Barry Shaw

All the world’s a stage

All the world’s a stage, and the name of the play is “Delegitimization. “

The cast is made up of some really bad characters.  The theme of the play is the victimization of one character in the public arena; Israel.

This play is being performed at theatres around the world from the United Nations to the universities in pantomimes such as Israel Apartheid Week. It takes place on ships as in the Gaza Flotilla. It even took place at airports recently in a failed production known in Israel as “The Flightilla.”

This play was performed on perhaps the world’s most famous stage – the Globe Theatre in London,  when the Habimah Company, Israel’s National Theatre Company, attempted to perform “The Merchant of Venice” in Hebrew, the Jewish language,  at the World Shakespeare Festival.

Like Shylock, the Habimah Company, and through them Israel, the Jew among nations, became the pariah on the very stage that warmly welcomed participants from awful human rights abusing states such as Zimbabwe, China who is occupying Tibet, Turkey currently occupying Cyprus, killing Kurds and threatening Israel, and Bangladesh.

It is only Habimah that warranted the protest letter that appeared in the Guardian newspaper. This letter was signed by luminaries of the British theatre world such as Emma Thompson and Mike Leigh. Leigh is a Jew, but who says that Jews are not among the worst Jew-haters? You only have to look at history to see that this is true.

They protested against the participation of Habimah, and only Habimah. Their protest was being taken up by the Palestine Solidarity Movement, and other anti-Israel radicals, who  demonstrated outside the theatre and disrupted the performance inside the theatre, disturbing the actors and the audience alike, in an premeditated and coordinated effort to ruin the wonderful performance of our leading theatre company.

The theatrical “darlings” of London, who started this protest, accepted and applauded the performances of a Palestinian theatre group who had also been invited. The London cultural elite ignored the decades of terror, the suicide bombers, and the slings and arrows of thousands of rockets and mortars launched by Palestinians on to innocent Israelis.  This, to them, merited no protest at all.

In my book “Israel Reclaiming the Narrative”, Howard Jacobson, the Booker Prize winner for Literature, addresses the assault on Israel’s legitimacy from the British campus. He calls it “the closing of the academic mind in Britain.”

The actions of the Emma Thompsons and the Mike Leighs are, surely, the closing of the cultural mind in Britain. It says more about them than it does about Israel.

I ask you. What greater ironic metaphor can you have than a company representing the Jewish state being pilloried, abused, and banished from the Shakespearian stage while trying to perform an anti-Semitic  play in Hebrew about a Jew being pilloried, abused, and banished from a Shakespearian stage?

I had thought of writing a new book, a fiction, about a mad world of extremist, racist, murdering, human rights abusing nations who gather in a world body in which they hold the majority vote, and use that vote to demonize, delegitimize, and expel a tiny country by falsely accusing it of practicising an apartheid that exceeds the apartheid of South Africa, of being more fascist than the fascists, more Nazi than the Nazis, and guilty of every sin against humanity, and doubtless one or two more we haven’t yet discovered, while hiding the enormity of their own crimes.

But I decided against it.  People wouldn’t buy it. It is so preposterous a story that no one would believe the story line.  But you and I know that this is true, that it is not a fiction, and that it is the reality in which Israel finds itself today.

As Jacobson asks, in what furnace of the cultural and academic mind is this nation forged? A nation more evil than any other that it so closely resembles the version of the pariah Jew as it appears in a Shakespearian play?

So let them tell us that Jew hatred is not at the deep heart of it.

In the end, it’s not about Israel or Jews at all. It’s about the way they practice thought in Britain, and other places that discriminate against Israel in an effort to make it, and only it, the pariah state, isolated in a world of false morality.

These people are so immersed in their careers and their egos that they displayed a shallow understanding of the Middle East conflict. Its complexities, especially the position of Israel in a violent, hateful, and dangerous region, got lost in translation.

Let them continue to promote their self interests and projects, read and write scripts, agonize over the various nuances and interpretations of Shakespeare and leave the trendy Israel-bashing to other more passionate in their radicalism.  In short, their outburst was wrong, discriminatory, and hypocritical.

I recommend that we change the name of the play from “Delegitimization” to a more apt title – “Hypocrisy.”

Join me in rewriting the script, a script that does not necessarily include Israel in the central role.  Instead, let us expose, and indict, the perpetrators of the biggest fraud crime in recent political history – the demonization of the Jewish state of Israel.

To rephrase a famous quote from Shakespeare,

“The anti-Israel narrative is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. “

About the Author
Barry Shaw is the Senior Associate for Public Diplomacy at the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies. He is also the author of ‘Fighting Hamas, BDS and Anti-Semitism,' '1917. From Palestine to the Land of Israel, 'BDS for IDIOTS,' and his latest work 'A Tale of Love and Destiny,' the dramatic life of a Jewish heroine.