Thursday, April 26, 2012

Shakespeare at Large

There's been outcry aplenty over The Globe Theater's inclusion of the Israeli National Theater, Habima, in their "Globe to Globe" festival, which features Shakespeare's 37 plays performed by 37 international companies over a period of six (!) weeks. As an article from The Economist comments, "It is the most ambitious programme of work the theatre has ever staged." But Important Theatre People like Mark Rylance and Emma (gasp!) Thompson penned a protest that ran in The Guardian, arguing that the Globe should rescind the invitation because Habima performs in disputed West Bank territories. Are people being too censorious of Habima and (gasp!) The Globe?? Wanna know more about Habima and judge for yourself? I recommend this Huffington Post article.


  1. I recently wrote a piece on the "Important Theatre People"'s letter ("Artistic Boycotts in the UK") and discovered a few things while researching the piece: 1.) The Globe had already publicly refused a previous petition to rescind Habima's invitation almost four months prior–– which means that the letter writers should have known that their protest was futile; 2.) Several of the participating theatre companies hail from countries with abominable human rights records, about which these the "Important Theatre People" are silent; and c.) The alleged "illegality" of Habima's performances is rather questionable!

  2. 1) Habima's violation of international law is clear cut. Every country on the planet (except Israel) agrees that colonising occupied territory is illegal.
    2) The letter was hardly futile since you for one are writing whole articles about it.
    3) What on earth makes you feel able to say that the signatories are "silent" on other human rights abuses? Simply not true - many (Emma Thompson, Roger Lloyd Pack, Mark Rylance etc...) are involved in many campaigns. In any case, this is a non-argument. Human rights are universal, even Palestinians are entitled to them.

  3. 1.) The opinion of "every country" does not make law-- that's not how international law works; indeed there is a lot of disagreement as to what laws actually apply to the settlements in question. The point is that the status of those settlements is covered by agreements made between Israel and the Palestinian Authority when the Oslo Accords were signed. This is a matter that both parties agreed to resolve at a negotiation table, not in court.

    2.) The letter is futile because Shakespeare's Globe had already responded to an earlier letter of protest that they would not be dissuaded from hosting Habima at their festival.

    3.) I agree with you: human rights are universal. The signatories to the letter that appeared in The Guardian are not holding theatre companies and the countries from which they hail to the same human rights standards to which they hold Habima and Israel-- this is hypocritical. I would also note that this concern for Palestinian human rights seems less than sincere, given the human rights violations against Palestinians by the governments of Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan (which recently announced that it was revoking citizenship for all Jordanian Palestinians) as well as by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza.

    All of these points were elaborated quite extensively in my aforementioned piece.