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London Theater Boycotts UK Jewish Film Festival

In a move condemned as anti-Semitic, Tricycle Theater demands Jews renounce Israeli ties as precondition to hosting Jewish Film Festival.
By Ari Soffer
First Publish: 8/6/2014, 6:23 PM

Anti-Israel protesters fly PLO flag at London rally
Anti-Israel protesters fly PLO flag at London rally
Reuters

In a move condemned as "anti-Semitic", a London theater has shocked the British Jewish community by refusing to host the UK Jewish Film Festival this coming November, because the event is sponsored by the Israeli embassy.

The Tricycle Theatre was to have been the main venue for the UKJFF for the eighth year running, hosting 26 separate screenings and six gala events, according to the Jewish Chronicle, but venue directors told festival organizers that they did not want to be "associated" with the Israeli embassy.

The theater's Artistic Director, Indhu Rubasingham, claimed in a statement that her establishment didn't want to accept money from "any government agency" involved in the conflict. 

"The Tricycle has for many years hosted the annual UK Jewish Film Festival and would welcome the festival again this year. The festival receives funding from the Israeli Embassy and given the current conflict in Israel and Gaza, we feel it is inappropriate to accept financial support from any government agency involved," Rubasingham said.

"We offered to provide alternative funding to cover the loss of the contribution from the Israeli Embassy.  We WANT the festival. Now, more than at any time, Jewish culture MUST be celebrated. The Tricycle serves many different communities and cultures and must navigate neutrality which is why it cannot directly be taking government money in this difficult time. However, the UKJFF decided it was not willing to decline sponsorship from the Israeli embassy and, to our regret, withdrew the festival from the Tricycle."

But when asked by Arutz Sheva whether they had ever previously refused to host an event which had ties to a country involved in an armed conflict, and how it could justify asking Jews to renounce ties to their own homeland as a precondition to being hosted at the venue, the theater said it had "nothing to add" to Rubasingham's comments.

The decision has been attacked as anti-Semitic by prominent British Jews, including the Jewish Chronicle's editor, Stephen Pollard:

A joint statement by the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council condemned the move as "shameful", and added that it "shows that boycotts of Israel inevitably lead to the harassment of Jewish culture and individuals across the world."

Other prominent British Jews who expressed their outrage include actress Maureen Lipman.

"The Tricycle theatre under Nick Kent had a stunning history of truthful story telling. A great part of its support and its audiences came from the Jewish sector," she said in a statement.

"We always knew that even if we disagreed with the message, we accepted that it came from a reasoned and balanced argument. Today that ceased. The Tricycle have decided to punish Jewish people in the Diaspora for one view of what is taking place in the Middle East and that is quite unacceptable."

Jewish author David Winner called for Jews to boycott the Tricycle theater in response:

The decision to boycott a major Jewish event comes at a dark time for Europe's Jews. Anti-hate groups have registered a massive spike in anti-Semitism in Europe, as extremists have used the conflict between Israel and Gazan terrorist groups as a pretext to attack and incite against Jews throughout the continent.

Britain, while less-effected than countries such as FranceGermany and Holland - which have born the brunt of the anti-Semitic surge - has seen a significant rise in anti-Jewish hate crimes as well since the start of Operation Protective Edge 30 days ago.