron resigned as Honorary Patron, the first time in its 111 year history the serving British Prime Minister does not hold this position.  Equally unprecedentedly, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg declined the JNF’s request to become Patrons when they became leaders of their parties.
Terry Gallogly, Green Party member and an organiser of the Stop the JNF Campaign in the UK, welcomed the decision this weekend,
“Our government has stood by for over sixty years doing nothing, or directly complicit in Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights.  The JNF is a key tool of Israeli apartheid and ethnic cleansing, operating as a para-statal organisation with powers over land administration.
“This decision, along with similar positions already taken by civil society organisations such as the Iona Community and trade unions, is a message to the JNF that their days are numbered – we won’t tolerate their abuse of charity status in the UK to fund a system of land theft and racism against Palestinians.”
Campaigners believe that another sign of the JNF’s increasing difficulty is the sixty-four MPs who have signed an Early Day Motion stating there is just cause to consider the revocation of the JNF’s charitable status.
END 

Notes for editors:
1.       Motion passed at the Green Party of England and Wales Spring conference on 26thFebruary 2012
* The Green Party of England and Wales condemns the Jewish National Fund for its activities in excluding non-Jews from Israeli land and denounces the organisation for claiming to be an ecological agency.
* The GPEW endorses the international call for action against the JNF and supports efforts to revoke its charitable status in the UK.
* The GPEW will add its name to the list of signatories of the ‘Stop the JNF Campaign’.  (http://www.stopthejnf.org/).
2.      The Stop the JNF Campaign is an international campaign aimed at ending the role of the Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemet LeIsrael) (JNF-KKL) in:
– the on-going displacement of indigenous Palestinians from their land
– the theft of their property
– the funding of historic and present day colonies, and
– the destruction of the natural environment.
The Jewish National Fund was established in 1901 by the World Zionist Organisation and mandated to obtain land for the sole use of persons of ‘Jewish faith, race or ancestry’. It was first registered in the UK, and has retained a fundraising and propaganda function in Britain since the establishment of the Jewish state in 1948. Through its landholdings and its influence on the Israel Land Authority, the JNF controls 93% of the land in Israel on which it practices its ethnic exclusion policies.
The JNF continues to serve as a global fundraiser for Israeli ethnic cleansing, occupation and apartheid. Despite its role in a State institution of Israel (the Israel Land Authority) and in institutionalized racism and apartheid, the JNF and its affiliate organisations enjoy charitable status in over 50 countries.
For further information, contact uk@stopthejnf.org, 07931200361
3. ‘Cameron drops Israel ‘racist’ charity’, 27 May 2011
Stop the JNF Campaign: Media Release
http://www.stopthejnf.org/greatbritain_campaignnews_pressrelease27may2011.html
4. Stop the JNF campaign makes steady gains as Israel charity goes “on the retreat” in UK
by Asa Winstanley, The Electronic Intifada, 22 February 2012
http://electronicintifada.net/content/stop-jnf-campaign-makes-steady-gains-israel-charity-goes-retreat-uk/10974
5. The JNF in the Negev (Naqab)
‘Shattering Israel’s image of ‘democracy’’, The Guardian, 3 December 2009
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/dec/03/israel-negev
‘Cameron-backed charity accused of discriminating against non-Jews’, 10 June 2010
http://www.jnews.org.uk/news/cameron-backed-charity-accused-of-discriminating-against-non-jews
‘The Israelis keep bulldozing their village, but still the Bedouin will not give up their land’, The Guardian, 1 March 2011
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/mar/01/israelis-demolish-bedouin-village
‘Stop creating forests that are destroying Bedouin lives’, Amnesty International, 11 April 2011
http://www.amnesty.org/en/appeals-for-action/stop-destruction-bedouin-village-and-its-inhabitants%E2%80%99-livelihoods-5
6. Israeli government approves plans to transfer 30,000 Palestinian Bedouin by Mansour Nsasra
The Electronic Intifada, 1 October 2011
http://electronicintifada.net/content/israeli-government-approves-plans-transfer-30000-palestinian-bedouin/10444#.Tq56c3JDmIw
7. Early day motion 1677, JEWISH NATIONAL FUND, Session: 2010-12
“That this House welcomes the Stop the Jewish National Fund (JNF) Campaign launched on 30 March 2011 by the Palestinian Boycott National Committee, the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign and others to inform the public about the JNF – Karen Kayemet L’Yisrael, its ongoing illegal expropriation of Palestinian land, concealing of destroyed Palestinian villages beneath parks and forests, and prevention of refugees from returning to their homes; notes that the JNF’s constitution is explicitly discriminatory by stating that land and property will never be rented, leased or sold to non-Jews; further notes that the UN rejected the JNF USA’s application for consultative status with the Economic and Social Council on the ground that it violates the principles of the UN Charter on Human Rights; regrets that the Prime Minister is a JNF honorary patron; and believes that there is just cause to consider revocation of the JNF’s charitable status in the UK.”
http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2010-12/1677

Constituents can sign letters to the MPs here:http://coordin8.org.uk/app/index.php/com/edm1677

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.