Australian Artists Rally for Palestine, Challenging Top Arts Institutions

In a significant display of solidarity with the Palestinian cause, over 3,200 Australian actors, musicians, and artists are mobilising for a powerful statement. They plan to wear Palestinian scarves during their performances nationwide, echoing a recent protest that deeply affected the Sydney Theatre Company (STC).

This movement was sparked by actors Mabel Li and Megan Wilding, who made headlines by wearing keffiyehs during the opening night of ‘The Seagull’ at the STC. Their action has now evolved into a broader campaign, with a significant number of Australian creatives signing a letter urging Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and leading arts institutions to support a ceasefire and Israel’s withdrawal from Palestinian territories.

The letter, which controversially includes the phrase ‘from the river to the sea,’ has gained support from notable figures in the Australian arts scene. Among the signatories are ‘House of the Dragon’ actress Milly Alcock, respected actors Miranda Tapsell and Kate Box, and popular podcaster Abbie Chatfield. The campaign also sees involvement from ABC and SBS personalities, including comedian Celia Pacquola and writers Jenna Owen and Vic Zerbst from ‘The Feed.’

In a call for solidarity, the letter urges both creatives and audiences to wear traditional Palestinian scarves on stage this Tuesday. The coalition behind this movement emphasises the influential role arts institutions play in fostering understanding and compassion. They are organising a day of action on December 13th, encouraging a nationwide show of support for Palestine.

This initiative follows the controversy and division sparked by Wilding and Li’s original protest at the STC, which led to the resignation of two directors from the company’s fundraising arm and prompted the STC to issue two apologies. The STC’s response included a directive for actors to generally avoid political statements on stage, focusing on the content of the plays themselves.

The pro-Palestine letter sharply criticises the STC for its stance, accusing it and other arts bodies of prioritising donors and subscribers over artistic and moral integrity. The letter condemns these institutions for silencing artists of colour while exploiting their stories for gain.

Amidst these tensions, the STC has allowed Palestinian actor Violette Ayad to wear a keffiyeh during the run of the play ‘Oil,’ acknowledging her personal connection to the conflict, as she has family members affected by the war in Gaza. This decision highlights the complex interplay between artistic expression, political activism, and institutional policies within Australia’s arts community.

Sydney Theatre Company has issued an apology for not promptly addressing the pro-Palestinian gesture made by three actors during a curtain call last Saturday. However, the company has not clarified whether the actors involved will face disciplinary actions. Actors Harry Greenwood (son of Hugo Weaving), Megan Wilding, and Mabel Li made a statement by donning Palestinian keffiyehs during three curtain calls at the end of ‘The Seagull’, an adaptation of an Anton Chekhov play by Andrew Upton.

This act sparked controversy among some STC subscribers and donors. Daniel Grynberg, whose grandparents survived the Holocaust, expressed his intention to boycott the company until it responds adequately to what he perceives as implicit support for the Hamas terror attacks of October 7, due to the symbolism of the keffiyehs. Prominent businessman and STC life patron David Gonski, who has Jewish heritage, declined to comment when asked by the Financial Review about his continued support for the company in light of the incident.

Following the actors’ demonstration, Judi Hausmann, a long-serving member of STC’s foundation board and a public relations professional, resigned.

In a statement released on its website on Wednesday evening, STC reaffirmed its commitment to individual freedom of expression but maintained that this right does not overshadow the responsibility to maintain safe workplaces and theatres. The statement highlighted that the other cast and crew were unaware of the actors’ plan to wear keffiyehs. STC emphasized that its audiences come to experience the play itself, and any deviation from this should involve consultation with the company, considering their duty of care.

STC announced that it is reviewing its policies to ensure a safe and respectful environment for its artists, staff, audiences, and patrons. Additionally, the company confirmed the cancellation of Wednesday evening’s performance of ‘The Seagull’. As of now, there has been no comment from STC on whether Greenwood, Wilding, and Li will continue their roles in ‘The Seagull’, which is scheduled to conclude on December 16. It remains unclear if the actors have faced any sanctions, aside from STC’s statement that they have reminded performers of their freedom to express their views on their personal platforms.


The views and opinions expressed on AussieTheatre.com are those of the respective authors and contributors. These viewpoints do not necessarily reflect the official stance or endorsement of the site as a whole. We strive to present diverse perspectives and information for public awareness and discussion purposes only.

12 thoughts on “Australian Artists Rally for Palestine, Challenging Top Arts Institutions

  • I write this with respect and caring as an Australian of Jewish heritage who wants to contribute to a just and secure peace for all.
    Please do consider what is here and try to understand those of you who have signed this letter are perhaps not fully informed of all the facts and may be influenced by not having a full complete and correct picture of what is going on here.

    If you hate Jews, hey, then sign away, we understand … its a Jew hate thing.. nothing new in anti-semitism..

    BUT, if you are NOT a Jew hater and you signing because you have heard that Israel is a colonial regime, stealing Arab land, an occupier, an apartheid state, maintaining Gaza as an open air prison, committing genocide, deliberately killing women and children, opressing residents of Gaza et al etc etc , please do your research and check out all sides of the story.

    This is so sad to see the Australian community being fractured and manipulated by Islamist propaganda in such a divisive and destructive manner.

    I wonder how our (Australian) first nations’s people are feeling about the fact that there is so much passion and momentum from us (the colonists of the Australian’s first nation people’s land) directed to the benefit of a group of people who are the descendants of refugees (who came from Egypt, Jordan and other disparate Middle East origins and are now living in Gaza and Judea and Samaria, and calling themselves Palestinians.

    Can’t help thinking that our first nation’s people are seeing a huge hypocrisy and double standards, especially all this activity coming so soon after the Australian people voted “NO” in the recent referendum.
    @Miranda Tapsell what say you?

    These people calling themselves Palestinians are not the indigenous people of the land of Israel.

    Yes, that area of land in question was called Palestine fleetingly during the time of the British Mandate and immediately prior to the re-establishment of a sovereign homeland state of the Jews, Israel.
    But there was never a sovereign country called Palestine. And yes, the people living in Gaza and other similar areas did live in a place that was called Palestine but they lived alongside Jews who also were called Palestinians at that time.

    I seriously doubt that many of the signatories or so-called “supporters of Palestine” know the following facts.
    1. There never was a Palestinian nation
    2. There never was a Palestinian state
    3. There is no common ethnicity of Arabs living in Gaza , Judea and Samaria that is in any way unique or different to that of any of the other millions of Arabs living in the Middle East.
    3. The Arabs living in Gaza et. al. are trying to convince the world that they are an ethno-national group – called Palestinians – yet they all originally came from many disparate places, Egypt, Jordan, Syria –
    4. An ethno-national group means a group united by a common ethnicity and national (or political identity) that asserts historical claim to a territorial homeland.. conditions which scholars consider when satisfied, entitles group to be classified as an ethno-national group entitled to self determination.
    Political philosopher Will Kymlicka says ethno-national groups are groups that fit the above criteria and ALSO formerly had their own states…
    so weighing up the Arab claims to the land “from the river to the sea”, according to these criteria, they come up “crickets”!
    Apply the above criteria to the Jews and all the boxes are ticked- common ethnicity, national identity, valid historical claim to Jewish homeland (Kings, temples going back 3,000 of history) and history of former sovereign homeland.
    Jews are the ethno-nationalist group that can show Eretz Israel has been their territorial homeland and had been a Jewish soveriegn land and a nation – with a 3000 year history and on-going connection.

    The Arab claim has come about very recently and fails on every condition.
    Palestinians are not an ethno-national group and they never had their own state or homeland.

    3. Prior to 1948 the term Palestinian was used to refer to Jews and Arabs who lived in that region – so again no single and unique ethnicity – Palestine was the name of a region at a. point in time, not a country or state or a nation.
    4. In 1948, there were two categories of Arabs living in what is now Israel – those who stayed in Israel during the war of Independence and those who left under instructions from the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem to make way for the Arab armies of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt who were coming to annihilate the Jews and destroy the new born State of Israel.
    5. Those Arabs who stayed in Israel are now Israeli citizens with equal rights to Jewish Israelis, the ones who left their homes became refugees and successive generations have been spurned by all surrounding Arab countries – no Arab country has stepped up to absorb them. The Israeli Arabs don’t call themselves Palestinians because they know there was never a Palestinian ethnic group or a Palestinian state – but they are all Arabs that follow Islam – similar to all the other Arab nations – they can’t be distinguished in any way from all the other Arabs – so they cannot claim a “palestinian ethnicity” that is just a fairy tale. They are Arabs and Arabs have over 99% of the land in the Middle East.
    6. The whole idea of Palestine and Palestinians is a construct started in the 1970’s that is trying to say that these Arabs were the indigenous people and that Israel is their land.
    7. These Arabs who were originally refugees after leaving their homes have been living in sub-par conditions. Over the last 75 years, they are seeing themselves as a group of people who are wanting self determination and a state..They have created an identity for themselves over the last 75 years and whilst they do not meet any of the conditions as an ethno-national group , it is understandable that they want a place to live and “give it a go” as people free from being refugees and living in their own country.
    8. As the Jews have Israel (always was, always will be) and “from the river to the sea, Eretz Israel will always be”, if these people want to have a homeland they can’t expect the Jews to just “step aside” and give up Israel – just ridiculous idea.
    The Arab nations – their kin, and ethnic brothers and sisters have so much wealth and land in the middle east, it is time for the Arab world to step up and provide these people a homeland. Just like Israel did for all the Jewish refugees who were forced to leave their homes in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Algeria, Yemen, Morrocco and many other countries – hundreds of thousands of Jews were evicted and made refugees – the Jews and Israel stepped up and brought them home and absorbed them
    Its now well beyond time for the Arabs to help out their Arab brothers and sisters and find them a place to call their home, living among their true ethno-national group – the Arab world.
    Israel is a sovereign state, with an authentic ethno-national group who are the indigenous inhabitants of the land of Israel – they are not going anywhere and Israel is already “free from the river to the sea!”

    Reply
  • Would you please list the fascists so I know who to boycott?
    Many thanks.
    Yours sincerely,

    Reply
    • Hi Jane,
      Just to clarify – can you please share who you mean are the facists?

      Thanks
      Eli

      Reply
    • Hi Jane,

      Can I please ask for clarification -when you say facists, are you referring to Hamas?

      Reply
  • I cannot comprehend how actors have a sense of entitlement to shanghai a theatre production and promote personal causes. You want to demonstrate? Demonstrate outside on your own time.
    And before you demonstrate, perhaps you might consider the eloquent response of the previous commentator who provides facts in context.
    You want to stop the fighting in Gaza? You want to stop innocent people getting hurt? Just tell Hamas to return the hostages and to stop calling for the extermination of Israel which is the meaning of “from the river to the sea”.
    Israel wants peace. It offered peace and 2 state solution 4 times and it was rejected.
    Protests like this do not promote a solution or peace.
    There are Arabs and Jewish communities who are working collaboratively along the border to promote peace and coexistence. Why not do some good and support them instead ?

    Reply
    • Well said, what a disgrace for these actors to undertake such a naive and uninformed stand. All they are doing is preaching to themselves but the general public is not interested in such entitled behaviour. They are employed to present a show, not high jack a stage for their uneducated politics. Learn your history, and simply remember what happened on Oct 7. They may be coming for the Jews now, but next Hamas and the jihadists will be coming for groups that most of these actors identify themselves with.

      Reply
  • The Arabs who live in Gaza and the West Bank (who are creating a ludicrous false narrative that they are the “Palestinian People”…do not recognise the Jews as the indigenous people of the land of Israel.
    For 2,000 years, Jews have longed to return to their homeland and live as a free people.
    The Arabs who moved into the area do not recognise the right of the Jews to their indigenous land – and consequently, they have been fighting to destroy the State of Israel because they want to keep the land of Israel for themselves.
    There was never a Palestinian people living in a Palestinian state – there is no different ethnicity of the Arabs who have been occupying the Jewish homeland to any other Arabs in the Middle East – all the people who claim to be Palestinians are descendants of Arabs or other minorities from a myraid of surrounding lands.
    The point is that there are no such thing as an ethno-national people called Palestinians – the people who want to dispossess the Jews of the land of Israel are “inventing” a false narrative that they are the indigenous people, that they are an ethno-national people and they have exclusive entitlement to the Land of Israel, and not the Jews.

    Reply
  • Hatikvah, the National Anthem of Israel
    “Hatikvah” (Hebrew: הַתִּקְוָה‎, lit. English: “The Hope”) is a 19th-century Jewish poem and the national anthem of Israel. The theme of the romantic composition reflects the Jews’ 2,000-year-old hope of RETURNING to their indigenous land, to the Land of Israel and reclaiming it as a free and sovereign nation.
    Hatikvah, literally “the hope,” is Israel’s national anthem. Its lyrics were written in 1886 by Naphtali Herz Imber, a poet originally from Galicia. The melody was written by Samuel Cohen, who based the melody on a musical theme from Bedrich Smetana’s “Moldau.”
    HATIKVA – English Translation
    As long as within our hearts
    The Jewish soul sings,
    As long as forward to the East
    To Zion, looks the eye –
    Our hope is not yet lost,
    It is two thousand years old,
    To be a free people in our land
    The land of Zion and Jerusalem.

    Reply
  • I find it insulting that certain sections of the Australian artistic community are sympathetic to Jihadists. What is more disturbing, is that we have Australian artists siding with a terrorist organisation that orchestrated a deadly assault on an arts event on October 7th. As a member of the liberal left, I recognise and appreciate the Jewish contribution to artistic expression and free thought. We must remember that it is our artists who are our subversives, agitators, wreckers, and doubters, many of whom are Jewish artists, and indeed thinkers. Not all artists are happy to be held hostage by Hamas sympathisers.

    Reply
  • It is obscene to know that so bereft of historical knowledge are these actors, so outside their limited periphery of knowledge – that they see rape, mutation, kidnaping and murder of civilians (not all Jewish) many of them in the act of dancing at an arts and music festival, others old and others babes, as a natural reaction to oppression. Moreover, their lack of actual understanding extends to the point that they cannot see how Hamas has squandered over $18b in aid per annum – from U.S. ,EU, MENA, in amassing weapons and building tunnels to carry out such heinous acts with the knowledge that a belligerent, under pressure right wing Israeli govt would act. Also, while these actors moral certitude and intellectual naivety plays out to underscore deeply, visceral and limbic antisemitism – Saudi Arabian led Coalition of Arab states are bombing Yemen’s Houthi rebels (aligned to Hamas) for the last 10 yrs at a cost of 250,000 lives, and over 10,000 civilians in the last year, or that 20% of all Israeli citizens (many now fighting in the IDF) are Arab, or that Egypt who controls the Rafa boarder with Gaza refused to open it to let civilians in, or that maby of those 6000 to 10000 dead are Hamas combatants, or that under Gaza there are overv500km of tunnels and weapons and fighters while civilians are used to as bait for faux virtuous expressions by underwhelming, ahistorical and poorly read actors – of course Hamas know too well that it’s all well when Arabs kill Arabs fratricidal wars – as long as Jews don’t kill for self defence. Lastly as a mater of fact the greek word γενοκτονία genocide means the murder of genus – γένος, which this is not given there are 350m Arab peoples in MENA, and of them approximately 150,000 well armed jihadists in Gaza – are fighting IDF in what is a war – with absolutely no care for their own – i’m sure these actors would be calling for the end of bombing campaigns in WWII against german cities to allow Nazis to regroup – given the high deaths of Germans. Appalling, stupid and deeply antisemitic – i will and have as an advocate for diversity and arts – suggest that any Jewish philanthropic fund any govt funding body – reconsider any support for any of those who signed – whose actions literally support Hamas a theocratic, violent, racist, misogynistic, homophobic (actually murders of LGBTIQ) group funded by Iran and loathed by all Arab speaking jurisdictions

    Reply
  • Hi all,
    I hope you are all well, and especially so during these times.

    I have never adopted social media as a form of communication, and now, after reading the above comments, I see my decision is correct. However, I have now made an exception, and this is the one. So, no need to reply as I won’t see it and, hence reply.

    So, Eli, Jane, Bonnie, Ben, Chris and Fotis, I find all of your comments distasteful, immature and biased. I’m not going to unpack a complete reply to your writings, as it will take too long, and secondly, I doubt if you will ever be able to think clearly, especially given the current state (and that is understandable).

    So firstly, Eli, people who do not agree with your views may not be ignorant, and I find it offensive and objectionable, that otherwise, they are Jew haters. That comment is a disgrace, and I am not a Jew hater. If I saw any of you being bullied on the street because of your belief or religion, I would hope that I would have the courage to support you, and I don’t believe that I’m ignorant. Next, the so-called inputs of facts and history in your writing, I do not agree with, and nor do other well-versed people. As my father once told me many, many decades ago, history and facts are distorted, and used by all players to fit the story line they want, and to justify their actions. History has been re-written by the various winners and losers over the eons, and one has to be very, very careful, and not selective when using historical facts or so-called facts. However, what I found most offence in your writing, is your underlaying theme of ethno-nationalist. I would suggest you read, or re-read the writing of that great Jewish Lawyer, Ben Ferencz, for you to use that theme is just outright disgusting, and vile. All despots via history have used that line for justification and demonisation. I will put those comments under the heading, “these are extremely difficult times, and your bias is surfacing. As a judge once told me, that’s why I’m here’ I don’t have client inputs (e.g monies). Also never blame others for the mistakes you, or the Israel government make, e.g don’t just blame Arab nations, look also at Israel Government(s), and other Governments across the world.

    Jane/ Julie, re your comments refer to Hamas, I assume re fascists. Seriously! Please read, if you have not already, re books by Jason Stanley on fascists.

    Bonnie, the sense of entitlement. You miss the point, they don’t have a sense of entitlement, they have a sense of responsibility to humanity. They don’t like seeing ongoing mass murder. Please open your mind and heart. Just because you don’t agree with someone don’t demonise them, that’s always used via the ages by nutters. Your last four points, except the last one, I disagree with you, your points are very simplistic in nature, sorry but that is how I feel There are two sides to this long conflict, Israel is not pure, and yes nor are the Palestinians.

    Ben, don’t assume to speak for the general population, that is very dangerous ground, and once again don’t demonise people who you disagree with, (see above re despots). “Uneducated politics”, who are you to say, just because they have a different view? Also, a suggestion, don’t play the fear card, e.g you will be next, all nutters and yes fascists use that one.

    Chris. as a fellow member of the thinking left, stop with the jihadists tag. They, the actors are not siding with terrorists, they are trying to support humanity. You may not agree with it, but that is what I believe they are doing, and stop with the Jewish artists, thinkers club. Hell!, seriously, think about what you are saying. All humans, regardless of where they come from, have artistry, and thinkers. It is not an exclusive ethno club.

    Fotis, Please, do not assume you know all, and others no less, and that makes them uneducated in their views, and you, well your superior. In regard to financial backing from other countries, arms expenditure, and arms export and imports etc, etc. Do you really want to go there, because if you do I suggest you do some impartial reading on Israel. and yes, other countries, on strange financial and arms dealing, yes including Australia. Oh yes, there are other wars going on, and yes humans, are, well just a very, very weird species, but that does not justify Israel policies, in my view, and this is the issue again, you are in a loop, an endless loop. And just to top it off, the artists actions are not ANTISEMETIC, IF IT WAS, I WOULD BE THE FIRST TO JOIN YOU. Just because someone does not agree with a Jewish person’s views, does not make them antisemitic. If you keep using that word it will lose its meaning! STOP telling people they are antisemitic, and PS stop threatening people or groups re, funding, just because you don’t like their views, if that is a pre-condition of your funding, do not fund.

    P.S I’m sure you are all very nice people, and yes, I can’t imagine what you are going through, and your own stories. However, demonising and telling these artists are uneducated, silly etc because in my view they want the killing to stop and/or don’t agree with Israel policies is wrong and does your position no good. Stop with the pile on.

    All the very best.

    PSs. I know I will regret this, but I will read a reply, but only if someone could suggest their best written BALANCED book on Israel-Palestine. I do not believe in religion, so books based on ownership of lands based on religious themes etc will not cut it with me. No disrespect to any religion or your religion. I respect your belief, but it is not for me. Also, I will not get involved in some hate filled spate. Just a name of a book is fine. Regards.

    Reply

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