Two-time Oscar winner Emma Thompson is among three dozen actors, directors and writers protesting the inclusion of an Israeli theater company at an upcoming Shakespeare festival in England.

Recent Tony winner Mark Rylance and seven-time Oscar nominee Mike Leigh are among the other artists who signed a letter expressing “dismay and regret” that Tel Aviv’s Habima theater will be participating in Globe to Globe, a six-week festival taking place at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London.

“Habima [sic] has a shameful record of involvement with illegal Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestinian Territory,” says the letter, published March 29 in England’s Guardian newspaper. The document notes that unlike other members of Israel’s theater community, Habima did not participate in a boycott of a controversial cultural center that opened in Ariel, a West Bank settlement, in 2010. “By inviting Habima, Shakespeare’s Globe is undermining the conscientious Israeli actors and playwrights who have refused to break international law,” the letter says.

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Signed by more than three dozen English artists, the letter declares that signatories have “no problem” with Globe to Globe’s desire to include Hebrew in the festival, which will showcase the Bard’s 37 plays in 37 languages. “But by inviting Habima, the Globe is associating itself with policies of exclusion practised by the Israeli state and endorsed by its national theatre company,” the letter states. “We ask the Globe to withdraw the invitation so that the festival is not complicit with human rights violations and the illegal colonisation of occupied land.”

Other companies participating in the festival include the National Theatre of China, which will perform “Richard III” in Mandarin, and the Ashtar Theatre, a Palestinian company that will perform “Richard II” in Arabic.

Habima is currently scheduled to perform “The Merchant of Venice” at the festival twice in late May.

 

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