This is a story of three Theatres. The Habima Theatre of Israel, The Globe Theatre of London UK, and the Ashtar theatre in Ramallah, occupied Palestine. The Ashtar Theatre has recently received rave reviews, with an ‘Arab Spring’ version of Shakespeare’s classic tale – Richard 2nd, and are due to perform this May at the Globe theatre.
Many were shocked in the UK, when the National Globe Theatre also invited Israel’s Habima National Theatre to perform in May. This then kicked of a storm of ‘disavowals and denouncements’ on the Guardian Letter’s pages. All terribly British. See below.
Letters in the Guardian
1. Dismay at Globe invitation to Israeli theatre Thursday 29 March 2012
We notice with dismay and regret that Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London has invited Israel’s National Theatre, Habima, to perform The Merchant of Venice in its Globe to Globe festival this coming May. The general manager of Habima has declared the invitation “an honourable accomplishment for the State of Israel”. But Habima has a shameful record of involvement with illegal Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestinian Territory. Last year, two large Israeli settlements established “halls of culture” and asked Israeli theatre groups to perform there. A number of Israeli theatre professionals – actors, stage directors, playwrights – declared they would not take part.
Habima, however, accepted the invitation with alacrity, and promised the Israeli minister of culture that it would “deal with any problems hindering such performances”. By inviting Habima, Shakespeare’s Globe is undermining the conscientious Israeli actors and playwrights who have refused to break international law.
The Globe says it wants to “include” the Hebrew language in its festival – we have no problem with that. “Inclusiveness” is a core value of arts policy in Britain, and we support it. But by inviting Habima, the Globe is associating itself with policies of exclusion practised by the Israeli state and endorsed by its national theatre company. We ask the Globe to withdraw the invitation so that the festival is not complicit with human rights violations and the illegal colonisation of occupied land.
- David Aukin producer
- Poppy Burton-Morgan artistic director, Metta Theatre
- Leo Butler playwright
- Niall Buggy actor…..
I was sad to see the letter (30 March) from many eminent theatre workers – including David Calder, Mark Rylance, Harriet Walter, Roger Lloyd Pack, Cherie Lunghi and Jonathan Miller – asking Shakespeare’s Globe to withdraw the invitation to Israel’s Habima theatre to perform The Merchant of Venice in its Globe to Globe festival this coming May. I think it’s wrong-headed – could the signatories think again?
They argue that, by inviting the Habima, the Globe is showing support for the illegal settlements in the Palestinian occupied territories. But by inviting the National Theatre of China to perform Richard III, is the Globe also showing support for the occupation of Tibet?
So what is this story all about? A bunch of theatre lovies getting all politically hot and bothered about Israel, and upset that our National theatre’s invitation could be seen as an endorsement of Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestine. Strangely the BDS is nowhere to be seen in all of this. One would be forgiven in thinking that boycotting Habima would be a prime target for the BDS. However as Omar Barghouti studies at Tel Aviv University the BDS have probably got other things on their agenda than hassling the Habima Theatre Company. One could be even forgiven for thinking that just maybe, BDS might help to promote a Palestinian Theatre company, like the Ashtar theatre in Ramallah.
Many of us at deliberation, believe that the principles of BDS are still quite correct and valid, and that sanctions can be effective, but wonder whether some of the leadership of the BDS movement have become compromised or even perhaps, are controlled opposition. ~JB
It is ironic that when a bunch of Actors and Producers attempt to protest at the Habima invitation, they are then later denounced, and their crime? Restricting free speech. And what about the Palestinian Theatre Company in this story? Well they are still coming in May as well as Habima, conveniently Habima has received lots of free publicity, but the Ashtar theatre has not been so lucky. Until now…. So spread the word!!!
Richard 2nd at the Globe
- Friday afternoon 4th May (2pm)
- Saturday night 5th May (7pm)
In fact the media and the government are quite happy to call him a terrorist even though he has not been found guilty, tried or even charged with any terrorism related offence in the U.K.
Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat – Presumption of Innocence or innocent until proven guilty
Well thats what I used to believe – until I became a Muslim.
In the last few years we have witnessed how the law is largely ignored. Everything is turned on it’s head, war is peace – peace is war, did Tony Blair lie (or maybe exaggerates) one and a half million die but will he ever face justice?
It is very hard to believe there is such a thing as “British justice” any more since we learn of the cases of men held in prison here in the U.K. without charge for years whilst awaiting extradition. Other men who were subject to extra ordinary rendition and torture allegedly with the help of the British Government, such as in the case of Abdel Hakim Belhaj who is now suing Jack Straw. Men who previously fled dictatorships have returned to be leaders in new governments, the freedom fighters of today are the leaders of tomorrow.
Gaddafi was our enemy, then our friend – then our enemy again. To the British and American Governments Mubarak and Ben Ali were models of moderate Islamic leaders, helping in the phoney “war on terror”. Such leaders were our allies despite our governments access to information from Human Rights organisations about the torture used in those countries. Not only did the British and American governments know about the torture but America sent people to those places to be tortured. Read about extra ordinary rendition here and take on board the following statement:-
In the words of former CIA agent Robert Baer: “If you want a serious interrogation, you send a prisoner to Jordan. If you want them to be tortured, you send them to Syria. If you want someone to disappear — never to see them again — you send them to Egypt.”
All the more interesting to read on the B.B.C. website today about how the King of Jordan had allegedly intervened in a corruption case, then imprisoned journalists who reported on it.
Christoph Wilcke, HRW’s senior Middle East researcher, said: “Jordan cannot claim to be making democratic reforms while prosecutors hunt down journalists doing their job.”
HRW said the case was the fifth such incident in Arab kingdom this year.
The 5th Case this year and we are still in April! So much for the notion of Abu Qatada getting a fair trial in Jordon, but the fact that this article appears openly on the B.B.C. website condemning so called reforms in Jordon will not resonate at all with the British public who the media and Theresa May have led to believe that Abu Qatada is not deserving of human rights or justice at all.
It came as no surprise to students of Middle East history, when al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri called for the ouster of Syria’s “pernicious, cancerous regime,”. Progressive Syria has been targeted by al Qaeda in the past, and is currently under attack by Islamists from the CIA/Mossad-trained Free Syrian Army.
When al-Zawahiri headed Egyptian Islamic Jihad in 1984, Reagan’s CIA brought his mujahadeen buddy Ali Mohammed to the US where was put to work training Afghan terrorists in Brooklyn and Jersey City on weekends. During the week he instructed US Special Forces at Fort Bragg. In 1998 he helped bomb the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Blowback’s a bitch.
Later the CIA helped Islamic Jihad terrorists escape Egyptian justice by sending them to fight with Bosnian Muslims assigned to tear apart Yugoslavia, and with the heroin-infested Kosovo Liberation Army. Islamists were used to murder Gaddafi and privatize the Libyan central bank for the Rothschild Cartel.
Now these creations of Western intelligence – Israel, Turkey, the GCC and NATO – are being used to attack the Assad government in Syria and to capture Syria’s central bank for the Zionist Illuminati banking cartel.
And the road to attacking Iran runs straight through Damascus.
The following article by Dr. Boris Dolgov – senior research fellow of the Centre for Arabic Studies of the Russian Institute of Oriental Studies – is the best I’ve read on the situation. It appeared on the excellent Oriental Review website – http://orientalreview.org/
The current situation in Syria remains one of the most important components of the Middle Eastern and international policies. Using Syria’s domestic crisis and pursuing their own goals NATO, Israel, Turkey and the monarchies of the Persian Gulf are trying to undermine the Syrian regime.
Since the beginning of the crisis in Syria I have made two trips to that country as a member of international delegations in August 2011 and in January 2012. If we watch the dynamics of situation’s development over that period on the one hand we can state intensification of terrorist groups in Syria and on the other hand we see a broader people’s support of President Bashar Assad and a clear demarcation of political forces’ positions.
“Two car bombers blew themselves up outside the heavily guarded compounds of Syria’s intelligence agencies, killing at least 44 people and wounding dozens more in a brazen attack in December 23, 2011.
In the last two months Syria has seen a number of terrorist attacks. The terrorist attacked Syrian servicemen and military facilities, law enforcement agencies institutions, blasts on oil pipelines, railroads, murders and taking of hostage among peaceful citizens (In the city of Homs insurgents killed five well known scientists), arson of schools and killing of teachers (since March 2011, 900 schools have been set on fire and 30 teachers have been killed).
Terrorist attacks in Damascus became one of the bloodiest. Two of them were carried out on December 23, 2011 when cars loaded with explosives went off in front of the buildings of state security service killing 44 and injured about 150 people. On January 6, 2012 on a busy street a suicide bomber attack killed 26 and wounded 60. There were officers of the law enforcement agencies among the victims but most of the victims were occasional by-passers.
In January 2012, Damascus has a more severe look in comparison with summer of 2011. Security officers check passports on the way to the airport, asking people what country they are from. Entrances of many state institutions are protected with concrete blocks. There are check points with sand bags near the police stations which are protected by soldiers in bullet proof vests. Lifting gates which close entrances to some of the streets are also by guarded by soldiers and young people with machine guns – these are volunteers from pro-governmental youth movements. But everyday life has not drastically changed. There are no servicemen, armed vehicles or document checks in the city. Damascus is still a busy city, with no vacant seats in internet cafes and on weekends streets are crowded with family couples and young people.
After terrorist attacks in Damascus demonstrations with slogans supporting Bashar Assad and condemning terrorists were held everyday. Similar demonstrations were organized in other large cities such as Aleppo, Homs, Hama, Daraa, Deir az Zor. These demonstrations were covered by the Syrian TV. During our stay in Syria we could move around the city freely and speak with people as we liked but we did not see any single anti-governmental rally. Most of the rallies’ participants were young people.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad waves at supporters during a public appearance in Damascus on January 11, 2012 in which he vowed to defeat a “conspiracy” against Syria.
The most massive rally which gathered tens thousands of people was held on January 1 in the center of Damascus. At that rally Bashar Assad addressed to the nation starting his speech with the words: “Brothers and sisters!” He was speaking about a thousands year long history, the need to fight terrorism and the support terrorists receive from abroad. Assad’s speech was received with real enthusiasm and there were no signs that this reaction had been staged.
The whole square (tens thousands of people) shouted a popular slogan “Allah, Syria, Bashar!” (“Allah, Syria va Bashar bas!”). On January 8, in the memory of victims of terrorist attacks in Damascus a commemoration ceremony was held in St. Cross Cathedral in Damascus. The Mufti of Syria Ahmad Badr Al-Din Hassoun, the metropolitan of the Syrian Orthodox Church and the prior of the Catholic monastery spoke at the ceremony. In their speeches they condemned “the killers and those who put weapons in their hands and sent them to Syria”. The tragedy of the mufti of Syria, whose son was killed by the members of the Islamist terrorist group after the mufti had refused to act on the side of the foreign opposition, which goal was to overthrow Bashar Assad, is a telling example in itself.
After the adoption of a new law on political parties an active process of their creation has been underway in Syria. Although formally the constitution envisaged a multiparty system and seven parties were represented in the parliament, in compliance with clause 8 the leading role belonged to the ruling Baath party. Currently there is a wide discussion in Syria about this clause. An official with the Syrian Foreign Ministry told us that in the new constitution (on which the national referendum would be held in February), this clause would be abolished if most of the public and political forces spoke for it.
In his address to the nation Bashar Assad said that the new constitution would be approved in March 2012. The parliamentary elections are to be held in May-June 2012. Along with the law on political parties new laws on general elections, local administration and mass media were adopted. In compliance with the new law in December 2011 elections to the local governments were held. But because of the threat of terrorist attacks the turnout was only 42%, which was confirmed by the Baath officials. Nevertheless, the local administrations were elected and began to work. Under the recently adopted law new mass media are being formed in addition to the current 20 TV channels, 15 radio stations and 30 newspapers.
At present there are three main trends in the Syrian patriotic opposition – democratic, liberal and left, which is mainly a communist one. The Syrian Social Nationalist Party is the most influential party among the democratic forces. It is also the oldest party which was established in 1932. As Iliah Saman, a member of the political bureau of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party said, the party’s program is more conservative in comparison with the Baath’s program. Nevertheless there are no differences of principle between the two parties. According to him, the policy of the US, France and England is the main destabilizing factor in Syria. He said that those countries were acting in the interests of Israel and had the goal to divide Syria into five state formations on the basis of religious and ethnical differences.
The liberal trend of the opposition is represented by the recently registered secular democratic social movement led by Nabil Feysal, one of the Syrian intellectuals, a writer and a translator. He is an outright opponent of the Islamic fundamentalism, supporter of the liberal democracy. His goal is to turn Syria into “Middle Eastern Denmark”.
The National Committee for the Unity of Syrian Communists is the most influential component of the left (communist) trend of the opposition within the country. Recently it has changed its name for the Popular Will Party which is headed by Qadri Jamil, a prominent Syrian economist and the professor at the Damascus University. He is the only representative of the opposition who entered the committee on the design of the new constitution. Jamil believes that the national dialogue and creation of the government of the national unity (which would include representatives of the patriotic opposition) is the only way out of the crisis. At the same time he thinks that it is necessary to remove all the politicians who are not interested in conduction of reforms from the government, to clean up the opposition from destructive factors and to suppress its radical members who tend to use violence.
The coordination committees are also significant political force which has contacts with the Popular Will Party. These committees on the one hand organize demonstrations demanding concrete reforms and better living conditions on the other hand act as self-defense units which armed people protect their districts from attacks of terrorist groups in particular from a so called Liberal Syrian Army. It should be noted that although in the beginning of protests in Syria, part of the population, including intellectuals shared the opposition discontent with the regime and supported demands on democratization now, after intensification of terrorist groups, they tend to support the regime and the reforms proposed by the government.
A telling example of terrorist crimes was the shelling of a quarter in Homs on January 11 which killed eight local residents. Giles Jacquier, a reporter with France-2 TV, became one more victim of the attack. We spoke with Jacquier shortly before his tragic death and he was convinced that people’s protests were suppressed by the authoritarian regime in Syria. He was looking for the opposition everywhere trying to make a report. On failing to find it in Damascus he moved with a group of Dutch and Swiss colleagues to Homs. But in Homs he also met people who were supporting Bashar Assad and demanding to protect them from terrorists. A group of local residents and Giles Jacquier who happened to be near came under a grenade thrower fire, which was a common thing in that district. Commenting the tragic death of the French reporter Mother Agnes Mariam, who is the prior of the St James Catholic Cathedral in Damascus, said that there is no protesting opposition in Syria but only bandits who are killing people.
Many people we contacted in Syria including independent foreign reporters told us about the information war against Syria. According to them, Qatari channel Al Jazeera, for example, in order to broadcast a report on mass anti-governmental rallies in Syria made a fake footage with the help of computer editing using dozens of atmosphere players and decoration of Syrian streets, a kind of “Hollywood village”.
As for the Syrian opposition abroad, its political part is represented by the Syrian National council with the headquarters in Istanbul. It is headed by Burhan Ghalioun, a Syrian-French political scientist at the Sorbonne University in Paris. It is quite a heterogeneous formation which comprises groups with different goals. They represent the Muslim Brotherhood and other Sunnite organizations, Kurdish separatists, Liberal-Democratic dissidents who usually reside in Europe and in the US.
The armed opposition which conducted terrorist attacks in Syria is represented by a number of groups from a military wing of the Muslim Brotherhood to the Libyan radical Islamists and Al Qaeda. According to the information we receive from our Syrian colleagues there are training camps for insurgents in Lebanon and Turkey. The officers of security services of NATO, Turkey and some Arab states are in charge for the training and armament of the insurgents, while the monarchies of the Persian Gulf provide the financing.
The future development of the situation in Syria depends in many ways on the ability of the ruling regime to consolidate public forces and conduct the announced reforms. Other priorities are the liquidation of terrorist groups and stabilization of the domestic situation. In its turn this issue is directly linked to the development of the global policies and will depend on the activities of the leading countries of NATO, Turkey, the Arab League (which sent its monitors to Syria) Russia and China.
As for Russia, it firmly declares that repetition of the “Libyan scenario” in Syria is inadmissible.”
The Mail on Sunday is doing a very good job on the odious Jack Straw’s involvement in torture and persecution. I think that at last the truth has entered the established narrative. There is a little box in the report about my own evidence to Scotland Yard. I will type it out here as the Mail’s box format here is not internet searchable:
“Torture” Evidence Handed to the Yard
Further pressure was piled on Jack Straw last night over the “rendition” of Libyan dissident Abdel Hakim Belhadj after sensitive documents were handed to Scotland Yard detectives.
Craig Murray, former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, passed the documents to police as part of the inquiry into the behaviour of Ministers and intelligence officials over the detention of Mr Belhadj in Bangkok in March 2004.
The opponent of Colonel Gadaffi was flown to Tripoli, where he claims he was tortured.
Mr Straw, who was Foreign Secretary at the time, has denied ever condoning the use of torture to extract information.
But the documents appear to cast doubt on that position.
One memo, headed “Uzbekistan: Intelligence Possibly Obtained Under Torture” contains minutes of a meeting Mr Murray held with senior Foreign and Commonwealth officials on March 8, 2003 to discuss his concern that the UK could be in breach of international law by possessing intelligence obtained by torture.
The minute, dated March 10 2003, quoted Linda Duffield, then the FCO’s Director of Wider Europe, apparently justifying the use of such material as part of the fight against terrorism.
A second memo, dated March 14 2003, and written by Simon McDonald – the Straw’s principal Private Secretary – to Ms Duffield says Straw has read the minutes and “agrees that you handled this very well”.
Mr Murray is understood to have told police that during Mr Straw’s time at the FCO diplomats were told to only refer to the policy on torture verbally.
Mr Murray said last night -
My evidence stated that Jack Straw introduced a policy of allowing evidence obtained by torture to be used. I also told them that written evidence had been destroyed, and we were told to not commit details into writing.
There is a slight misquote in the above. It should say Jack Straw introduced a policy of allowing intelligence obtained by torture, not evidence. In fact it was specifically stated such intelligence would not be produced as evidence in court (people were imprisoned without charge or rendered instead). The instruction not to put things in writing was given to me personally, I don’t know if others were told the same. As I was the only one protesting, perhaps not.
These links are to the documents in question.
The first two were obtained by Freedom of Information Act request. Details of the CIA’s collusion with the Karimiv regime’s torturers have been redacted by the FCO. Last week Jack Straw came out and argued strongly for the effective abolition of the Freedom of Information Act. Now there is a coincidence for you.
The Way to Peace is the debut album from Rich Siegel and is a collection of piano based songs about religion, politics, & spirituality. I am more a free-jazz, Bebop kind of a guy at heart, so Rich’s album is a bit of a change for me. That being said, it has strong inspiring message of Unity and Peace underpinning it all, that everyone can empathise with. Rich is a great piano tickler and his music is deep and thought provoking which he conveys with his strong emotive voice.
This album is creative melting pot with many people contributing songs, lyrics and arrangements. The Way to Peace is the first track to be written by Rich Siegel, where he ponders the nature of peace and how it may progress.
The Way to peace is to live and let live,
It’s to be and simply let be,
The way to peace is to dwell
In that knowledge
For it is the truth that will set you free.
I suppose the common theme connecting this album together is the existential questioning, and self-doubt about the world and where it is going. Noble sentiments indeed…
My purpose in recording it (“Shams el Aghani”) is to make a statement as an American Jew singing in Arabic about the experience of Palestinian refugees”
My favourite songs on the album are Shams el Aghani & In Palestine. Shams el Aghani has some great soloing by the ubiquitous Gilad Atzmon & both tracks stand out as being much more eastern in their sound and style.
“In Palestine” is slightly controversial as it digs deeper into the myth and justifications for Israel’s occupation of Palestine. The song considers the various arguments, justifications and blame that is cast, but at the end of the day children are still dying in Palestine and with frightening regularity. You can’t argue with that.
Well is true we’ve been hated
But when we arrive
And take over their country
Is it any wonder that peace cannot thrive
While the children are dying in Palestine”
deep & thought-provoking…
Ynet reported today that the European Jewish Congress fears that Israel strike on Iranian nuclear facilities will lead to “dramatic increase of anti-Semitic, very violent attacks against Jews”
For a very short while I was cheered by what seemed to be a ‘Jewish institutional move’ in the right direction. I thought to myself, that at last, a Jewish leadership positions itself at the forefront of the battle for peace and reconciliation. Finally, we will see a Jewish political call against an Israeli preemptive attack against Iran. The shekel has dropped, I thought to myself. But I was obviously wrong, in fact totally wrong. The shekel may never drop. As it seems the European Jewish Congress is concerned with one thing i.e. Jewish ‘potential’ suffering and, of course, the ‘rise of antisemitism’.
Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, said he feared a “minority of angry, extremist European Muslims who live in impoverished neighborhoods might use an Israeli attack as a pretext to hit local Jews, particularly in France and Great Britain.”
Seemingly Kantor wasn’t concerned at all with the possibility of losing millions of innocent lives in the region. He wasn’t even concerned with the possibility that an Israeli attack could easily escalate into a regional nuclear conflict that may radioactively contaminate the entire region and some large parts of Europe.
Moshe Kantor, the president of the European Jewish Congress, an umbrella organization that claims to represent some 2.5 million Jews in Europe, is concerned with Jews only.
“If Israel attacks Iran, it will be a dramatic increase of anti-Semitic, very violent attacks against Jews,” he said.
Seemingly, there is no limit to Judeo-centrism, yet, I believe that Jewish leaders would do themselves and their communities a big favour if they, at least, make an effort to disguise their apparent lack of universal empathic consciousness and total carelessness for the rest of humanity.