Booker winner defends Israeli theater´s London show (HAŽARETZ NEWS) By Ido Balas 04/09/12)
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Booker Prize-winning British author Howard Jacobson on Sunday came
out against calls to ban Habima Theater from performing at the Globe
in London next month, saying that censoring art "is to tear out its
Jacobson, who won the Man Booker Prize in 2010 for his comic
novel "The Finkler Question," was responding to a letter published in
The Guardian last month that was signed by 37 leading actors,
directors, producers and writers. The letter had called for the
invitation to Habima to be withdrawn because the theater company had
performed in settlements.
Habima is scheduled to perform "The Merchant of Venice" in Hebrew as
part of Globe to Globe, a six-week festival featuring 37 Shakespeare
plays, each performed in a different language.
"We ask the Globe to withdraw the invitation so that the festival is
not complicit with human rights violations and the illegal
colonization of occupied land," states the letter, whose signatories
include Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson, and writer and director
Mike Leigh. "By inviting Habima, the Globe is associating itself with
policies of exclusion preached by the Israeli state and endorsed by
its national theater company."
Jacobson was one of several artists to come out against banning
Writing in Sunday newspaper The Observer, he said that censoring
art "in the name of a political or religious conviction, no matter
how sincerely held, is to tear out its very heart."
"With last week´s letter to the Guardian," he added, "McCarthyism
came to Britain."
The playwright Sir Arnold Wesker and the actors Simon Callow
("Shakespeare in Love" ), Steven Berkoff ("The Girl with the Dragon
Tattoo" ) and Maureen Lipman ("The Pianist" ) have expressed support
for Habima´s participation in the festival. In an interview with
Britain´s Jewish Chronicle, the artists said they wondered whether
Emma Thompson and the other signatories to the Guardian letter had
also objected to the participation of theater companies from
countries like China, Zimbabwe or Pakistan, over the human rights
records in those countries.
"Depriving an audience of an artistic experience is like the Nazis
burning the books of the finest minds and talents of Europe," Wesker -
who wrote a play called "The Merchant" from Shylock´s perspective -
told the Chronicle.
The Globe´s management said it was standing by its decision to have
Habima perform. The festival will also include a performance
of "Richard II" in Arabic, by the Palestinian theater company Ashtar.
(© Copyright 2012 Ha´aretz 04/09/12)
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