Nir Paldi, Artistic Director for Theatre Ad Infinitum is an Israeli national and a UK resident, who works and lives in London. Having read the Letter of Dismay – a signed document demanding the boycotting of ‘The Merchant of Venice’ written in the Guardian by prominent theatre makers Nir felt inclined to give his response and express his view on the issue.
I was furious when I read the signed letter by UK artists demanding the Globe to boycott Habima’s production of ‘The Merchant of Venice’.
I grew up in a Jewish settlement built in ’77 on occupied territory where there was no theatre. I was 10 when I saw my first play, ‘A Servant Of Two Masters’ by Habima in the Jerusalem Theatre. Sitting in the dark, watching the show, I knew that theatre was what I wanted to do in life.
Six years later I took a flight to Edinburgh where I stumbled upon Steven Berkoff’s, ‘East’. Seeing this production at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe changed my life. Following Berkoff, I left Israel to study in the Jacques Lecoq theatre school in Paris and upon graduating moved with my British partner to London.
Now, I live and work in London where I co-run an independent theatre company. I’m proud to be a UK resident and I have very complex feelings about my Israeli nationality. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for these experiences. So understandably, the thought of boycotting art –that can rise above politics, war zones and occupation, that can actively inspire one to aspire, and to change, to see oneself reflected– makes no sense to me. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not against boycotting as a concept, but boycotting art?
Censoring art in this way is an act of hatred, and hatred is the last thing the Middle East needs.
Censoring art in this way is an act of hatred, and hatred is the last thing the Middle East needs. The artists signed on the letter are behaving just like the Israeli government who forced Habima to perform in occupied territory, by censoring Habima and using it as a pawn in their own political game.
I don’t doubt that all who signed the letter want Peace in the Middle East and an end to the horrific occupation. So do I. And so do millions of other Israelis. But if they really cared about the human beings living through this conflict on both sides of the wall, the ones for whom the Middle East isn’t just another news headline, but a reality, would they really want to repress art –?
In the mind of the average Israeli that letter signifies another footstep towards the second coming of the holocaust and therefore the need for more defensive action.
Those who signed the letter may think they are taking an action against Israel’s government and the occupation of Palestine, but these actions just fuel Netanyahu’s ‘the whole world is against us’ PR fear machine. In the mind of the average Israeli that letter signifies another footstep towards the second coming of the holocaust and therefore the need for more defensive action.
If those who signed the letter act more like artists there’s a chance they could inspire change, and make a difference, but if they continue to play politicians their actions will only serve to make a bad situation worse.
Theatre Ad Infinitum