Part of a BIN press release

Despite unprecedented security at Shakespeare’s Globe for Monday’s performance by Israeli National Theatre, Habima, pro-Palestinian campaigners succeeded in unfurling a banner and staging a mute protest against illegal colonisation and settlement. Protesters were manhandled by security staff out of the theatre on London’s Bankside, where Habima – which entertains colonists illegally settled on Palestinian land – was performing the Merchant of Venice in Hebrew as part of the Cultural Olympiad.

Just before the interval 15 demonstrators stood up with Palestinian flags and a banner. Demonstrator Veronica Simpson said “Security was unnecessarily aggressive. We were just making a peaceful protest about Israel”. One demonstrator had her glasses broken. One man was handcuffed and arrested. Pro-Israel audience members shouted abuse, and some physically attacked demonstrators.

After the interval two members of the audience introduced some adapted texts from Shakespeare “Hath a Palestinian not eyes…. if you prick us do we not bleed” and “Avaunt and quit my sight – Apartheid” before they were removed.

Previously six protesters displayed a large banner and several smaller ones they had smuggled into the theatre. The banners carried the slogan “Israeli apartheid leave the stage”.

“We tried non-violently to convey the message that culture may not be used to give a civilised gloss to a state that perpetrates human rights abuses,” said Zoe Mars, a protester. Audience members walked out of the performance because they were disgusted by the rough treatment of the peaceful and silent demonstrators.

There were other smaller demonstrations by members of the audience.

Protesters’ ingenuity was tested by airport style security checks including “extensive searches of bags and audience members”. The theatre box office was closed by 4 pm, photographic equipment was banned and any bag larger than a modest sized purse had to be checked into a special left luggage facility.

Israeli Embassy attempts to undermine the protests with a Twitter campaign in support of Habima fizzled out when their efforts were leaked to pro-Palestinian activists. An embassy circular suggested using the hashtag #loveculture, because it “won’t be taken at first glance as a political statement.”

“This is proof positive that as far as the Israeli state is concerned, culture and political propaganda are indivisible,” said Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, cultural working group coordinator of the Boycott Israel Network.

“This campaign is not an attack on individual artists, we are not censoring the content of their work nor are we concerned about their ethnicity or the language they speak. As with South African sport in the apartheid era, this is about refusing to allow culture to be used to whitewash oppression.”

Israeli, Palestinian and British human rights campaigners, backed by respected figures in theatre and the arts, have urged the Globe over recent months to withdraw its invitation to Habima which is complicit in the state’s human rights violations and illegal colonisation of occupied land.

Campaign supporters such as film maker Ken Loach and actors David Calder and Miriam Margolyes say Habima uses its art to normalise an unacceptable situation. Their complicity “makes a mockery of their claim to freedom in their work,” says Loach.

Latest News and Articles on Habima Campaign

  • HABIMA PROTESTERS AHEAD IN MEDIA WAR May 30, 2012 During a second night of protests at Shakespeare’s Globe theatre on Tuesday, almost 20 peaceful protesters brought their message of opposition to Israeli apartheid, colonisation and settlement into the auditorium. As during Monday’s performance of the Merchant of Venice by Israeli National theatre Habima, absurdly tight security failed to screen out pro-Palestinian activists intent on unfurling ...
  • Press Release from BIN and BRICUP: Pro-Palestinian Protesters thwart draconian security at Globe Theatre May 28, 2012 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - MAY 28, 2012      Press Release from BIN - Boycott Israel Network and BRICUP - British Committee for the Universities of Palestine PRO-PALESTINIAN PROTESTERS THWART DRACONIAN SECURITY AT ISRAELI STATE THEATRE PERFORMANCE, GLOBE THEATRE * Shakespeare's Globe in security lockdown to defend Israeli National Theatre * ...
  • Photo of protest outside the Globe, Monday night May 28, 2012 Posted by Asa Winstanley on Twitter: http://pic.twitter.com/W0D7Koo1
  • The hashtag for the Habima protest trended worldwide! May 28, 2012 Zionists eat your hearts out! (oops, that could be taken as a reference to Shylock’s “pound of flesh” – no offence intended) #lovejustice4all trended no.1 in UK: http://twitpic.com/9qae31 – and no.2 Worldwide: http://twitpic.com/9qafe4 (posted by your guest editor, Sue B)
  • A Shakespearean sonnet for Habima! May 28, 2012 Shakespeareans for Poetic Justice present:       A Sonnet for Habima If all the world’s a stage – why then, the stage Must play its part if we would change the world. Whence this commotion? Why such howls of rage The moment that our banners are unfurled? In Shakespeare’s time, an audience was moved By speeches about justice and compassion. The Bard, methinks, could ...
  • ISRAELI EMBASSY ORCHESTRATES TWITTER DEFENCE OF HABIMA May 28, 2012 VIDEO MESSAGE FROM MIRIAM MARGOLYES Israel’s pretence of keeping culture separate from politics has disintegrated in the days leading up the appearance of the flagship theatre company Habima at Shakespeare’s Globe in London on May No doubt under extreme pressure from the Zionist lobby, the Globe  is imposing unprecedented security measures on audiences on Monday and Tuesday, ...

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