Israel’s Mercy is Inhumanely Strained

By Vacy Vlazna

There is a growing campaign to urge the London Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre to cancel Israel’s Habima Theatre’s performances of ‘The Merchant of Venice’ on 28-29th May 2012 at the Shakespeare Globe to Globe Festival.

The Habima Theatre, the National Theatre of Israel, has no moral qualms about performing in the illegal settlement colonies on stolen Palestinian lands.

These colonies and their extremist residents have a tragic daily and long-term impact on Palestinian lives with their rabid theft of land, water, livelihood and homes that consequently have impoverished Palestinian families…

You take my house when you do take the prop
That doth sustain my house; you take my life
When you do take the means whereby I live.

OCHA reported that the weekly average racist attacks resulting in Palestinian casualties and property damage has increased by 40% in 2011. Settler terrorism with its ‘strange apparent cruelty’ is sanctioned by the Israeli state with the assistance of the Israeli Occupation Forces.  

Following Palestine’s bid for its right to membership in the UN, in September 2011, Israel flagrantly announced plans to build 50,000 homes in Palestinian East Jerusalem in violation of international law.

Habima has stated that "As a theater, this play allows us to attack the hatred of Jews and fear of strangers," Indisputably all racism is contemptible and must be addressed and eliminated. 

Still, Habima  should be barred even though the court scene (Act 4 Sc 1) is damning of Israel when interpreted  from a perspective of  the Shylockian rapaciousness for Palestinian land, although, in the process of theft, unlike Shylock, Israel doesn’t hesitate to draw Palestinian blood including the blood of 352 children in Operation Cast Lead .

Also in the festival, the Palestinian Ashtar Theatre (Ramallah and Jerusalem) is presenting the politically controversial Richard II. The drama could bear analogy to the Nakba: the permanent exile of Mowbray, the usurping of the weak King Richard ( British Mandate) by the Machiavellian Bollingbroke who doomed England to decades of bloody civil war.

The Ashtar theatre is famous for  The Gaza Mono-Logues in which 31 "Youth from Gaza Tell their Personal Stories about War and Siege."  It was ‘performed simultaneously on October 17th 2010  by over 1500 youngsters in more than 50 cities in 36 countries all over the world.’

The project is the inspiration of the Artistic Director, Ms Iman Aoun, and is referred to as a Phoenix of life and truth rising from the ashes of the 2008/9 Gaza war in which innocent civilians were mercilessly trapped in the world’s most densely populated open prison with no escape by land, air or sea,

Gaza’s fish ran away…but people were not able to. Fateema Atallah, Born 1996

During the 22 days of Israel’s brutal high-tech military assault, including the illegal use of phosphorus bombs on defenseless civilians, 1417 Palestinians including 352 children were killed. At least 5380 were wounded and maimed including 1872 children. About 100,000 people lost their homes. For young Gazans, these war crime facts remain mind, soul and life-shattering:

• Yesterday I was sitting in school and I heard the sound of planes. I got really scared, I wanted to run away from school. I felt I was going to die because I remembered the war. The scenes of war won’t leave my mind. Reem Afana , Born 1996

• Before the war I used to feel that Gaza was my second mother. Its ground was the warm chest I could lay on, and its sky was my dreams… without limits. The sea would wash away my worries. But today I feel it’s an exile, I stopped feeling its the city of my dreams. Ahmad El Ruzzi, Born 1993

• In the future if I grow up, and in Gaza it’s an achievement to grow up because death is standing on your doorstep, I want to be a children’s caretaker and defend their rights.. Yasmeen Katbeh, Born 1996

Three years on, Israel’s quality of mercy is still inhumanely strained by its Zionist apartheid policies and collective punishment of Palestinians. It is….

A stony adversary, an inhuman wretch
uncapable of pity, void and empty
From any dram of mercy.

Cancelling Habima’s performance would be an ethical stand of condemnation and a valuable awareness raising of the crimes against humanity perpetrated by the state of Israel.

Western governments, as High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, have  dishonorably relinquished their legal  obligations to secure a Palestinian state and protect the human  rights of  the indigenous Palestinian people  and that is why the Palestinians have called on all of to join the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement as a non-violent means of bringing justice and peace to both Palestine and Israel. 

The Globe has a BDSt example close at hand. It has a partnership with the Deutsche Bank which in 2010 divested from the Israeli company, Elbit Systems when it was determined that Elbit significantly participates in operating the illegal Apartheid Wall and protecting the illegal West Bank colonies.

Cultural boycotts do have a far-reaching influence and can inspire moral action, can be a vanguard for justice, can save lives,

To do a great right, do a little wrong,
And curb this cruel Israel of its will.

and, in this case, The Globe can offer Habima a  principled  choice to join the movement to boycott the illegal colonies or remain in Israel during the Shakespeare Globe to Globe Festival.

– Dr. Vacy Vlazna is Coordinator of Justice for Palestine Matters: She was Human Rights Advisor to the GAM team in the second round of the Acheh peace talks, Helsinki, February 2005 and was coordinator of the East Timor Justice Lobby as well as serving in East Timor with UNAMET and UNTAET from 1999-2001. She contributed this article to

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