Last Australia Day, Margolyes became an Australian. Julie Power wrote:
Margolyes is known for her honesty and humour. But when it comes to becoming an Australian citizen, she is earnest.
”I feel just sheer happiness, sheer joy.”
She first came to Australia in the late 1960s after meeting Heather, her Australian partner of more than 40 years.
Her desire to become a citizen crystallised when she wanted the right to vote against the former prime minister John Howard, whom she described as a ”pillock”.
Quoting John F. Kennedy’s famous line,
”Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country”, Margolyes said she wanted to help ”Australia become a nation of thinkers”.
”I could teach young people the value of words again.
”One of the dangers of modern life is that we don’t think about words any more.
She is also worried about the surge of nationalism and ugliness towards foreigners. While she plans to be a loyal citizen, she does not plan to follow blindly.
”This sheila is not going to shut up,” she said…
If Miriam’s concept of teaching young people the value of words includes calling someone a pillock, maybe she should stick to acting! And while Power admires her honesty and humour, others find her demonisation of Israel no laughing matter:
Richard Millet wrote:
… a small group of pro-Israel activists stood outside Arts Depot in Finchley, north London handing out leaflets to people going into see Miriam Margolyes’ show Dickens’ Women.
The activists explained to them that Margolyes had signed a letter to The Guardian that asked The Globe to withdraw its invitation to Habima (The National Theatre of Israel) to give two performances of The Merchant of Venice as one of its 37 Shakespeare plays in 37 languages season.
The letter was silent on performances to be given by theatre companies from China, Russia, The Palestinian territories, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Turkey etc. despite human rights atrocities in those places.
Only Israel was the subject of the letter on the ground that Habima had performed in a settlement and the letter ignorantly claimed that settlements are illegal. The letter concluded
“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.”
As it happens Habima went ahead with their shows in front of sold-out audiences on both nights in sharp contrast to the two shows given by the Palestinian theatre company who found that those who claim to be their friends aren’t.
Most theatre-goers were happy to receive a leaflet and didn’t know about Margolyes shameful politics of calling for boycotts of fellow actors and they agreed that she was wrong.
Brian of London – IsraellyCool wrote:
I don’t support any cultural boycotts and obviously not when they’re uniquely directed at Israel. So it’s nice to hear that a few civic minded Israel supporters gave a leading BDS-hole a taste of her own medicine.
Miriam Margolyes … was one of the more prominent names on a mainly C and D list of celebrities calling for Israel’s Habima theatre company to be boycotted when they performed at The Globe theatre in London.
My earlier postings about how anti-Zionists are really just racists seem to be completely on the money with Miriam.
BTW… here is a brief run down of her anti-Israel CV.
Miriam Margolyes –
– Appeared in the antisemitic play “Seven Jewish Children” in Australia and as a result was dropped from Jewish Care fundraiser event
– Tried to stop the appearance of Israel’s National Theatre Company Habima at the Globe Theatre in London last month
– Made an antisemitic comparison of the treatment of Jews during the Holocaust and the current conditions for residents of Gaza (Andrew Marr Show, BBC TV, 2010)
– Supported the Enough! Anti-Israel rally in London in 2007
– Has said “The people who run Israel now can look at Arabs and see vermin, and that is what the Nazis did”
Nice lady. She’ll need more than Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility to hide from that list.
Unsurprisingly, her vocal Jewish defenders found a welcome in the letter page of The Age. Rabbi Jonathan Keren-Black wrote:
THOSE people who did not have a chance to hear Miriam Margolyes missed a wonderful experience (“Charity rejects Jewish actor over ‘anti-Semitic’ play”, The Age, 12/5). If she had commented about her belief in the right for Israel to exist in safety and security, but that Palestinians also have those rights, and that the tragedy must not go on, she would have voiced the feelings of a significant part, if not the majority, of Israeli society, and indeed of Jews.
I have read Seven Jewish Children, and participated in it as a play-reading. The problem is not the play, which reflects the pain and difficulty of the issues, but the context in which it is presented, in this case as the centrepiece of an event marking Israel’s independence. It is doubly disingenuous to quote the Palestinian organiser, who said that no Jewish organisation was prepared to argue Israel’s case. I was one of those approached to speak. I declined, not only because Jews and Israel are not synonymous and I am not a spokesman for Israel, but also because of the context.
I would be prepared to speak at a neutral reading — but in a fair and neutral reading, the play would speak for itself of the pain and anguish felt by Jews and by Israelis trying to find a just solution, so that Israelis and Palestinians can live in peace.
The usual suspects added their voices:
WE, SURVIVORS of the Holocaust and children of survivors, are saddened by Jewish Care’s last-minute withdrawal of Jewish actor Miriam Margolyes’ performance for its elderly residents. The notion that her participation in a play critical of Israel would somehow automatically upset Holocaust survivors is simply untenable.
The play Seven Jewish Children is not anti-Semitic… The fight against anti-Semitism is important to us, but it gains nothing from trying to turn the play into an anti-Semitic incident. Demonising the play’s author, director or actors does not serve the interests of the struggle against racism and anti-Semitism.
Dr Marietta Elliott-Kleerkoper, Sol Salbe, Dr Peter Slezak and Dr David Zyngier
THE play Seven Jewish Children… is far from anti-Semitic. Anti-injustice, anti-ignorance, anti-insensitivity and anti-narrow-mindedness, certainly. Its underlying theme is that Arab children have as much right to a decent life as do Jewish children, no matter what their elders get up to. To see even a hint of anti-Semitism in this is unjust, ignorant, insensitive and narrow-minded.
Miriam Margolyes should be praised, not treated as though her support for the play were some kind of menace to all we hold dear.
But I suspect most would agree with Alan Freedman:
JEWISH Care is to be congratulated for reversing its invitation to Miriam Margolyes to appear at its fund-raiser. Of course, Margolyes is entitled to her opinion and, of course, she is entitled to perform in whatever theatrical production she chooses to.
However, every community is also entitled to set its standards, and she should know that performing in an anti-Semitic play is deemed offensive by the mainstream Jewish community.
Seven Jewish Children is a play craftily written to advance the Palestinian aim of demonising and de-legitimising the state of Israel. It is just another example of the rising tide of anti-Semitism masquerading as anti-Zionism.
Margolyes rushes to support anti-Israel causes, remaining uncharacteristically quiet when – as in the case of the Goldstone Report – the facts are later discredited. So much for her claim ‘
‘This sheila is not going to shut up”?
The following open letter (Jewish Appeal to Support the Goldstone Report) was initiated by Jews Say No!
The primary author of the recently released UN Report on Gaza, the internationally respected jurist Richard Goldstone, has been attacked by establishment voices within the Jewish community. When those within a community try to “excommunicate” and dishonor truth-tellers, it is our obligation and responsibility to speak out vehemently on their behalf and on behalf of the truth they bring.
By all accounts, Judge Goldstone, who has a deep connection to Israel, approached his task with no pre-conceptions about what he and his team would find as they investigated the circumstances and aftermath of the Israeli attack on Gaza.
For following where the truth led him and releasing a report detailing human rights abuses and violations of international law by Israel, as well as by Hamas, Judge Goldstone should be applauded for his honesty and integrity. Instead, he and the report have been viciously and relentlessly attacked by many within the Jewish community.
When it comes to Israel, hard-core censorship and intimidation by those claiming to speak in the name of the Jewish people have been the order of the day. Our saying, “Three Jews — four opinions,” reflects the traditional Jewish encouragement to argue and debate. However, the reality, sadly, is that diverse opinions are welcome — except when it comes to Israel.
We must hold the Israeli government and the Jewish establishment accountable for attempting to vilify a truth-teller and for suppressing the truth about Israeli government crimes against the Palestinian people. We call upon each and every one of us to speak out at every opportunity — at our community centers and synagogues, in our homes, in the street, wherever we go.
… We call for a fair and impartial investigation of the report’s allegations by non-military institutions in Israel. Failing that, we call for an investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Margolyes and the Caryl Churchill play she appeared in feature in Jacobson’s novel, The Finkler Question. From Edward Alexander’s review:
” We enter the story shortly after Finkler has vaulted to still greater fame by concluding his appearance on the popular BBC program Desert Island Discs with the declaration that, “as a Jew,” he was “ashamed,” that is to say, ashamed of Israel…. For this gesture he is promptly rewarded with an invitation to join a group of “well-known theatrical and academic Jews” who offer to rename themselves “in honour of his courage in speaking out-Ashamed Jews.”… most of Jacobson’s English readers immediately recognized that Finkler’s despicable confession of shame on Desert Island Discs exactly duplicated that of Miriam Margolyes, the pudgy little character actress, a few years earlier…
Another of Jacobson’s fictional inventions, the play called Sons of Abraham, which gets a standing ovation for its equation of “Gaza” with Auschwitz, is not quite as blatant in its deranged espousal of the blood libel as the actual (ten-minutes long) play upon which it is based: Caryl Churchill’s highly popular 2009 monstrosity called Seven Jewish Children-A Play for Gaza,” in which the aforementioned Margolyes appeared. (When, because of this, a Jewish nursing home in Australia withdrew its invitation to her to perform there, she was shocked, simply shocked, that anybody could consider a play showing Jews deliberately killing Arab babies and thirsting for their blood to be antisemitic.)
The novel’s most incisive and severe critic of Finkler and the Jews of shame…is Finkler’s, wife Tyler, who …sees Finkler and his anti-Zionist comrades as “profoundly self-important” more than “profoundly ashamed”;
So what to make of Jews like Margolyes and Stephen Fry? Are they, as Jacobson suggests, “profoundly self-important” and is their animus against Israel a form of attention seeking? Who knows. What is certain is that they use their celebrity status to stoke the fires of antisemitism, which ultimately will affect them just as surely as it does mainstream Jews.