English effort to boycott Israeli theater is likened to…. ‘Nazi book-burning’

Israel/Palestine
on 12 Comments

In the one week since their Guardian letter, ‘Dismay at Globe invitation’ to the Israeli Habima theatre, was published, signatories such as Emma Thompson and Mark Rylance have been vilified in some quarters. The Jewish Chronicle was expected to hit back the hardest; it has been following the story since late last year, even before Habima’s planned involvement in the Globe to Globe Shakespeare festival aroused opposition, initially from the Israeli organisation Boycott from Within.

In an October 2011 JC article, ‘Israelis fear protests at Globe Shakespeare festival‘, a Habima spokesperson, Rut Tonn, described the Palestinian theatre company Ashtar’s appearance in the same festival as “a blessing”, and an example of “collaborations which will help with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” But Ashtar has refuted any suggestion that its appearance in the festival four weeks before Habima’s implies any sort of balance, and said in a letter to the Globe this February:

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

Now The Jewish Chronicle has fashioned its best headline yet out of a quote from a British playwright:

Theatre ban ‘like Nazi book burning’ say West End stars

The call for a boycott of Habima, which was founded by Jews in Moscow in 1905, was condemned by Sir Arnold [Wesker], who said that “depriving an audience of an artistic experience is like the Nazis burning the books of the finest minds and talents of Europe”.

Habima’s artistic director Ilan Ronen, responding to the Guardian letter, reiterated this week in Haaretz the falsehood that illegal West Bank settlements are part of Israel. This is the line that Habima co-manager Odelia Friedman took in front of the Knesset in 2010:

“As a national theater company, Habima will perform for all residents of Israel. Residents of Ariel are residents of Israel and Habima will stage shows for them”.

The same Odelia Friedman declared just two months ago that the Globe invitation was ‘an honourable accomplishment for the State of Israel’, in the spirit of the infamous 2005 statement by Israel’s Foreign Ministry: “We see culture as a propaganda tool of the first rank, and I do not differentiate between propaganda and culture.” Yet the Globe and its apologists insist on equating the Palestinian boycott of Israeli institutions with an attack on individual (in some cases, Jewish) artistic freedom.

Last night, at a rather chaotic Dash Café London event “Art & Conflict – The Case of Syria”, my Reel Festivals colleague Dan Gorman gave an example of the Syrian Ba’athist regime’s attempt to co-opt their independent cultural festival in 2011, months after the uprising began. The Reel Festivals organisers abandoned plans to stage events in Syria upon seeing the Syrian authorities’ use of cultural events to support their narrative of popular support for the government, with events such as the “Oath of Loyalty to the Homeland festival” last July.

In this interminable propaganda piece by the SANA news agency on the ‘festival’, the following quote is typical: ‘Artist Subhi al-Rifa’ai said “We came here today to show the world that no one can undermine our country and national unity”.’ Crude rhetoric compared to the whitewash of The Jewish Chronicle and Ynet, and yet the parallels should be noted.

I have little doubt that several of the participating Syrian artists were too fearful for their lives to decline the invitation to front this state-sponsored event – the very antithesis of culture, just as the ethnically privileged Jewish Israeli actors in Habima dare not risk careers and government subsidies. As BWISP colleague, Naomi Foyle has stated in response to the Globe’s repeated claim that all Habima company actors are closet dissidents:

“If I were a conflicted Habima actor I would be glad of a boycott that might pressure my employers and state funders to rethink their illegal and profoundly destructive policies.”

12 Responses

  1. Woody Tanaka
    April 5, 2012, 10:49 am

    “As a national theater company, Habima will perform for all residents of Israel. Residents of Ariel are residents of Israel and Habima will stage shows for them”.

    Yet another Israeli admits to the de facto one-state apartheid regime. I wonder if one of our resident hasbara spear-catchers will rush to “explain” how this is not so…

  2. pabelmont
    April 5, 2012, 11:16 am

    Nazis burned more than books (as some Israelis and their friends may recall). Israel’s use of White Phosphorus, same. The 45 year occupation — by now shown indisputably to be a land grab — is without regard to its manner of conduct a flagrant violation of UN Charter; the manner of Israel’s occupation (wall, settlements, settlers, siege of Gaza) are further violations of international law. BDS is a means to persuade Israelis to change their ways. Let us rewrite the name “Israel” in our good books, unburnt, once Israel has completed its compliance with the human rights laws. then Habima will be welcome, no harm but much good done by the BDS action.

  3. Les
    April 5, 2012, 1:09 pm

    “Closet dissidents” grabs me the way “closet anti-Zionists” does.

  4. ErsatzYisrael
    April 5, 2012, 3:29 pm

    So, the Nazi book-burning of The Third Reich is perceived as a truly terrible thing by the Won’t Someone Just Think of the Jews London Org., but the documented Zionist flesh-burning of Palestinian civilians with illegal white phosphorous by The Fourth Reich demands them a place at the table. Uh, how do you say completely effin’ mental in the new-Hebrew again?

  5. DICKERSON3870
    April 5, 2012, 3:52 pm

    RE: “English effort to boycott Israeli theater is likened to…. ‘Nazi book-burning’ ”

    MY COMMENT: This appears to use the propaganda devices referred to as “name calling” and “transfer” in the Hasbara Handbook (2002) on pages 22-24.

    HASBARA HANDBOOK, pages 22-24:

    (excerpts) Propaganda is used by those who want to communicate in ways that engage the emotions,and downplay rationality, in an attempt to promote a certain message. To effectively present Israel to the public, and to counter anti-Israel messages, it is necessary to understand propaganda devices.
    This article applies a list of seven propaganda devices to the Israeli situation/b, and by doing so allows an understanding of some of the ways in which public opinion is fought for in the International arena.

    Name Calling
    Through the careful choice of words, the name calling technique links a person or an idea to anegative symbol. Creating negative connotations by name calling is done to try and get theaudience to reject a person or idea on the basis of negative associations, without allowing areal examination of that person or idea. The most obvious example is name calling – “they area neo-Nazi group” tends to sound pretty negative to most people. . .

    Transfer
    Transfer involves taking some of the prestige and authority [or negative connotations – J.L.D.] of one concept and applying it to another. For example, a speaker might decide to speak in front of a United Nations flag, in an attempt to gain legitimacy for himself or his idea. Some of the symbols that might be used indiscussing Israel might include the Israeli flag, or Star of David; Islamic symbols, which might lend a militant speaker the apparent support of Islam, even when what they are saying goesagainst mainstream Islamic beliefs [in this case, the use of book burning imagery to associate BDS with the Nazis through “transfer” ~ J.L.D.]; non-denominational prayer, which gives a sense of religiosity to a speaker even when his message is not ‘religious'; and the national symbols of a speakers’ own country – such as the American flag – which create the impression that thespeaker is presenting ‘American values’. Jewish student groups in the Diaspora can use the flag of their own country side by side withthe Israeli flag, where appropriate, to lend support to Israel. In a sports-loving country (suchas Australia), students can make people aware of famous Israeli sportsmen and sportswomen,in order to transfer positive feelings (about a football team) to Israel. . .

    SOURCE, “HASBARA HANDBOOK: Promoting Israel on
    Campus”
    (March 2002) – link to scribd.com
    ALSO SEE – link to sourcewatch.org

    • DICKERSON3870
      April 5, 2012, 4:13 pm

      P.S. RE: “The call for a boycott of Habima, which was founded by Jews in Moscow in 1905, was condemned by Sir Arnold [Wesker], who said that ‘depriving an audience of an artistic experience is like the Nazis burning the books of the finest minds and talents of Europe’.” ~ The Jewish Chronicle

      FROM THE HASBARA HANDBOOK (pages 24-25):

      Testimonial [one of the seven propaganda devices]
      Testimonial means enlisting the support of somebody admired or famous to endorse an idealor campaign. Testimonial can be used reasonably – it makes sense for a footballer to endorse football boots – or manipulated, such as when a footballer is used to support a political campaign they have only a limited understanding of. Whilst everybody is entitled to anopinion, testimonial can lend weight to an argument that it doesn’t deserve: if U2’s Bono condemned Israel for something that it didn’t do, thousands would believe him, even thoughhe was wrong.
      Enlisting celebrity support for Israel can help to persuade people that Israel is a great country. Obviously some celebrities are more useful than others. Students are probably a little too sophisticated to be affected by Britney’s opinion on Israel, but those associated with intelligence like professors, actors, radio hosts, sports managers and so on can be asked tooffer testimonial. A celebrity doesn’t have to fully support Israel to be useful. Quotes can work as testimonial, even when they might be old or out of context.
      Opponents of Israel can use celebrity support to strengthen their own message. Undermine this by drawing attention away from celebrity advocates towards ‘the issues’.
      It is not usefulto attack celebrities openly, or even to imply that they don’t know what they are talking about- this will alienate their supporters. If celebrity support for Palestinian causes goes beyond humanitarian issues to the political, consider coordinating an organized protest. Most celebrities will care more about their public image than they do about the Middle East. Threats of tainting a celebrity’s image will usually persuade them to back away from controversial political issues. . .

      SOURCE, “HASBARA HANDBOOK: Promoting Israel on
      Campus” (March 2002) – link to scribd.com

  6. justicewillprevail
    April 5, 2012, 4:51 pm

    Well, the destruction of cultural archives and symbols of Palestine is in the same spirit as book-burning. As is the relentless harassment of authors and writers who happen to have an independent view of Israel’s activities, the public campaigns for people to be sacked, the silencing of opposition, the undercover operations – who needs to burn books when you have all these other ways of destroying people and culture?

  7. piotr
    April 5, 2012, 5:07 pm

    While there are many charming liberal Zionists, the fascistic side of the movement has a rich and current record of censorship and intimidation. My top example is the exhibition of children’s picture from Gaza in Oackland, but in the context of theatre, protests against a Tel Aviv theatre for inviting an Israeli Palestinian director to direct a play.

    On the subject of book burning, confiscation of books is not better. Bringing books printed in Lebanon is illegal in Israel, so Pinocchio in Arabic will be confiscated. I wonder if USA has that particular idiocy as well (is it legal to bring books printed in Cuba?).

    • OlegR
      April 8, 2012, 8:23 am

      /On the subject of book burning, confiscation of books is not better. Bringing books printed in Lebanon is illegal in Israel, so Pinocchio in Arabic will be confiscated./

      link to haaretz.com

      /At the request of Haaretz the Tax Authority began to examine the circumstances of the incident, and they said that “this incident does not represent the policy and the law and is an incident stemming from a misunderstanding. The customs workers thought that there were 12 boxes rather than 12 books.”

      The Tax Authority said that the books that were confiscated from Kassis will be returned to her, and also apologized to her and said that in any case – bringing 12 books into Israel does not constitute “trade.”/

      Trading large quantities of books requires a special license since we are officially at
      war with Syria/ Lebanon .

      • Talkback
        April 8, 2012, 8:53 am

        “Trading large quantities of books requires a special license since we are officially at war with Syria/ Lebanon.”

        Where does it write “large”? Continue reading:

        /But when Kassis told attorney Haneen Naamneh from Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, the details of the case were not unfamiliar to her.

        “There are many such cases, it happens with private [!] citizens who visit Egypt or Jordan and want to bring books into Israel that were written, published or translated in Lebanon or Syria – and they are not allowed to bring them into Israel because they were produced in an enemy country. In terms of Israeli law, it’s trade with an enemy country.”/

  8. Talkback
    April 5, 2012, 7:58 pm

    “depriving an audience of an artistic experience is like the Nazis burning the books of the finest minds and talents of Europe”.”

    What is expelling, dispossesing, massacring and depriving Palestinians of their basic rights then, when you follow this Nazi comparison?

    The correct hasbara answer is: “Demonizing Israel”.

  9. yourstruly
    April 5, 2012, 10:09 pm

    boycotting a theater that represents a fascist entity such as israel is to nazi book burning as cautioning someone for his inappropriate behavior is to sentencing said person to life imprisonment without parole.

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