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Director calls for Habima fans to act on Jenin theatre

The Freedom Theatre
The Freedom Theatre

English playwright Howard Brenton has called on those who supported Habima's right to perform at the Globe last month to turn their attention to the Freedom Theatre in the West Bank.

Mr Brenton, who was one of the artistic figures who voiced criticism of the boycott call issued over Habima's involvement in the Globe to Globe festival, has highlighted what he called "a systematic harassment of the Freedom Theatre by the Israeli army".

In an article for the Guardian, Mr Brenton also drew attention to the "intimidation of the theatre's staff and their families" by the Palestinian Authority, including the arrest and detention of the company's co-founder, Zakaria Zubeidi, last month.

Mr Brenton detailed a nighttime raid on the theatre by Israeli soldiers last July and the case of the theatre's artistic director, Nabil Al-Raee, who was taken by the Israeli army and is now reported to be in the Jalameh detention centre.

The Freedom Theatre, in Jenin, was co-founded by Juliano Mer Khamis, an actor and activist who was shot by a masked gunman last year in a case that has not yet been solved.

"It is a small pool of enlightenment and joy in a dark place," wrote Mr Brenton, of the theatre. "Israel: many of us defended your National Theatre's right to perform recently at the Globe in London.

"From the same argument, stop your attacks on the Freedom Theatre and release its artists from your prisons."

After artists including Emma Thompson and Mark Rylance wrote to the Guardian urging the Globe to retract its invitation to Habima, Mr Brenton responded in a letter to the paper that critics should denounce but not censor.

"By inviting the National Theatre of China to perform Richard III, is the Globe also showing support for the occupation of Tibet?" he pointed out.

"Any suggestion that Israel's actions are not purely motivated by security needs is as offensive as it is preposterous," said an Israeli embassy spokesman.

He added: "There is no comparison between the rights of certain members of the Freedom Theatre and the cast of Habima. For starters, those starring in Merchant of Venice were only acting out a plot to harm Jews."

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