LONDON – Habimah appeared at London’s world famous Globe Theater on Monday despite protests, after anti-Israel activists failed to persuade organizers to cancel their performance in an international festival celebrating William Shakespeare’s work.
Israel’s national theater was performing a Hebrew version of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice on Monday and Tuesday. Both performances are sold out.
There was a strong police presence outside the theater Monday evening to prevent any disturbances after anti-Israel groups called for protesters to demonstrate because Habimah “entertains colonists illegally settled on Palestinian land.” A counter-protest was organized by the Zionist Federation and other grassroots groups.
Despite the extra security measures, anti-Israel protestors attempted to
disrupt the Habima performance, some tried to hold up a banner but were
immediately removed by security staff. Some were carried out after
shouting abuse and refusing to leave peacefully.
“We tried non-violently to convey the message that culture may not be
used to give a civilized gloss to a state that perpetrates human rights
abuses," said activist Zoe Mars.
The Globe Theater refused to heed calls to cancel the performances and stepped up security last week in anticipation of any disturbances.
A letter was sent to ticket holders of the sold out performances, asking them not to bring bags and to arrive early and expect “extensive” searches.
“Please be aware that the Globe reserves the right to refuse admission to anyone we have reason to believe may cause a disruption.
Any objects or material which could be used in disrupting the performance will be deemed prohibited items,” the letter said.
Anti-Israel activists had called on the theater to cancel the Hebrew version of Shakespeare’s seminal work. The activists leveled accusations of “complicity in Israel’s human rights violations and illegal colonization of occupied land.” One of the organizers of the anti-Israel protest was Jonathan Rosenhead, an academic at the London School of Economics – one of the activists who disrupted a concert given by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra at London’s Royal Albert Hall in September.
The BBC halted the live-radio broadcast of the concert after anti- Israel activists repeatedly disrupted the performance.
Speaking at a student event at King’s College London in January, the emeritus professor of operational research said the Globe has made itself a target.
“They [the Globe] have made themselves a target, and they will be one. Various things are afoot to try and make sure, to pressure the Globe in the first instance, because if the Globe withdraws the invitation then that’s no problem,” Rosenhead said at the time.
The Habimah performance is part of the Globe to Globe Festival included in the Cultural Olympiad preceding the 2012 Olympic Games, which will be held in the British capital from July 27 to August 12.
The festival kicked off on April 23, Shakespeare’s birthday, and will include 37 international companies performing all 37 of the bard’s plays in 37 languages over a six-week period.