Monday June 17, 2024


By Diana Simmonds
April 11 2024

The Sydney Morning Herald talked to HUGO WEAVING today (11 April 2024), ostensibly to spruik the Sydney Theatre Company’s upcoming production of The President.

Of course, they led with his views on that protest – the wearing of keffiyehs by three of the cast of The Seagull at a curtain call on opening night. Mabel Li, Megan Wilding and Harry Greenwood (Weaving’s son) draped the scarves around their shoulders and stood unmoving while the audience applauded the play and their work.

That’s it. That’s all. No thrusting fists, waving flags, chanting slogans, rude gestures or any other action to bring attention to themselves. Just the peaceful stance and the three keffiyehs.

And who knew? Who noticed? Who was horrified? The chatter in the foyer after the performance was of anything but. I saw that curtain call and I didn’t notice the offending garments. When I did hear about it I thought it must have been a different performance. As Weaving said to the Herald:

“That very silent protest, it wasn’t even noticed on opening night. Really, it wasn’t. I was there. I didn’t notice the keffiyeh. It was the fact that it was attacked the next morning in the national newspaper [The Australian] and that those three actors … were vilified and called antisemites, and they were asked to resign. That is so deliberately divisive, and it’s appalling. The outcry was appalling.” 

The outcry was appalling, as were its consequences. The actors were bullied – as was the STC – by a mob of well-organised Zionist activists whose aim seems to be to cancel anyone or anything that affronts them. It has nothing to do with antisemitism and everything to do with the current culture of oppression that seeks to shut down any but a bully’s views.


What happened to the actors and the STC was antidemocratic and fascistic and as Weaving said to the Herald, “I think the problem in our country is we’re all cowed into not speaking out. And that’s the problem I have. And I thought that was true of the STC. I think it’s true up to the highest echelons of power in our country and in the US.”

Fact: it’s dangerous to say a word against Netanyahu’s thuggish government and the child slaughterers of the IDF. That Hamas provoked the war by its own unconscionable attack on October 7, 2023, is now all but lost in the bloodbath and ruins of Gaza and so terrorism begets terrorism. And far away in dopy Australia, people suck their thumbs and allow freedom of speech and peaceful protest to be torched.

“I do think there wasn’t enough front-foot commentary back from the STC,” Hugo said in the SMH. And while true, it’s more that its boss was overseas fixing up his next moves and everyone else was poleaxed by the onslaught – eagerly assisted by the Murdoch press, of course.

Thing is, no one knows what it’s like to suffer such treatment until it happens. A performance of The Seagull was canceled because the actors were being stalked and harassed by paparazzi and threatened with their lives by other means. They were terrified. Naive too, perhaps, but the kind of political intimidation aimed at them – and STC – is not something we’re accustomed to. And, as Weaving said, the backlash was “absolutely extraordinary, just extraordinary.”

It must also be resisted if Australia is to remain the relatively calm backwater of old-style democracy. Never mind that we inadvertently gave away rights and freedoms in the name of Covid19 that have yet to be restored. But no matter how ham-fisted was the STC’s initial response, to have the state company vilified, damaged, and threatened with its existence is – to use a favourite Albanese word – just not acceptable. When you’re forced to bring in counselors for staff whose lives were made a misery by never-ending vicious phone calls… I mean really, Australia!


Meanwhile, although it’s cost the company dearly – financially and in being badly shaken by the attacks, it continues. Some members of audiences are to be seen wearing their own keffiyehs, and not just because they’re ideal tween-seasons neck warmers. (Mine’s black and white and I’ve had one since I was a teenager, btw.)

Nevertheless, this kind of not-so-petty tyranny will continue and has to be opposed, even though it’s terrifying and the consequences can be dire.

It is not antisemitic to loathe what Israel is doing in Gaza. Many Israelis feel the same. No peace and no solution can come out of the slaughter and destruction: another generation of haters will be raised out of the survivors whose siblings and families are dead. And it makes it easier for autocrats and dictators to rise and flourish.

That’s so when it comes to the anonymous zealots who choose to bully actors and, through them, unsuspecting members of the public whose civil rights are threatened by such actions, except we don’t realise it. Stad up Straya.



  • Daffy55

    So “Zionist activists” are the the bad guys. Do you even know what Zionism is? It’s the conviction that after everything, Jewish people deserve a homeland where they can feel safe and live in peace. Even though everyone around them wants them gone. And you’re amazed that when, yet again they feel their backs are against the wall, they react and strongly. Sure, Netanyahu is a crook and the religious Jews are a big problem, but don’t attack the Jewish state by using Zionism as a perjorative. It’s the kind of unthinking slur that feels like a major insult.

    11:49 April 11 2024

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