An Israeli performance at England’s The Globe Theatre was disrupted by pro-Palestinian demonstrators this week, leading to the ejection of an estimated 20 protesters.
Habima, the Jewish state’s national theater, put on a production of “The Merchant of Venice” in Hebrew, as part of the site’s “Globe to Globe” program. The initiative invited dozens of troupes from around the world to perform Shakespeare’s plays in their native tongues.
An announcement of Habima’s participation last April drew ire from anti-Israel enthusiasts, and a national call for a boycott drew attention after notable artists like actress Emma Thompson signed on. As such, police were well prepared for the demonstrators during “Merchant's” two nights of showing, which took place Monday and Tuesday evening.
Attendees walked past demonstrators holding signs and chanting about “apartheid” Israel. One protestor donned a hook nosed mask as he shouted at the crowds. Opposite the detractors, a group of counter-demonstrators held signs that read “Boycotts Divide.”
Ticket holders were made to go through airport-style security scanners before taking seats, but a few dozen demonstrators were still able to get inside with their wares. Prior to curtain on the first night, protestors pulled out banners and some stood with tape covering their mouths. During the infamous trial scene, when the character of Shylock represents injustices done in the name of anti-Semitism, one man stood and called out, “Hath not a Palestinian eyes,” according to the Independent.
The displays prompted security to forcibly remove the offending individuals before the show was able to continue.
London paper The Jewish News reported Liberal Judaism Chief Executive Rabbi Danny Rich as saying: "I am not a fan of boycotts, but even less so when they seem to apply to Israel and not, for example, to Syria or Saudi Arabia."
CEO of the Board of Deputies, Britain’s head Jewish body, Jon Benjamin added: “The boycotters ended up politicizing the event with the unintended consequence of the Israeli performance being full to capacity and the Palestinians being a sideshow.”
The center of the activists’ displeasure was Habima’s previous participation at a theater in the Jewish settlement of Ariel. Habima has a history of performing at both Jewish and Muslim locales and bills itself as a non-political, inclusive company. It runs an Arab-Israeli theater in Jaffa.
Early in May a Palestinian troupe performed a version of “Richard II” in Arabic, a showing that went through peacably with no protest.