Monthly Archives: May 2012

Habima’s Merchant of Venice rocks London’s Globe Theatre

I really enjoyed last night’s performance of Habima’s The Merchant of Venice at The Globe on the south bank of the River Thames on a beautiful summer evening in London.

The cast received a prolonged standing ovation at the end (see above). The Globe was the perfect setting with its open roof allowing you to peer into the ever darkening sky as the constant movement of small planes readied you for the inevitable interruptions.

My main concerns were whether I would follow a play in Hebrew and whether the interruptions would ruin the experience, but two small screens kept us nicely updated in English and The Globe’s security knew when to act and when not to.

Security removed protesters swiftly so limiting the disruption but they allowed a very weird protest, where six protesters stood silently on the first balcony for virtually the entire first half with their lips taped up, to proceed.

First protest during last night's show.

First protest during last night’s show.

Second protest during last night's show.

Second protest during last night’s show.

The performance itself brought to the fore the comedy of The Merchant of Venice with a humourous gondola impression each time the action transferred to Venice, reminiscent of a sideways Moonwalk.

Seeing Shylock dispossessed of everything when Antonio’s defence lawyer finds a loophole in his contract with Shylock and watching Shylock forced to convert to Christianity to escape going to prison himself was maybe a Shakespearian premonition of the treatment in store for the Jews of Europe and Arab countries in the centuries to come.

In all there were some 20 protesters and I recognised two of them straight off.

Peter Scott recently tried to have me arrested and charged with harassment for doing nothing more than photographing him for my blog holding a Palestinian flag at an anti-Israel protest. Last night he donned a smart Panama hat. When I noticed him during the interval I pointed him out to security who, again, did nothing.

I went out to get a drink but when I came back two friends said that a man wearing a Panama had just been removed by security after he had approached them to discuss the disturbances. As they were talking to him they noticed he was wearing an electronic recording device on his lapel. Here is Scott during the interval:

I saw the following protester going into The Globe last night and when I called his name he looked round. I then called security but he made haste away from me until he was eventually caught by security and, out of breathe and shaking, gave a butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-my-mouth look.

I felt traumatised that I might have unjustly accused an innocent person and ruined his evening, but just before the interval he did unfurl a banner and was removed by security:

The protester about to be removed by Globe security last night.

The protester about to be removed by Globe security last night.

Meanwhile, the foyer was packed with police dealing with the protesters. In the top left corner here you can spot ubiquitous anti-Zionist activist Tony Greenstein:

Outside The Globe the Zionist Federation and Stand With Us had arranged a pro-Israel protest. There was also a pen for Palestine Solidarity Campaign activists. One PSC man had donned a mask with a big nose, but swore it wasn’t an anti-Semitic gesture.

I asked some of the PSC  lot whether they saw the recent production of Richard II by the Palestinian theatre company also at The Globe. They said they didn’t as it was a matinee and they had work commitments. They must have conveniently failed to spot the Saturday performance at 7.30pm then; proof, if ever it was needed, that PSC activists don’t give a damn about the Palestinians.

Habima is expecting another packed house tonight and many thanks should be paid to The Globe, its security and the police for allowing the show to go on despite the efforts of those with ignorant views.

Meanwhile, the London Evening Standard described last night’s performance by Habima as “a tricky evening triumphantly negotiated” and The Times said it was “an evening to remember for reasons of art as well as politics”.

Photos from outside The Globe last night:

This is not an anti-Semitic gesture by a PSC comrade, apparently.

This is not an anti-Semitic gesture by a PSC comrade, apparently.

Having fun outside The Globe.

Having fun outside The Globe.

Sweet.

Sweet.

Precisely.

Precisely.

Battle of Brent Street.

Posing for daddy.

Posing for daddy.

Last night 50 Palestine Solidarity Campaign protesters marched through Brent Street in Hendon, an area of London where many British Jews and Israelis live, before congregating outside a hotel where Israel’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Lieberman was due to speak.

The protesters spent the evening calling for Israel’s destruction, while being met with chants aimed back at them of “Fascist scum, off our streets” by the 100 or so pro-Israel supporters who had come out on a lovely summer’s evening to see what all the fuss was about (the main pro-Israel gathering had been arranged by the British Israel Coalition).

Hendon rarely witnesses such excitement but had a fascist group wanted to march through an area of London while calling for the destruction of a country from where another minority group living in England originates there’s a good chance they wouldn’t have been allowed to.

Some PSC protesters couldn’t resist bringing their very young children along for an indoctrination session. One father tried to get his young son and daughter to pose in front of the “Jews are in exile” sign paraded by the Neturei Karta (see photo above). Such an evening’s entertainment is cheaper than taking them to the cinema, I guess.

Finally, the PSC protesters were given a police escort back to Hendon Central station as you can see in this clip where one protester, the kid in the black top, is articulating himself in the aggressive manner one has come to expect. If anyone can lip read please let me know what he is saying (richardblog@live.co.uk). I know it isn’t pretty.

Also, at about 2 minutes in another PSC protester gives a salute. Does anyone know its origins? Thanks.

Here are some more photos:

Who's going to shoot first, me or him?

Who’s going to shoot first, me or him?

Not a pretty sight. At least tuck your shirt in!

Not a pretty sight. At least tuck your shirt in!

Am Yisrael Chai.

Am Yisrael Chai.

Yup, it's all the Jews fault as usual, obviously.

Yup, it’s all the Jews fault as usual, obviously.

Daddy lines up his children for that mantlepiece shot.

Daddy lines up his children for that mantlepiece shot.

Oh dear, son looking pretty disinterested.

Oh dear, son looking pretty disinterested.

Yea, man.

Yea, man.

More Am Yisrael.

More Am Yisrael.

And more...

And more…

I didn't realise these were taking place in Israel in 2013, so thanks!

I didn’t realise these were taking place in Israel in 2013, so thanks!

You mean free the Palestinians from their Hamas thugs.

You mean free the Palestinians from their Hamas thugs.

What is it about Israel being a Jewish state that brings him here?

What is it about Israel being a Jewish state that brings him here?

Saying evening prayers in front of those that despise you. Beautiful.

Saying evening prayers in front of those that despise you. Beautiful.

SOAS Update.

Thank you very much for all the support I received in light of last Monday’s Palestine Society event at SOAS when I was manhandled and told I was a “typical Israeli”, eventhough I am a proud Brit.

I received incredible emails from all over the world with people appreciating my attempts to cover anti-Israel meetings in London and appalled by my treatment.

I received emails from those who completely disagree with my views on Israel, but were still appalled by the way I was dealt with.

And thank you for the Arabic translations too.

I never got to the bottom of why I was called a “typical Israeli”. Only that student knows what was in his mind.

I had a very constructive chat with SOAS who said they had been inundated with emails from both sides but who wanted to continue to welcome me to SOAS and they said they will be reviewing their filming policy.

Much has been made of my not applying for consent to film, but when I was thudded in the shoulder from behind and shouted at to stop filming I wasn’t asked whether I had been granted such permission by SOAS. As it happens I didn’t know there was a filming policy as it has never been mentioned at any SOAS event I have attended (and I have attended a fair few).

There was also at least one other person filming who, it seems, didn’t have the required permission either. Meanwhile, I always see students filming on their IPhones.

And, unless I nodded off temporarily, none of the required announcements in accordance with the filming policy were made at the start of last Monday’s meeting by the organisers themselves!

I believe that in a public space such as a university freedom of speech is commensurate with a right to cover that freedom of speech without fear or hindrance. No one should be disallowed from filming solely because of their political views.

I was targeted last Monday night because of my political views. No one else filming would have been roughed up like that. And I have never disrupted an event, despite what is being put about by my detractors.

Sadly, SOAS students, it seems, have received a highly defamatory and incendiary statement from the SOAS Student Union on behalf of the Palestine Society, which has potential repercussions for my personal safety at SOAS and which was sent to me by a concerned SOAS student. One of the paragraphs states of me:

“By now, we are well aware of his intentions. He first provokes, intimidates and insults (including racially) speakers, organisers or members of the audience and violates generally accepted conventions of public meetings.”

This is reminiscent of another SOAS talk I attended on 16th April about Israel’s Arab minority where I wasn’t even filming. At the talk I was verbally insulted by Gilbert Achcar, a SOAS lecturer, who, after I had asked a perfectly reasonable question during the Q&A, told the room that I was a “professional disruptor”, that had he known I was coming he would have barred me from attending and that I had left insulting remarks on his answering machine. He then told me to get out.

Of course I didn’t leave messages on his machine. I wouldn’t even dream of it.

Aggressive targeting of those supportive of Israel is not confined to university campuses. At the beginning of the year I was put through a torrid few months when Peter Scott and Salim Alam of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign tried to have me prosecuted for harassment because of some videos and photos I posted of them demonstrating against Veolia outside the Natural History Museum in December.

I was at a reasonable distance while filming their political activism but I ended up being called into Notting Hill Police Station to be questioned about my filming and what I had written on my blog. Scott and Alam seemed to have failed to tell the police that I and others are constantly filmed and photographed for their anti-Israel blog.

To my relief the police eventually decided against any further action, but had it come to court the following footage might have made interesting viewing. It shows Salim Alam outside the now defunct Ahava shop in Covent Garden getting up close and personal to the camera of Roy from Campaign4Truth who was filming legally but still, as you can see, gets his camera whacked by one of Alam’s colleagues:

Camera grabbed, rucksack snatched and racially abused at SOAS.

When I went to last night’s Palestine Society event at SOAS (public advertisement above) the audience was greeted with this slide when we entered the Khalili Lecture Theatre:

The slide that greeted us in the KLT at SOAS last night.

The slide that greeted us in the KLT at SOAS last night.

Before journalist Abdel Bari Atwan or Oxford University’s Dr. Karma Nebulsi spoke we were shown a film. Here is the eight seconds I was able to film before I felt some quite sharp prods in my shoulder while being ordered to stop filming:

Next I am told “You’re a typical Israeli, you know that”, which I took as a racist comment:

Next I am told to stop filming and recording by the chairperson before a rather large chap who had subsequently seated himself in front of me got up, turned around and tried to grab my camera, leaving me with a throbbing finger, before making off with my rucksack:

In the act of snatching the rucksack my phone, glasses case, pens and voice recorder ended up all over the floor and under the seats in front of me. I had to kneel to pick everything up, but I’m still missing a pen.

The audience started to taunt me and slow hand clap. Bari Atwan remained silent throughout while Nebulsi had the nerve to accuse me of being disruptive. Bizarrely, she offered to escort me outside to retrieve my rucksack but I refused to leave until my stuff was returned. At no stage did anyone in the 40 strong audience come to my defence in any way:

Eventually, SOAS security retrieved my rucksack and, suprisingly, my coat, which must have been removed by someone from behind me while I wasn’t looking. My coat had my keys in it:

After my coat and rucksack had been returned and after I had managed to retrieve most of my belongings from the floor and from under the seats I left.

To say I felt shaken and pretty distressed is the least of it.

I have turned off the comments just for this blog as I don’t wish to have prejudiced anything that may or may not happen but if anyone can help me with the names of any of those in the clips above then I would be very grateful.

Also, I’d be interested in knowing the translation of the Arabic on the slide above.

My email is richardblog@live.co.uk

Daniel Machover’s dangerous game of Lawfare against Veolia and Israel.

Zena from "Palestine", Daniel Machover, Yael Kahn listening to an activist at ULU last night.

Zena from “Palestine”, Daniel Machover, Yael Kahn listening to an activist at ULU last night.

First, the drama bit.

I was sitting quietly before the start of last night’s Excluding Complicity with Israeli War Crimes meeting at University of London Union (ULU) when I was approached by the Israeli anti-Israel activist Yael Kahn. Kahn wanted me to leave saying:

“We don’t want you. You’ve been undermining people’s meetings. You interfere with people’s freedom of speech. We don’t want you here. Goodbye to you. We don’t want you. You are here for one purpose; to interrupt and to undermine people. I’ve seen you many times. I’ve seen you in action many times. You’re not invited.”     Listen here: Yael Kahn asking me to leave.

Once I told her that I wasn’t leaving as it was a public meeting and that she should have arranged the meeting in her home she shuffled off to chair the event instead.

It’s incredible that these Israel haters are supplied with a room paid for by the British taxpayer at a British university and presume they can exclude anyone they don’t like (the advert states the meeting was “sponsored by ULU”).

The main speaker was Daniel Machover, described as “Solicitor, the UK expert on Human Rights, Israel and Veolia”. Jeremy Corbyn MP was also supposed to speak but failed to show up.

Machover presented his lengthy legal opinion on how to exclude Veolia from the public contracts given out by local authorities. Veolia deals in waste management and construction and has been building the Jerusalem Light Railway, which, Machover says, is in breach of the Geneva Convention and UN resolutions because it serves “illegal Israeli settlements”.

The main UN resolution Machover relied on was that passed by the UN Human Rights Council in April 2011 and called The grave human rights violations by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem (see clip 1 below).

At that time countries on the UNHRC included Libya, Bahrain, Ukraine, Jordan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Qatar. All have brutal human rights records so for Machover to cite such a resolution proves the weakness of his case.

Machover also seems to be adopting the similar failed tactic of Michael Mansfield QC. At an event at Amnesty International in November 2010 Mansfield gave a legal opinion on the defence anti-Israel activists could employ if they entered the shops or offices of companies doing business in the “illegal Israeli settlements” and were arrested.

With such advice in mind anti-Israel activists Matthew Richardson, Gwendolen Wilkinson, Jessica Nero and Christopher Osmond entered the Ahava shop in Covent Garden and succeeded in shutting it down for a few hours while making their protest but they were subsequently landed with criminal convictions for aggravated trespass.

Happily though for Mr Mansfield his chambers picked up the business as the four defendants were represented by barristers from Tooks.

Similarly, Machover seems to be pushing local councillors to exclude Veolia from local authority business but for all his lengthy quoting of local council law to support his view he still has to overcome the same hurdle that the four convicted anti-Ahava activists failed to do; the legality of “the settlements”.

Machover said last night:

“Let me make it clear. Settlements that are built in east Jerusalem or the rest of the West Bank are illegal under international law. There is absolutely universal consensus about that. The British government says so, the American government says so…this is entirely uncontentious territory.”

Apart from the fact that the American government doesn’t “say so” how would Machover explain the decision of the judge in the Ahava case outlined above that Ahava, with its factory on the West Bank, was “trading lawfully”?

Machover’s advice could have extreme financial consequences for local councillors who incorrectly exclude Veolia from a public contract, as Machover himself acknowledged. The local councillors could leave themselves open to being personally surcharged millions of pounds for any loss to Veolia like Dame Shirley Porter was in the 1990s “homes for votes” scandal.

Councillors could be made bankrupt, but Machover couldn’t resist encouraging them anyway last night with this:

“It’s very problematic. It’s very expensive litigation that Veolia could mount. Obviously they’re a very significant company with much more resources than most local authorities. But if they’re prepared to stand up to other bodies…they should be prepared to stand up to a big bully like Veolia. I understand their fears because they don’t want to use council taxpayers’ money on a bad legal case. But, I repeat, I don’t think it is a bad case. So local authorities who have the courage of their convictions should proceed. And I genuinely think that it’s not straightforward as to whether Veolia would actually take it to court.” (see clip 2)

Yael Khan then tried soothing everyone’s nerves by claiming that there had been, apparently, no challenge by Veolia after it lost a £1bn contract in South London, although I doubt that loss had anything whatsoever to do with her and her colleagues.

It’s possible that Veolia, itself, would not have to sue. A concerned resident could possibly have locus standi to instigate proceedings to have councillors surcharged.

Finally, we heard from Zena who had just arrived from “Palestine” that morning. She told us how evil “the settlers” are and how their actions are having a detrimental effect on the health of the Palestinians. (see clip 3)

Just like other Palestinians who have come over here and made the same claim they all look very well to me. Maybe they’re just the lucky ones….

Clips and photos:

The welcoming party on the door at University of London Union last night.

The welcoming party on the door at University of London Union last night.

Clip 1 – Machover outlines his weak case against Veolia:

Clip 2 – Machover encourages councillors over Veolia despite major concerns:

Clip 3 – Palestinian Zena’s view on “settlers”:

Clip 4 – Conclusions of Zena and Machover. Zena calls for boycott:

Clip 5 – Jewish Anti-Zionist Network activist calls for boycott of Hewlett Packard:

A Canterbury activist from anti-Israel Conservative MP Julian Brazier's constituency.

A Canterbury activist from anti-Israel Conservative MP Julian Brazier’s constituency.

Yorkshire teen’s anti-Jewish Twitter rant.

@Mariiam_Ay 's Twitter profile.

@Mariiam_Ay ‘s Twitter profile.

It all started fairly innocuously last night when I noticed this tweet by the above mentioned @Mariiam_Ay :

Her advice to @ThisisPalestine was that his/her tweets should be:

Realising that she had got the wrong end of the stick because @ThisisPalestine is actually a parody account that mocks certain people who support the Palestinian cause I jokingly responded:

Big, big mistake as I found myself on the receiving end of this from her:

When I then suggested to her that she was racist and that she should be ashamed she replied with:

and

When I then looked further down her tweets I noticed it got worse. Brace yourselves:

and

and

and

and

and

and

and

Twitter has now suspended her account. She will be back but the deeper concern is where she gets her hatred from. One clue is the #FreePalestine mantra in her profile (top) which is used repeatedly at Palestine Solidarity Campaign anti-Israel rallies and events which can turn to Jew hate like when someone calling herself Jane Green denied the Holocaust after a PSC event she had just attended.

Then there are some of our politicians who are trying to create an increasingly sectarian culture in Britain. Our general, local and Mayoral elections are increasingly setting Muslim against Jew using horrendous anti-Israel and, in some cases, anti-Jewish rhetoric.

Then some of our newspapers spread horrendous lies about Israel as do some trade unions, but I suspect that the hatred carried by @Mariiam_Ay comes from her family. Even recently we saw a young child brought to the stage of a PSC rally in London to shout “Free Palestine”.

More worringly for Jewish students is that this teenager might be going to university soon. I suspect it’s also a worrying sign for British Jews generally.