All the world’s a stage and, if you are Israel, the name of the play is “Delegitimisation.”
In theatres around the world such as the campus, the media, the United Nations, in national and local governments, on ships in flotillas, even on the street, we see played out carefully rehearsed and financed theatrical productions whose plot is to target one tiny nation – Israel.
Increasingly in Britain, it has become ‘bon ton’ among Britain’s cultural elite to wear a keffiyah, support boycotts (as long as they are only against Israel), and tell everyone how much they oppose the “Occupation”, with a capital “O”, in support of the “poor and oppressed” Palestinians. It doesn’t matter if you don’t really understand the issue. It will win you publicity and brownie points to be seen as having the right “progressive social conscience.”
So Emma Thompson, Mike Leigh, and other theatrical “luvvies” posted a letter in the popular left wing “Guardian” newspaper protesting the appearance of Israel’s National Theatre Company, “HaBima”, at the upcoming World Shakespeare Festival in London.
Doubtless their performances will be disrupted by “Hate-Israel” radicals and their useful idiot followers, much to the displeasure of the audiences who want nothing better than to enjoy a rare cultural experience in appreciation of the Bard. The Palestinian Solidarity Movement has already declared their intentions to do just that.
The “Hate Occupation” culture gets ready to welcome “Oyun Atolyesi” from Turkey to the Festival. They conveniently overlooked the fact that Turkey has Occupied the Mediterranean island of Cyprus since 1973.
They also said nothing about the participation of the National Theatre of China whose country is currently Occupying Tibet.
Neither have they anything to say or protest about as theatre groups from Zimbabwe and Bangladesh come to perform in London. Apparently, human rights abuses in these countries are just a bit of a yawn, not worth mentioning or demonstrating about.
No. It’s only Israel that gets their juices going in a one sided public outcry, and the more publicity with their name attached the better. So one-sided, in fact, that they will definitely attend the performances of “Ashtar” Theatre. Nothing, in the decades old Palestinian terror campaign that includes suicide bombings and thousands of rockets that destroy, kill, and maim innocent Israeli civilians, would lead them to criticize the participation of this Palestinian theatre group, or prevent them from attending their performances in a show of sympathy and compassion. Such is the hypocrisy.
Their intellectual bias displays what award-winning writer, Howard Jacobson, once described as “the closing of the academic and cultural mind in Britain.” He further wrote about those who target Israel, and only Israel, and accuse it, and only it, of crimes not committed, thus;
“In what furnace of the mind is this nation evil beyond all others forged? And why, in its pitiless unheeding malevolence does it so closely resemble the closed cosmos of the pariah Jew as it appears to the medieval imagination?”
“The Merchant of Venice” was written over four hundred years ago. In a strange twist of fate the plot is still taking place, this time in London 2012, in the same Shakespearian theatre – the Globe Theatre on the banks of the Thames. The Venetian courtiers who passed their morally superior judgment on the Shylock, the Jewish merchant have been replaced by the London theatrical courtiers who are passing the same morally superior judgment on “HaBima”, the Jewish theatre.
Indeed, the great irony of the targeting of the Israeli theatre company is that they are due to perform Shakespeare’s anti-Semitic work “The Merchant of Venice” in Hebrew, the Jewish language.
They, like the hero of the play, a Jew, will be pilloried, insulted, demonized, and banished from the stage. As they try to offer their contribution to the Festival they will personify the Jewish State, and even Shylock himself. They will become a metaphor for the persecuted Jew and Israel, the Jew among nations, from whom no appeal will be heeded, or taken into consideration, before the preordained moral judgment of guilty is delivered by the society elite who are indifferent to the truth, or to the damage they inflict when they make Shylock/HaBima/Israel the banished pariah.
They will, instead, turn to their audience and soak up the applause for a job well done.
The last thing that Israel should do is to echo Shylock by pleading mercy. These people have no genuine compassion. It’s all a fashionable play with them.
“If you prick us do we not bleed?” does not cut it with these ‘morally superior” beings who are divorced from truth, genuine concerns, or in-depth understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Instead, the demand must be that those who place themselves as the guardians of the social conscience of Britain must apologise to “HaBima” for the illegitimate damage they have caused. We should also insist that they get a real grasp of the issues before they pontificate in a shallow, “trendy” fashion, on a serious issue that has led to the deaths not only of Palestinians, but also too many Israelis.
BARRY SHAW is the author of ISRAEL RECLAIMING THE NARRATIVE.