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Emma Thompson among group of prominent British actors calling on Globe theatre to withdraw invite to Israeli National Theatre

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UK groups have for three months been pressing Shakespeare’s Globe to withdraw its festival invitation to Habima in response to the Palestinian call to boycott Israeli cultural institutions, and now a group of prominent actors, playwrights and directors have published a letter in the Guardian, ‘Dismay at Globe invitation to Israeli theatre’

We notice with dismay and regret that Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London has 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”. 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 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 that the festival is not complicit with human rights violations and the illegal colonisation of occupied land.

David Aukin producer
Poppy Burton-Morgan artistic director, Metta Theatre
Leo Butler playwright
Niall Buggy actor
David Calder actor
Jonathan Chadwick director
Caryl Churchill playwright
Michael Darlow writer, director
John Graham Davies actor, writer
Trevor Griffiths playwright
Annie Firbank actor
Paul Freeman actor
Matyelok Gibbs actor
Tony Graham director
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
Mike Leigh film-maker, dramatist
Sonja Linden playwright, iceandfire theatre
Roger Lloyd Pack actor
Cherie Lunghi actor
Miriam Margolyes actor
Kika Markham actor
Jonathan Miller director, author and broadcaster
Frances Rifkin director
Mark Rylance actor
Alexei Sayle comedian, writer
Farhana Sheikh writer
Emma Thompson actor, screenwriter
Andy de la Tour actor, director
Harriet Walter actor
Hilary Westlake director
Richard Wilson actor, director
Susan Wooldridge actor, writer

Eleanor Kilroy

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17 Responses

  1. pabelmont on March 29, 2012, 7:01 pm

    Would that Americans would join this petition or issue their own, to the same effect. I still remember with anger Joseph Papp’s July 1989 refusal to allow the Public Theater in NYC present a Palestinian play. NYC owes Palestinians more than one apology and this petition is a lovely vehicle for an apology.

  2. spuxx on March 29, 2012, 8:07 pm

    I don’t believe it…. some beloved names on that list. Will be hard to smear all of them.

  3. RoHa on March 29, 2012, 8:07 pm

    I note that Jonathan Miller, Mike Leigh, and Miriam Margolyes are on the list. Quite a few other big names, too. Richard Wilson, Cheri Lunghi, Alexei Sayle …

    (I once had a letter published in the Times Higher Education Supplement defending Jonathan Miller for paying little attention to his Jewish “heritage”.)

  4. annie on March 29, 2012, 9:14 pm


  5. Pixel on March 29, 2012, 9:57 pm

    Even if they don’t prevail, this is huge. The movement is growing …and growing.

  6. Polly on March 29, 2012, 10:40 pm

    Unrelated – Was just reading MJ Rosenberg article at Huffpo about Peter Beinart’s book and saw this pretty amazing clip from Israeli Big Brother:

    The rest of the article is here:

    • Dex on March 30, 2012, 1:11 am

      Interesting video, but at the end of the day, it’s a bunch of (possibly) rich, white Israelis, descendanded from Europe, talking about those “other” people who believe in “Allah.”

      It sounds like the conservatives kids want all the land and the liberal kid wants 1967 plus a little more…I see no difference between the two. ALL of historical Palestine is must be recognized as stolen from the native Arabs; they should be allowed to return and live in peace and harmony with those there now.

      • Polly on March 30, 2012, 8:01 am

        Really Dex?
        I thought having someone ranting on national TV that the IDF’s main purpose was to grab land and dispossess innocent people was a little more significant than that. But then again I don’t see your second point about a total right of return ever happening so I guess we’re operating on different levels of expectation.

      • kalithea on March 30, 2012, 1:56 pm

        Excellent reply.

  7. DICKERSON3870 on March 29, 2012, 11:09 pm

    RE: “Mike Leigh film-maker, dramatist” ~ signatory

    FILM: Naked, 1993 NR 131 minutes
    A self-confessed lost boy heads for the big-city grit and glamour of London to escape the repercussions of his most recent misstep — the sexual assault of a young woman. But a fresh start isn’t meant to be.
    Cast: David Thewlis, Lesley Sharp, Katrin Cartlidge, Greg Cruttwell, Claire Skinner, Peter Wight, Ewen Bremner, Susan Vidler, Deborah MacLaren, Gina McKee, Carolina Giammetta
    Director (and Writer): Mike Leigh
    Netflix Availability: Streaming and DVD
    ALSO ON YouTube in 13 parts –…24273l40635l0l43387l3l3l0l0l0l0l67l154l3l3l0.
    Mike Leigh’s “Naked” Film Trailer (VIDEO, 02:29) –
    P.S. I thought David Thewlis was outstanding, and Mike Leigh’s writing was superb.

  8. mudder on March 29, 2012, 11:19 pm

    Professor Trelawney can indeed read the tea leaves. And she will be on the right side of history.

  9. Siegfried al-Haq on March 30, 2012, 6:42 am

    Interesting. Mike Leigh, who is Jewish, has been slowly shifting in his position on Israel. As of a few years ago, I have it on good authority that he was deeply against BDS, fairly hostile to the traditional UK anti-Israeli cultural activism. But in 2010 he withdrew from a planned visit to Israel and has slowly come to sit on the side of the cultural boycott and has spoken out against Israeli policies.

    • kalithea on March 30, 2012, 2:02 pm

      It takes some people longer to wake up than others. His bias was no doubt blinding.

  10. Saleema on March 30, 2012, 9:45 am

    There goes the chance of winning another Oscar, Emma!

  11. Condor on April 13, 2012, 12:26 pm

    It’s a shame the focus is on politics, ad yet again on the State of Israel. Each signatory should be aware the one of many responses.

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