Theatre ban ‘like Nazi book burning’

Leading figures of the British stage have strongly denounced calls for Israel’s national theatre company, Habima, to be removed from the line-up of the Globe to Globe Shakespeare Festival for political reasons.

Playwright Sir Arnold Wesker, and actors Steven Berkoff and Maureen Lipman, have suggested that the attempt to block Israeli actors from performing The Merchant of Venice for the Cultural Olympiad is tantamount to Nazi-era book-burning.

Their criticism follows the publication of a letter in the Guardian, signed by 37 actors and directors including Emma Thompson, Richard Wilson, Miriam Margolyes and Mark Rylance which stated that by hosting Habima after it had performed in settlements, the Globe was “’associating itself with policies of exclusion practised by the Israeli state’.

Both Sir Arnold and Maureen Lipman questioned whether the letter’s signatories had voiced their opposition to the involvement of groups from countries including Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Russia and China, given their respective human rights records.

The Globe has said it has no intention of withdrawing the invitation, although there are concerns about disruption during the show, in the manner of the protest during the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra’s Proms performance last September.

Meanwhile MPs who have spoken in support of Israel have been forced to limit the information they make available to constituents and take other security precautions after being sent death threats or abusive messages by post, by phone or online.

Two years after Labour’s Stephen Timms was stabbed by a radicalised student, security remains a key concern, especially for MPs who are vocal about controversial topics such as Israel – and suffer threats as a consequence. Two weeks ago Conservative MP John Howell was forced to seek police protection after becoming the target of a campaign by pro-Palestinians. Louise Ellman, Labour MP for Liverpool Riverside, has been dealing with death threats for a decade. The problem has worsened in recent years and she now receives emails as well as letters.

The author of this blog has also received threats that his name, address, and photograph will be broadcast on the Web with intent to place his person and property in jeopardy. His crime? For drawing attention to Islamist outrages against Christians in Muslim countries and for speaking out against Islamisation in Britain. What contemptible scum infests this site.

’Do not rejoice in his defeat, you men. For though the world has stood up and stopped the bastard [Hitler], the bitch that bore him is in heat again. – Bertold Brecht,
The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui


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