On 28 and 29 May Israel’s National Theatre Company, Habima, performed the Merchant of Venice in Hebrew at the Globe as part of the Cultural Olympiad. Despite boycott attempts by anti-Israel activists, both shows sold out and the performances were a huge success. The JLC hosted HE Daniel Taub, Israel’s Ambassador to the UK, Lord and Lady Sacks, Lord Winston, Rabbi Danny Rich, JLC members and other communal personalities as special guests for the evening.
On both nights, there were big shows of support outside the Globe by communal activists, as well as protests by pro-boycott demonstrators organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, London BDS, Iranian linked groups, and others.
Despite the disruptions –- 11 people were removed swiftly by Globe Theatre security staff -- Habima’s performance was outstanding. The irony wasn’t lost on those who have studied the controversial play and noted the carefully choreographed moments in the performance in which the interruptions took place.
From the atmosphere in the audience –- the majority of whom were there for the play, not politics –- it was clear that the disruptions had not recruited any new supporters. Instead the disruptors tarnished their cause among those who love culture. Indeed, the evening was a success for those who think that boycotts have no place in the cultural sphere and an unequivocal failure for the Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) movement.
It is time for the BDS movement to realise that boycotts will do nothing for the peace process and nothing for the Palestinian people. If they genuinely want peace –- and not the destruction of Israel –- it is time for them to reassess their approach.