Leading British actors, directors and authors have been pressing Shakespeare's Globe Theater in London to withdraw its "Globe to Globe" festival invitation extended to Israel's Habima Theater, over its "shameful record of involvement with illegal Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian Territory."
In a letter published in The Guardian newspaper Friday, actors, directors and authors such as Emma Thompson, Mike Leigh, David Calder, Trevor Griffiths and Miriam Margolyes, to name a few, called on Shakespeare's Globe Theater to take back the invitation "so the festival is not complicit with human rights violations and the illegal colonization of occupied land."
Habima Theater is set to perform a Hebrew rendition of William Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice," as one of Shakespeare's 37 plays, which are to be performed at the festival in 37 different languages.
"We notice with dismay and regret that Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London has invited Israel's National Theatre, to perform The Merchant of Venice in its Globe to Globe festival this coming May," the letter read.
"The general manager of Habima has declared the invitation 'an honorable accomplishment for the State of Israel'. But Habima has a shameful record of involvement with illegal Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian Territory."
The letter further read that "last year, two large Israeli settlements established "halls of culture" and asked Israeli theater groups to perform there. A number of Israeli theatre professionals – actors, stage directors, playwrights – declared they would not take part. By inviting Habima, Shakespeare's Globe is undermining the conscientious Israeli actors and playwrights who have refused to break international law."
Regarding the Hebrew language the artists wrote that "inclusiveness is a core value of arts policy in Britain, and we support it. But by inviting Habima, the Globe is associating itself with policies of exclusion practiced by the Israeli state and endorsed by its national theatre company. "
In regards to the letter, the Globe Theater management has decided to hold a discussion on theater and politics following the Habima performance at the festival.
Ilan Ronen, the artistic manager of Habima Theater told Ynet that "the letter is filled with halved truths. Habima Theater doesn't hold any political policies, and any attempt to present it in such a light just harms the artists."
"Habima Theater is a democratic and pluralistic theater. Some of the plays performed at our theater are controversial and some even criticize the Israeli society, including the government's policies in the settlements," he said.