Desperate anti-Israel boycotters at it again in the UK. Remind you of anything?

In London, they're after Israel’s national theatre company Habima... which actively promotes Israeli-Palestinian dialogue and co-operation

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We've been here before...

Is there anything left for the anti-Israel (supposedly Palestinian-supporting) boycott organisations to boycott? In recent days, their target has been Israel’s national theatre company, Habima.

Habima actively promotes Israeli-Palestinian dialogue and co-operation through its ongoing projects and has an Arab-Israeli theatre in Jaffa, so you would imagine it would pass the boycott filter.

But no, Habima’s unforgivable sin was to accept an invitation to play in Ariel - an “illegal settlement” built on “stolen Palestinian land”. Some Israeli theatre professionals had declared they would not play in Ariel or other settlements and so Habima now has pariah status in the international BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) community. 

Shakespeare’s Globe theatre in London invited Habima to perform here in London as part of their “Globe to Globe” festival; 37 plays in 37 languages, including the Palestinian Ashtar company playing Richard II and Habima playing The Merchant of Venice (apposite, we suppose)! 

Again, you would think the balance of both companies performing would be good enough, but, again, no. The Globe had the courage to resist boycott calls by David Calder, Trevor Griffiths, Jonathan Miller, Emma Thompson and other British thespians in March this year and Habima has just played to a sell-out house.

Having made much fuss about the evil Habima and the equally evil Globe, however, the BDS campaigners were so thin on the ground that they were outnumbered many times to one by the Police. Corrupting Shakespeare into anti-Israel slogans was bad enough, but one speaker, in an outrageous display of anti-Semitism, wore a grotesque “Jewish nose” mask which he refused to remove when challenged. 

The anti-Israel protestors attempted to disrupt the performance within the theatre as well, using tactics that had worked at the Albert Hall against the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (when the BBC was forced to stop a live broadcast).

This time, however, banners on balconies (perpetrators bodily removed!), protestors standing silently throughout and protests in the yard outside were not enough to stop Habima giving a pulsating, superb performance of The Merchant of Venice that earned them a standing ovation and several calls for encores.

Many of the 30 or so unsuccessful trouble-makers, including a trade union activist, were duly ejected from the Globe. This did not stop them, unfortunately, from haranguing a somewhat mystified audience as they left to chants of “Free Palestine” etc etc. Relevance to Shakespeare, Merchants, or Habima? Not a lot.

No-one would deny even the BDS groups their right in a democratic country to demonstrate outside a theatre.

What is so nauseating about the BDS groups, however, is their inability to speak or write in anything other than emotive rants (not backed up by cold facts or reference to the reality on the ground), coupled with rank hypocrisy.

Asking around revealed not one “pro-Palestinian” supporter in the demonstration who had supported the Palestinian Ashtar company by watching Richard II -- but they turned out to express hatred for Habima and Israel.

Ask the Palestine Solidarity Campaign why their logo is a map of Palestine that covers all of the state of Israel. These groups do not genuinely support the Palestinians -- they just hate Israel.

EDITORS NOTE: The original version of this article claimed that "a professor for the London School of Economics" was part of the group of activists. The authors were incorrect in their claim and have duly retracted that statement.

Nick Gray is Director of Christian Middle East Watch. Read his blog and follow him on Twitter @CMEW2Richard Millett is a freelance journalist and blogger living in London. Read his blog and follow him on Tweeter @richmillett 

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