Please find below a short report and photographs from the BDS protest which took place tonight in London outside Shakespeare's Globe Theatre highlighting the fact that Habima, Israel's National Theatre Company which had been invited to perform at the theatre was complicit in supporting Israel's apartheid and occupation policies and whitewashing Israel's human rights abuses against the Palestinian people.
As many of you will be probably be aware, Habima is Israel's national theatre company. The theatre company receives approximately 30% of its funding from the Israeli state and has regularly staged shows in the illegal Israel colony of Ariel in the Occupied West Bank. Habima is also used by the Israeli government as part of its "Brand Israel" campaign to deflect attention and whitewash Israel's atrocities against the Palestinians by attempting to normalise Israel's occupation and apartheid policies.
On 28th May, on the first of Habima's two nights of performances, Palestine solidarity activists staged a protest calling for the Globe to not entertain Apartheid. Around 110-130 people attended the pro-Palestine protest outside the theatre, while aroudn 60 or so people attended the Zionist counter demonstration.
In addition to the Palestine solidarity protest outside the theatre, 17 Palestine solidarity activists were able to enter the theatre and stage rolling protests through out the production. The Globe had hired extra security guards and frisked audience members going into the performance. Despite this Palestine solidarity activists were able to take in several banners, flags and signs which were unfurled though out the performance.
Protestors had decided before hand to conduct a well coordinated protest at staged intervals and to conduct a primarily silent protest.
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.
Towards the end of the protest, some activists called out Free Palestine and British actor, John Graham Davies called out, as he was being removed by security personnel, the two famous lines from the Merchant of Venice spoken by Shylock and which had already been spoken by the Habima actors on stage. Davies, however, adapted the words calling out:
"Hath not a Palestine eyes?" and "If you prick us, do we not bleed?"Upon staging their protest, most of the activists were aggressively removed by the hired security, despite the completely peaceful and silent nature of the protest.
Around 30 activists remained outside the theatre until the end of the performance, greeting the audience as they left with chants highlighting Israel's apartheid policies and also highlilghting the oppression of the Palestinian people by the Israeli state.
Pro-Palestine solidarity activists will stage a second protest tomorrow at the second Habima performance.
BACKGROUND TO PROTEST:
In 2010 more than 60 Israeli actors, playwrights and directors signed on in support of an open letter pledging not to perform in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and protesting Habima, and other leading companies who stage performances in the illegal Israeli colony of Ariel.
The letter, which was addressed to Israel's culture minister, Limor Livnat, states the new centre for performing arts that had just been built in Ariel, and was scheduled to open in November 2010 would "strengthen the settlement enterprise". (for more on this, click here).
A week after the actors, playwrights and directors announced their support for the boycott of Ariel Performing Arts Centre, 150 Israeli academics and several dozen artists and authors also signed on in support of the boycott and the artists boycotting Ariel.
The 150 academics stated:
"We support the theater artists refusing to play in Ariel, express our appreciation of their public courage and thank them for bringing the debate on settlements back into the headlines," the petition said. "We'd like to remind the Israeli public that like all settlements, Ariel is also in occupied territory. If a future peace agreement with the Palestinian authorities puts Ariel within Israel's borders, then it will be treated like any other Israeli town."The Israeli boycott of the Ariel Performance Theatre soon gained support internationally from actors, playrights, directors and artists outside of Israel.
When it was announced that Habima had been invited by Shakepeare's Globe Theatre to perform in London, BDS activists in the UK issue a call to the Globe asking them not to enterain Israeli Apartheid.
In March, British actors, playwrights and directors, including actor/director, Emma Thompson, issued a call for Shakepeare's Globe Theatre to recind its invitation to Habima saying:
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".
In solidarity, Kim
Outside protest photos credit: Kim Bullimore