Despite his rather privileged background, the undeniably talented Mr West (as a naval history buff I enjoyed his billing, years ago, as a supercilious young military officer on horseback in the "Hornblower" miniseries) is a far leftist.
While at Oxford University, he was, we're told, "a member of the Socialist Workers Party and later briefly the Socialist Alliance". Moreover, he "has been a left-wing activist for many years; he was a critic of Tony Blair's New Labour government. On 26 March 2011 he spoke at the TUC March for the Alternative."
As far leftists tend to be, Mr West is also a vociferous critic of the only true democracy in the Middle East. Here's footage of him some years ago rocking the anti-Israel crowd with a star turn:
Much more recently, he (and his parents) were among the stars and spear carriers who announced their intention to deprive Israel of the honour of their presence (well, words to that effect, anyway).
Now, a number of the theatre world's finest (super-finest in the Israel baiting stakes) have rounded upon the "Israel lobby" in the UK.
A couple of press release from Artists for Palestine UK,both dated 10 May, tell the story:
'(NB this original text differs slightly from the version published by the Daily Mail on May 8)
As theatre practitioners in Britain, we are alarmed that the Daily Mail is attacking the Arts Council and the British Council for supporting a UK tour by a Palestinian theatre company.
|A scene from the play; photo credit Jewish Chronicle|
Your piece, with its inflammatory title UK taxpayers fund ‘pro-terrorist’ play, cites “concerns” from the Board of Deputies of British Jews, an organisation with a shocking record of acting to suppress both cultural and academic events which explore the bitter reality of Palestinian existence. Only last month the University of Southampton succumbed to demonisation and threats and banned an academic conference on the legal status of Israel. [Emphasis added here and below]
Neither the Daily Mail nor the Board of Deputies has seen Freedom Theatre’s play The Siege, yet both somehow feel qualified to suggest that it is “promoting terrorism”. Not for the first time, Palestinian voices are in danger of being drowned out by a vociferous pro-Israel lobby that smears all Palestinians as terrorists and antisemites. This lobby wants us to believe that theatre-goers in the UK cannot be trusted to hear these voices and make their own judgements.
The Palestinian West Bank, where the Freedom Theatre is based, has been under illegal Israeli military occupation since 1967. We endorse the words of British playwright Howard Brenton, an honorary director of the Freedom Theatre, who writes of the forthcoming tour:
“This is real political theatre, performed out of the both terrible and inspiring experience of a struggle for freedom and justice. [The Freedom Theatre] are living proof that telling stories and entertaining audiences are powerful acts of resistance to oppression. Do go and see them, they have news for us.”
[signed] Caryl Churchill, Dominic Cooke, April De Angelis, David Edgar, Lucy Kirkwood, David Lan, Miriam Margolyes, Paul Mayersberg, Maxine Peake, Mark Rylance, Jennie Stoller, Mark Thomas, Samuel WestThe other press release says in part:
'.... Leading theatre practitioners have leapt to the defence of the Palestinian Freedom Theatre, about to start its first tour of the UK, after an article in the Mail on Sunday accused supporting arts organisations of funding “a pro-terrorist play”.
The Mail on Sunday piece, written by Nick Craven, charged Arts Council England with giving £15,000 of taxpayers’ money “to producers of an unashamedly one-sided drama based on accounts from the gunmen and bombers of Hamas and the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade.”
It cited “extreme concerns” from the Board of Deputies of British Jews and quoted the Israeli Foreign Ministry saying the play used testimony from “men with blood on their hands.”
Neither Craven nor the critics he quotes have seen the play – The Siege – based on dramatic events in Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity in 2002. Its tour opens in Manchester on May 13.....'It refers to the letter quoted above, and quotes one of the signatories, Mark Thomas, thus:
“Free speech for Palestinian artists is increasingly threatened, more often than not by supporters of Israel’s apartheid occupation. Palestinian voices not only have a right to be heard, we have duty to listen to them.”And it gives the dates and ten locations of the performances of the play, which opens in Manchester and winds up in Glasgow in mid-June.
See more here and here
And note also that more likely demonisation of Israel is bound for the London stage:
"A Land Without People charts London’s political wrangling in the lead-up to the United Nations proposal to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab territories.
Through meticulous research of contemporary documents, it tells the story behind the overthrow of British rule in Palestine at the hands of Zionist terrorists and the violent clearing of its Arab inhabitants that was to follow."