the policing of tonight’s performance was at least as disruptive as the mostly silent protests themselves, and I have never been in a theatrical situation where I have felt more intimidated, watched and surrounded by hate. And for the most part, that wasn’t coming from the protesters.
The heavy-handedness of the policing, and the gentle mockery which served to bind together an audience in derision of the Palestinian protesters, came across to me as a gesture of control and display of power. (Review of ‘The Merchant of Venice’ at Shakespeare’s Globe)
The airport-style security measures at Shakespeare’s Globe in London for yesterday’s performance by Israel’s National Theatre, Habima, were unprecedented: full security gates were in place, including metal detectors, and ticketholders were subjected to bag searches and pat-downs. Despite this, at least 15 Palestinian solidarity campaigners succeeded in staging their own performance, unfurling a banner and Palestinian flags inside the theatre, and staging a mute protest against illegal colonisation and Israeli apartheid. Outside the theatre, a protest (and counter-protest) was held in the lead up to the performance:
The Independent reports that ’The prompt removal of the protesters was perhaps more distracting than the gesture.’
There was one electrifying intervention during the trial scene when a booming voice from the yard asked: “Hath not a Palestinian eyes?” – an act of telling appropriation that for a couple of vertiginous seconds threatened to throw the production off-balance.
The famous line from The Merchant of Venice spoken by Shylock was voiced by British actor, John Graham Davies, before he was removed by hired security personnel.
Some activists silently unfurled banners with the slogan “Israeli apartheid leave the stage”, two activists unfurled a flag and when this was taken from them remained standing silently for an hour in their seats with their hands raised displaying the peace sign. Others silently stood for more than an hour with their mouths taped over.
Inside the Globe protesters unfurl banner (Azvsas)
One demonstrator had her glasses broken by security, and pro-Israel audience members shouted abuse at the protesters, as can be seen in the video above. Some physically attacked the demonstrators, including an Israel apologist who kneed in the back a young, female protester.
London’s Evening Standard quotes Florence Hartley, 24, one of the demonstrators, who said: “It was a silent protest. But once the security staff moved in I was knocked to the floor and they had to drag me out. Some of the audience were shouting ‘scum’ at us.”
One of the protesters was arrested on suspicion of assault on a security guard and remains in police custody, Scotland Yard said. This is the moment he is dragged out of the theatre ‘pit’:
As Tony Greenstein writes in a post describing his own experience inside the theatre,
Given the assaults by the security goons on other protestors, the fact that one protestor has been detained on suspicion of attacking a goon is ludicrous.
The Press Association report includes some excellent quotes that contribute to breaking the silence on Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people:
Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, co-ordinator with the Boycott Israel Network, said:
“This campaign is not an attack on individual artists, we are not censoring the content of their work nor are we concerned about their ethnicity or the language they speak. As with South African sport in the apartheid era, this is about refusing to allow culture to be used to whitewash oppression.”
Protester Zoe Mars said: “We tried non-violently to convey the message that culture may not be used to give a civilised gloss to a state that perpetrates human rights abuses.”