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Tonight’s performance will be disrupted

For the first time in my life, I am going to the theatre in the certain knowledge that my concentration on the play will be disturbed by audience members whose sole reason for attending is to create a disturbance.

The performance is Merchant of Venice by the Habimah company at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. There were interruptions by pro-Palestine agitators last night and we have been warned to expect a repetition. I am steeled for it. Attacks on Israeli culture are becoming routine. Anti-Israel sentiment is now a politically correct cliché across the performing arts in Britain.

The actress Emma Thompson has called, with many others, for the Globe to disinvite Habimah. Israel’s is the only culture to be demonised in this way. In the absence of logic, there is no room for dialogue. Emma’s friends will shout. I shall try to understand Shakespeare in Hebrew.

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Comments

  1. Peter Klatzow says:

    I find this confusing. The Merchant of Venice is Shakespeare’s most overly anti-Semitic play. It’s confusing enough that Habima have chosen this play – have they given it a particular slant?
    Should be an interesting evening Mr Lebrecht!

  2. Proud of you Norman !

  3. ronan Conroy says:

    I am not sure how the Merchant of Venice counts as Israeli culture. It’s a play by an englishman, and it doesn’t even mention Israel.

    Perhaps the protesters are protesting, not against Israeli culture, but against some other feature of modern Israel. I’m not sure, but it could be connected with the occupation of Palestinian land, the building of illegal settlements and the expropriation of the indigenous people.

    But I could be wrong. It might just be about Israeli culture in some way.

    Let us know how it goes.

    • No other country in the world is subjected to this. Not China, not Burma, not Turkey, not Uzbekistan, not Kyrgyzstan, not any of the South American countries that rape and pillage the Amazon together with it’s indigenous tribes. Most of it barely registers with Ronan Conroys of this world.

      But I could be wrong. It might be that Israel is The Great Satan after all, in some way.

  4. Mike Newman says:

    I have been to Bethlehem and seen at first hand what the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians. They have turned Bethlehem into a ghetto where their ‘security wall’ is built in some cases between Palestinian houses and the roads they used to be on. The Israelis close the wall at will, often for days on end making any kind of business impossible for the residents. Most Palestinians are forbidden to use the good road to the airport, that is for the most part reserved for Israelis. Meanwhile what used to be the village olive groves and fields lie outside the wall and have been appropriated by Israelis for illegal settlements. This is a state in flagrant violation of many UN resolutions and I for one feel it is essential to use any legitimate means to make it clear to Israelis that their state sponsored crimes are not acceptable to the majority of decent, civilized people. I’m sorry if your cozy evening at the theatre will be disrupted.

  5. Thank you for speaking up in defense of these people and against hypocrisy.

  6. Dub Nica says:

    Very good. Absence of logic is the exact description. It’s just stupid riding the wave.

  7. The way people are acting (no pun intended) in the UK is ridiculous. There are many things about Israel’s policies I don’t agree with, but singling out Israeli artists for protests during their performance is just wrong. The local police and DA’s should put a stop to it by arresting demonstrators who are disruptive inside performance venues and throwing the book at them (to put it in plain amerispeak). That should put a quick stop to the barbarism.

    People have a right to protest whatever they want in a free society, but there are legal rules for doing so, and unannounced protests – especially against artists, who, as I have said before, tend to be apolitical and more humanist than most – are usually not legal and tend to bring out the riot police. Let people protest politicians in any way they want instead; they usually deserve itt unlike artists.

    That aside, why in Elohim’s name is an Israeli theatre group performing Merchant of Venice in Hebrew in the UK? It’s not like Israel doesn’t have decent playwrights, so do plays by Nisim Aloni, Joshua Sobol et al. Or how about plays in Yiddish from the golden age of Yiddish theatre? I do, of course, realize that few Israelis speak or understand Yiddish, but at least Israeli or translated Yiddish plays would be new acquaintances for most audiences and more representative of Israeli and Jewish culture.

    Maybe the program notes will say something about that. If they do, please let us know what the rationale is, Mr. Lebrecht.

    • Les Berger says:

      This is a celebration of Shakespeare’s art by companies from all the world performing in their own language so your suggestion of a Yiddish play in the original or in a Hebrew translation would not fall into that remit.

  8. Mike Newman: There was a time not so long ago when there was no security barrier in Bethlehem, when Arabs could come and go into Israel as they pleased. Perhaps you were there then, too. Then they started coming into Israeli cities and murdering restaurant diners and club-goers with bombs, guns, or whatever they could get their hands on. How soon you, and moral midgets like Emma Thompson forget– or don’t particularly care. Whichever.

  9. Ryan Sullivan says:

    Dave,
    You would have been proud if Jews did the same thing in Berlin Alexander Platz on 1933.

    • If Jews had done the same on Alexanderplatz, they would have been killed.

      • Ryan Sullivan says:

        You mean Palestinians are not killed now???

        • Not for peaceful demonstrations in city centres. Not like Syrians under the Assad regime, chief sponsors of the PLO.

          • Wanderer says:

            Since when are Palestinians allowed to assemble and demonstrate peacefully in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem? (Which would be equivalent to Berlin in the comparison)
            Also Ryan did not imply peaceful demonstrations but violent resistance.
            Anyway, I have no intention of joining the black-and-white brigade here, where one side is all evil and the other is innocent, as Dave implies.

    • Ryan: Your implicit comparison of the Israeli government (and its actions) with the Nazi regime (and its) is woefully ignorant and vulgar, in the least, if not despicably offensive.

  10. Venue organisers should work with the police to stop this cultural vandalism. The police know who the members of the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign are – yobs all of them without a job between them.

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