Maureen Lipman challenges Roger Lloyd Pack on Habima boycott

Actress Maureen Lipman questioned the logic of banning art in a heated Radio 4 debate with anti-Israel actor Roger Lloyd Pack on Sunday.

Discussing the performances by Israel's Habima Theatre Company this week at Shakespeare's Globe on "The World This Weekend", Ms Lipman drew attention to the contradictory stance of those who would boycott Israel.

Mr Lloyd Pack, one of the signatories of a letter to the Guardian calling for Habima to be removed from the schedule of the Globe to Globe festival, reiterated his support for a ban on the company because it had performed in the West Bank. But he also said he welcomed the Globe's decision to invite Habima initially because it had enabled activists to inform more people about "what is happening in the settlements".

"The bringing of attention to Israeli matters is jolly well covered," said Ms Lipman.

Describing "the Israel question" as "an obsession with the left in this country", Ms Lipman said it was deeply upsetting that an artist would try to ban another artist.

She noted that there were many UN resolutions about Israel yet not about China's occupation of Tibet, and rebuffed the actor when he argued that being unable to protest against every regime was not a reason not to protest against one in particular.

"I only ask that the same people who pitch out for Israel time and again do the same for Burma," she said, pointing out the limited coverage of the country.

"Finally, something is happening and I can assure you it is nothing to do with Burmese actors being banned."

She asked whether Mr Lloyd Pack would have played in Belfast during the troubles, when people were being kneecapped, to which the actor responded: "That's a different situation."

"Well, of course," she said. "You accuse us of what-aboutism, but it's the same. We're not there to politicise art, we're there to perform it and change people's hearts."

Last updated: 11:56am, May 29 2012