London theater promises “enhanced security” for Israel, as activists set to disrupt Habima tonight

London’s Globe theater has sent this letter out to ticket holders for this week’s controversial performances by Israel’s national drama company (it is also on their website). Habima is set to perform William Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice tonight and tomorrow.

In the letter, managers outline extraordinary measures hoping to foil Palestine solidarity protesters expected to disrupt tonight’s performance, including extensive bag and “random body searches.”

The ”boycott Israel” activist group London BDS responded by accusing the Globe of “turning the theater into an Israeli-style checkpoint.”

Meanwhile, other activist sources told me today they have bought tickets for the performance and would be going ahead with a protest against Habima inside the theater tonight.

This appears to be verified by a ticket scan on the London BDS website. It has been satirically altered to read “Audience participation encouraged”.

Habima: cultural ambassador for an apartheid regime

Habima has been criticized by boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaigners, not only for performing in Jews-only Israeli colonies in the West Bank (illegal under international law) but also for working with the Israeli government as a “cultural ambassador.”

The company reportedly promised Israel’s minister of culture that it would “deal with any problems hindering such performances”, after some Israeli actors refused to perform in West Bank settlements in protest.

Habima’s general manager Odelia Friedman told the Israeli press that the invitation by London’s Globe to perform the play is an “honorable accomplishment for the State of Israel in general”.

It also emerged in April that the Israeli foreign ministry is funding Habima’s performance in London to the tune of £10,000, as EI’s Ben White covered at the time.

Famous UK actors join boycott call

A letter against the presence of Habima at the Globe was published in The Guardian in March. It was signed by many famous UK actors, directors and playwrights, including Emma Thompson, Alexei Sayle and Mike Leigh.

Actor Miriam Margolyes, famous to international audiences as Professor Sprout in the Harry Potter films, yesterday had a video published on YouTube, in which she explains why she supports the boycott:



She concludes: “Before we are artists, we are human beings, and the Israeli government is not behaving like human beings.” Several others posted similar videos.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign is calling for people to join its protest outside the theatre tonight and tomorrow between 6pm and 8pm. See the PSC website for more details.

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Asa Winstanley

Asa Winstanley's picture

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who lives in London. He is an associate editor with The Electronic Intifada. He first visited Palestine in 2004.