Jacobson and Ades hit out at theatre boycotters

The call to stop Israel's Habima theatre company from performing in the Globe's Shakespeare festival for political reasons has been labelled "an act of self-harm" by an award-winning British novelist.

Howard Jacobson was among those who added his voice to the condemnations of the 37 artists who urged the Globe Theatre to withdraw Israel's invitation to the Cultural Olympiad event, which begins on April 23. The Israeli performers are due to stage a Hebrew-language version of The Merchant of Venice, which will be followed by a performance by the Palestinian Ashtar theatre company. Actors from China, Nigeria and Zimbabwe will also take part in the festival.

Mr Jacobson told the Observer that censoring art for any political or religious reason was "to tear out its very heart… For artists themselves to do such a thing to art is not only treasonable; it is an act of self-harm."

He said that when the letter calling for a boycott, signed by Emma Thompson and Mark Rylance, was published in the Guardian, he "could hear the minds of people in whom we vest our sense of creative freedom snapping shut".

‘It is an act of teason and self-harm for artists to do such a thing’

English playwright Howard Brenton also weighed in, asking the signatories of the boycott call to "think again.

"Denounce, don't censor," he added.

"By inviting the National Theatre of China to perform Richard III, is the Globe also showing support for the occupation of Tibet?" Mr Brenton asked in a letter to the Guardian.

Opera composer Thomas Ades said the call to ban was "shocking and profoundly disappointing". He added: "It is distressing and shaming to see artists of the calibre of Rylance joining such forces."

Last updated: 2:04pm, April 11 2012