Academy Award winning actress Emma Thompson recently joined with others protesting the participation of Tel Aviv’s venerable Habimah Theater in a London festival that is performing the plays of William Shakespeare in 37 different languages.
In a letter published by The Guardian, Thompson and her cohorts slammed Habimah for its “shameful record of involvement with illegal Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestinian Territory.” They ended with a demand to exclude the theater from the festival. No such objections were voiced concerning the participation of a Palestinian theater troupe, nor the involvement of the National Theater of China, which is directly funded by one of the world’s most repressive regimes.
This most recent campaign to boycott Israeli artists follows a similar campaign in the UK calling for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. Ten years ago, an article in The Guardian noted that Israel’s universities are victims of their own success: “The nature of Israel’s academic pre-eminence,” the article explained, “makes it vulnerable to a boycott.”
The same logic now applies to the flourishing arts scene in Israel. The excellence of a theater like Habimah, along with its enthusiasm to perform outside Israel’s borders, renders it
a sitting duck for boycott campaigners. According to those calling for a boycott, Palestinian freedom can only be achieved by quarantining Israelis on the basis of their nationality. In so doing, the artists echo the racist policies of the Arab League, which began its boycott of the Jewish community in Eretz Israel in 1945, three years before the state of Israel was born.
- From a report by JointMedia News Service.