Tuesday, May 29, 2012

What motivates these people?

Let us try to work out what motivates people who protest against orchestras that perform in the Proms or theatre companies that take part in artistic festivals; let us, further, try to work out what motivates brain-dead luvvies when they write letters to the Grauniad (it is usually the Grauniad whose readers seem unable to understand the principle of free speech) demanding that orchestras or theatre companies should be banned from performing in this country.

To be absolutely accurate the protests are against the orchestras and theatre companies of only one country; luvvies who get worked up about that particular country seem to be strangely indifferent to the fate of, say, an Iranian singer who has had to go into hiding because he dared to make fun of some mullahs.

Last summer there were disgraceful scenes when the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra performed a politically innocuous programme at the Proms. This year, it is the turn of the Habima National Theatre that performed yesterday and will perform today at the Globe Theatre. They are part of the Globe's fascinating programme of the 37 plays as well as Venus and Adonis in different languages.

In case anybody is wondering, there were two plays in Arabic, Cymbeline in Juba, performed by a company from the newest Africa state, South Sudan and Richard II in Palestinian Arabic, performed by the Ashtar Theatre. Needless to say, there were no protests about the treatment of women, Christians or gays in Palestine. Nor were there any protests against the National Theatre of China, which performed Richard III in Mandarin, though being the national theatre of a highly oppressive state, it could conceivably be linked to that state's behaviour.

Unfortunately, I missed the Chinese performance. Richard III is one of my least favourite Shakespeare plays for a number of reasons but it is always interesting to find out what actors in a totalitarian state make of it. The plays I did go to see were the three Henry VIs in three different Balkan languages. It was an exhausting and absolutely fascinating day. The Macedonian idea of making Warwick the Kingmaker a woman was inspirational.

I am sure, by now readers would have worked out which is the only company that did elicit protests as well as stupid letters from half-witted luvvies. Yes, it was the Israeli Habima company, which performed The Merchant of Venice yesterday and will do so today. Again, I shall have to miss it though I was more than intrigued by the choice. It's not that The Merchant of Venice is an anti-Semitic play - it describes an anti-Semitic society, which is a very different concept - but I would like to have seen what the Habima made of Shylock and of the other, considerably less likeable characters.

Not so our rent-a-mob and our half-witted luvvies. They invaded the performance (easy enough and cheap enough) and had to be led out with one person arrested. It was known that there would be a demonstration and a counter-demonstration had been organized by groups who are pro-Israeli but whose main aim was to make it clear that the suppression of artistic performances is a bad thing in itself. Contrary to occasionally voiced opinions one cannot separate culture and politics. Anyone who believes that has not really looked at Shakespeare's plays.

Well, what does motivate these people? A large proportion of the protesters are not Palestinians so they clearly think that the cause of those settlements is of supreme importance to outsiders. It is not the cause of Palestinian freedom that they espouse as there are no protests against the bloodthirsty oppression carried out at various times by Hamas and Fatah or against the routine denial of rights to women and to minorities in Gaza or the West Bank.

It is not the cause of freedom in general since there are no protests against the theatre companies, orchestras or dance troupes that come from other, far more oppressive states where no artistic performance can be said to be independent.

No, the only cause that excites these people, whether protesters or half-witted luvvies, to the point of demanding a complete suppression of artistic endeavour is one they understand poorly but feel about very strongly: the Israeli settlements. Or is there something else behind it all?

ADDENDUM: An article in The Commentator answers that question in an unequivocal fashion.

YET MORE ADDENDUM: It was pointed out to me, rightly, that I did not mention that the half-witted luvvies did not have it all their way but were challenged by other thespians and one playwright, Sir Arnold Wesker, who used remarkably sane arguments.


  1. Well the simple explanation is that they're prats, as described here by the pointman:

  2. Let's remember the luvvies who supported and continue to support Habima's right to perform here and in every other free country. They include Arnold Wesker, Maureen Lipman, Simon Callow and Steven Berkoff. I shall give their regards to Israel when I holiday there next month #friendofisrael


  3. You are quite right, Clarence. I shall add the link later on as I ought to have done immediately.

  4. Thank you for posting on this, Helen. It is the kind of thing I would miss completely otherwise, stuck out here in the sticks as I am. I will now get back to my beekeeping.

  5. And the occasional detecting, I assume, Nigel.