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British Theater Enthusiasts Carry On Shakespearian Tradition of Anti-Semitism

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Member of Israeli’s national Habima theater, as envisioned by the protestors. (Probably.)British theater and film professionals are protesting en masse the inclusion of Israeli national theater Habima in this May’s Shakespeare Globe to Globe festival. A group of theater and film industry members published their opinion in an open letter in British newspaper The Guardian, which cites Habima’s staging of shows at what they believe are illegal Israeli settlements. Signatures on the letter included such luminaries as director Mike Leigh, actress Emma Thompson, and actor Richard Wilson. The letter contends that, “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.’”

The letter claims that the protesters would still like to see Hebrew-language theater represented, but that “by inviting Habima, the Globe is associating itself with policies of exclusion practiced by the Israeli state and endorsed by its national theatre company.” The letter continues, “We ask the Globe to withdraw the invitation so that the festival is not complicit with human rights violations and the illegal colonization of occupied land.”

In response to the letter, Habima’s artistic director Ilan Ronen said, “The attempt to portray Habima as a mouthpiece of this or that policy wrongs the creators, the actors, and anyone who is a part of our endeavor. Performing in all of Israel is not the initiative of Habima, as the letter presents, but is a result of state law, to which all public cultural institutes are subject.”

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