>Explaining reality to Emma Thompson
All kinds of great things are scheduled for London this year, including the World Shakespeare Festival featuring 37 companies from around the world, performing all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays in different languages over the course of six hectic weeks.>
>The inclusion of Israel’s Habimah Theater, scheduled to perform “The Merchant of Venice” in Hebrew in May, prompted an open letter to the Guardian, signed by three dozen English actors, directors, and writers, including Emma Thompson, which called for a ban of Israel’s national theater company in the Festival. The letter states, “Habimah has a shameful record of involvement with illegal Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestinian Territory.” It adds: “We ask the Globe to withdraw the invitation so that the festival is not complicit with human rights violations and the illegal colonization of occupied land.” A lot of people hurrahed. Those who know better didn’t.>
>RUTH LEVESON sent a personal letter to Emma Thompson, actress, script writer and human rights activist.>
Ruth Leveson, who is a legal secretary, working in the city of London, and a teacher preparing children for their Bar or Bat Mitzvah, tries to clarify misconceptions about Israel and will engage with anyone who will listen. We present her letter here with a few slight modifications.
Dear Ms Thompson,
I was deeply saddened to see you as a signatory to the letter in the Guardian, urging a boycott of the Habimah Theatre. Saddened because not only do I admire you as an actor and for the humanitarian work that you do but also because I would have expected someone with your intelligence not to have jumped on the trendy BDS anti-Israel bandwagon. I have a few comments to make and I hope that you will take the time and trouble to read them and reply to me.
Firstly, you presumably have no problem with the Palestinian theatre group taking part. This despite the fact that their president, Mahmoud Abbas, has openly pronounced that no Jew will live in a Palestinian state.
Why do you not question this, but by your silence, you seem to tacitly accept this ethnic cleansing of Jews as normal and justified? You support the Palestinian theatre group despite their government’s penchant for glorifying suicide bombers who slay Israeli children. You support the Palestinian theatre group despite their government’s coalition with Hamas, a group that has avowed mass murder of Jews and who deliberately fire rockets into Israeli civilian areas, both of which should surely be against your humanitarian principles, but for some reason are not. Why? If human rights violations against Jews are unimportant to you, what about the numerous human rights violations Hamas perpetrate against their own people?
In your letter you mention, “human rights violations, illegal colonization of occupied land.” Can we please look more closely at that statement. Instead of trotting out this trendy phrase, please give me specific, independently corroborated (not unsubstantiated pronouncements and doctored photographs aka the famous ‘Pallywood’ school of film and propaganda) examples of human rights violations by Israel. Stopping and checking people at check points is not a human rights violation unless you consider it a human rights violation to ensure that people who wish to blow up Israeli citizens are stopped from doing so. Personally, I do not. The Arabs living in the West Bank have access to higher standards of health and education and are economically more prosperous than most of their counterparts in other Muslim countries.
Do you know that the biggest health problem in Gaza is obesity? In case you haven’t noticed, Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza six years ago so any human rights violations there (of which there are many) are down to the Hamas government not Israel . Did you know that there is a fuel crisis in Gaza because Hamas refuses to allow fuel from Israel to be imported into the territory and insists on the fuel from Egypt being imported through a particular crossing so that they can levy taxes on it? This is how much Hamas cares for its own people!
Let us take the second part of your statement. I really feel it would be useful for you to learn some historical context.
Right from the start it is important to stress that there is not nor has there ever been, a sovereign independent Muslim state of Palestine . (Interestingly, the Arabs themselves did not start to refer to that area as Palestine until after 1967. Pre-1948 Palestinians referred to the Jews living there.)
In November 1947, the United Nations passed a resolution to partition Mandatory Palestine into two separate states ““ an independent Jewish state, next to an independent Arab state. The Arabs of Palestine categorically rejected the resolution and launched a war against the Jews of Palestine in order to prevent the establishment of an independent Jewish state. Subsequently, all the surrounding Arab countries joined the quest to destroy Israel ““ a quest that continues to the present day.
Incidentally, Arab Palestine was not established because Jordan unilaterally annexed it in 1948 together with the Old City of Jerusalem , which had been declared an international city. All the Jewish residents that had not been massacred were expelled from those areas, Jewish holy places were desecrated or destroyed and no Jew was allowed into those areas for over 19 years. A wall was built by the Jordanians dividing the city of Jerusalem . You are unaware of this? Why am I not surprised, you only accept one side of the narrative and do not wish to accept that there could be another side to that narrative.
In 1967, for the second time, Israel faced the very real threat of extermination by the combined forces of Egypt, Syria and Jordan. In fact they begged Jordan not to enter the war but King Hussein was convinced by Nasser’s lies that Tel Aviv was on fire (remember this was in the days before instant news coverage) and to his subsequent great misfortune, joined forces with Nasser. That was when the West Bank and Jerusalem came under Israeli jurisdiction.
However, many people point to the United Nations Charter, which explicitly prohibits the acquisition of territory through military aggression. There are also a number of United Nations Resolutions, connected with the Israel-Arab conflict, which have generated much hotly contested interpretation. And then there’s the 4th Geneva Convention of 1949, specifically articl buying into the current ferocious BDS (blame, distortion and slander) campaign that demonises and delegitimises Israel and questions her very right to exist.
I cannot understand how someone who professes to stand up for human rights can align themselves with a campaign of annihilation of a nation state which is precisely what you are doing by supporting the BDS. So intense is this anti-Israel demonisation that when a gunman executes three Jewish children in cold blood, his rationalization that he is avenging the deaths of Palestinian children is given legitimacy in the main stream media and among ‘enlightened’ thinkers.
I will not at this stage list the incredible humanitarian work that Israel does in the world arena. It would be far too exhaustive, but as someone who is involved with refugee projects, you might be interested to know that Muslims fleeing genocide in Sudan and Darfur risk everything to get to Israel where they know they will be safer than in any of the other surrounding Muslim countries. The Egyptians shoot them; Israel provides them with a haven; currently they are building a purpose built facility for them.
I would urge you in the name of British fair play, to gain a deeper knowledge of the conflict and understand just how misguided and deeply offensive you are being in calling for this boycott.
I look forward to your comments.
page 49, paragraph 6, that prohibits any power from deporting or forcibly transferring people into or out of territory it occupies.
But the trouble with the UN Charter, the 4th Geneva Convention and in fact most of the other United Nations Resolutions, is that they hardly relate to the extremely unique situation of the continuous aim of a large part of the Arab and Muslim world to destroy Israel, or the kind of terrorism that evolved with this aim. Furthermore, none of these documents relate to a very important international document ““ the League of Nations 1922 resolution that calls for the establishment of a Jewish National Home in Palestine, and which was validated through the United Nations Charter, and thus clearly giving international sanction for Jewish settlement in Palestine.
So, is it categorically true to say that Israel occupies a sovereign state of ” Palestine ?” Is it fair to say that Israel is illegally building towns on land actually legally and legitimately purchased from the owners of the title of that land. And I am sure you will be surprised when I tell you the amount of land you believe has been “colonized” by Israel ? It is 0.1% of land in the West Bank and is on land that under any future deal will come under Israeli jurisdiction.
There is another aspect to your disingenuous call for a boycott. As Jews we remember another boycott started in 1933 in another country, when ugly mobs stood outside Jewish shops and Jewish performers were barred from performing. We all know how that ended. Tell me what is the difference between you and those previous groups calling for expulsion of Jewish performers? From where I am standing as an English Jew, they are one and the same. In fact so poisonous has the atmosphere become in this country for Jews who support Israel that I, who am a descendant of Spanish Jews who hundreds of years ago fled persecution and found a safe haven in Britain, now feel uneasy at the long-term future for Jews here. Doesn’t that concern you?
Remember the persecution of the Jews in Germany was incremental and took place over a number of years; however, within eight years of the Nazis coming to power such was the ferocity of their campaign that they were able to convince themselves and others that it was perfectly acceptable to go from demonisation and exclusion to murdering Jews. The most frightening development of that persecution was how the intelligentsia, the academics, the legal circles, etc, bought into that campaign in much the same way as you and your cronies are.