Occupation Map

Occupation Map

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Screening and discussion of Open Bethlehem on Sunday - 'an unflinching record'

The Lexi Cinema will be screening the film Open Bethlehem on Sunday afternoon folowed by a discussion with the director. LINK

 Documentary director Leila Sansour returned to her home town of Bethlehem and was shocked by what she found. Arriving as the Israeli government was building a massive wall to separate the already depleted Palestinian city from its populous Jewish neighbours, she bears witness to its impact. From dirt-poor farmers whose olive groves were maliciously cut down, to families whose homes were razed to make way for the wall, the effects are unflinchingly recorded. Yet as a background to the intractable conflict, her film also observes the deep spirituality that is Bethlehem’s enduring legacy.

LEXI  CINEMA, SUNDAY DECEMBER 7th 3.30 pm
The Lexi Cinema
194b Chamberlayne Road
Kensal Rise
London 
NW10 3JU

Overground:  Kensal Rise (3 mins)
Tube:  Bakerloo line, Kensal Green (10 mins), Queens Park (15 mins)
Bus:  Okehampton Rd stop is right outside the door, served by 52, 452, 6, 187, 302

BOOK HERE (You can sit where you like): LINK

Friday, 24 October 2014

Notes on Amnesty's 'After the Tricycle..' meeting on Palestine and Israel

This is the account of the Tricyle meeting organised by Amnesty International which Jews4big have published. In addition to the acocunt below, Martin Francis, chair of Brent and Harrow Palestine Solidarity told the meeting about the letter to the Guardian and the letter to the local press (signed by more than  300 people) expressing support for the Tricycle's intial stand against Israeli Embassy funding of the UK Jewish Film Festival. He raised the issue of what to do if the theatre cocerned, as in the Tricycle case, did not want any demonstrations of solidarity for 'fear of dividing the community'. Is the issue bigger than the views of just one theatre.

At the meeting one of the speakers expressed doubts about the call to protest at the remaining cinemas taking part in the Film Festival. He suggested that many progressive film makers, including European Jews, were making films critical of Israeli government policy and showing them at the Festival.

A groundbreaking panel discussion at Amnesty International on October 7 proved to be a most heartening display of determination from many artists, especially theatre people, not to allow Palestine to become a no-go area as a result of threats and libellous attacks from Zionists. The whole discussion can be seen and heard  here:

- The UK’s Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport boasts of collusion with a foreign ambassador to interfere in the governance of an independent arts institution.
- A small community theatre is pilloried as antisemitic in the national media for querying Israeli embassy funding.
- Behind-the-scenes threats bully a leading London theatre into censoring its own website.
- Sponsors of a Palestinian film festival are individually targeted with demands they withdraw support.

These were some of the instances of limits on artistic freedom exposed during a public discussion at Amnesty International’s Human Rights Action Centre on Tuesday October 7, chaired by novelist Kamila Shamsie, a former trustee of Free Word and English PEN.

With two playwrights on the panel and an audience populated by actors, writers and other artists, evidence of false charges of antisemitism being used to threaten artists and arts organisations generated anger and a determination to fight back.

“When we defend people against charges of antisemitism we should be angrier at the libellous accusations and keep the main focus where it belongs – on Israel's racism and illegal actions,” said playwright Caryl Churchill, who was in the audience.

Kamila and Tanika After Tric

At the start of the meeting Shamsie read out a letter from the Department of Culture Media and Sport to a member of the public, about Culture Secretary Sajid Javid’s stance when the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn came under sustained attack over the summer.  The theatre had asked that, while Israeli forces were pounding Gaza and killing Palestinians in large numbers, the annual UK Jewish Film Festival it was due to host for the eighth time should not take funds from the Israeli Embassy. The Tricycle was subjected to pickets alleging discrimination against British Jews. Javid – a member of Conservative Friends of Israel – publicly rebuked the theatre. Artistic Director Indhu Rubasingham faced racist abuse and calls for her dismissal, even after the Tricycle board had backed down and said it would accept Israeli embassy funding in future.

The Department letter showed that far from defending the theatre’s right to choose its funding sources, Javid actively participated in harassing it – seemingly at the behest of the Israeli government.

“The Department has kept closely in touch with the Israeli Ambassador during this unfortunate chain of events,” wrote Arts and Broadcasting policy officer Dempster Marples. He said Javid would be attending the gala opening of the festival in its alternative venue “in order to demonstrate his support.”

The letter concluded, without any evident sense of irony: “The Department shall continue to challenge anti-Semitism and other forms of prejudice, and to champion freedom of cultural expression at every opportunity.”

Panellist Antony Lerman, a former Director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research and a founding member of the Jewish Forum for Justice and Human Rights, condemned the DCMS letter for condoning false antisemitism accusations against the Tricycle Theatre.
Lerman told the meeting it was perfectly legitimate for an arts institution to choose to decline funding.
“The Tricycle’s actions showed no signs of antisemitism of any kind, nor did they represent any form of attack on freedom of expression,” he said. “And yet the official pro-Israel organisations said the Tricycle had banned a Jewish film festival. They fell back on their default position, alleging boycott and equating it with antisemitism.”

Another speaker, playwright Tanika Gupta, said she had been one of hundreds of theatrical colleagues who had rallied to support the Tricycle’s Rubasingham.

Their letter, published in the Guardian on August 15, said: ‘Punishing a small theatre for standing up for its principles is a big step backwards for anyone concerned with challenging prejudice or promoting freedom of speech. Anyone who truly wants to stand against antisemitism needs to stand with the Tricycle theatre and challenge those who are accusing it in a disproportionate, unjust and ill-informed way.’
“Antisemitism, Islamaphobia and other forms of race prejudice are on the rise,” said Gupta. “Labelling the Tricycle antisemitic bleeds significance from the term.”
This position was well-understood by many leading theatrical figures who expressed their support for the Tricycle behind the scenes. “In future they need to act faster and in public,” said Gupta. “We need to get organised!”

The meeting also heard from writer Rachel Holmes, former head of literature at the South Bank. In a message read out by Shamsie, Holmes explained her disappointment at the decision of the Donmar Warehouse to censor a podcast of an event she programmed concerning Britain and the Middle East at the Donmar in March and April of this year.

To accompany Peter Gill’s production of his play Versailles, the Donmar presented a series of events with leading political and cultural commentators exploring the legacy of World War I.

Podcasts were to be available on the Warehouse website. However there is no podcast corresponding to the last of the five, Mr Balfour's Letter to Lord Rothschild: How the Great War Remapped the World.

“On 1st April,” said Holmes, “24 hours prior to the discussion taking place, the Donmar Warehouse received its first complaint from a funder claiming that the event was an attack on the state of Israel, an ‘anti-Israel rally’ and antisemitic.”

This was accompanied by threats to withdraw funds and to raise grievances with public funders, including publically funded cultural institutions in which Holmes works and/or sits on the boards. The intimidation worked. Donmar did not post the offending podcast.

Another example was described by audience member Bill McAllister, former Director of the Institute of Contemporary Arts. He said that during his tenure (1977–1990), the ICA was directly threatened with blacklisting by the Board of Deputies of British Jews for hosting the first UK Palestinian Film Festival. The BoD attempted to implement its threat by writing to every sponsor demanding that they should pull out. Attempts at face-to-face discussion collapsed with the BoD spokesman “flying into a rage,” McAlister said. In this instance the ICA stood firm. But the audience at the panel discussion was left wondering how many more cases of successful bullying and intimidation there have been over the years.

Judith Knight of ArtsAdmin said that institutions should develop clear ethical funding policies and make them public. “Yes, it may mean that we have to cope with less money, but we are less likely to be caught out if we make decisions that enrage powerful interests.”

Equity activist Doug Holton said the question of Zionist interference in the arts must not be “a no-go area” within democratic structures such as unions and guilds representing cultural professionals.

“We need to be ready to confront Zionist racists calling us racists,” Holton said. “Without politics art is mere entertainment. We must defend the arts against political manipulation.”

Les Levidow, of Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, supported calls for artists to organise against Zionist bullying.

“Throw back the accusation of anti-Semitism as the racist stereotype it is. Do not buy into the lie that all Jews are bound to the State of Israel,” he said.

Jonathan Rosenhead, chair of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine was encouraged by the way theatres came together in defence of the Tricycle theatre. “Soon people will have to explain why they are NOT boycotting,” said Rosenhead.

Poet Seni Seneviratne argued passionately for artists to try to make a difference in a situation of injustice. “I will take a moral decision on any invitation from an oppressive regime, and in the case of Palestine I’m supporting a boycott call from within, from Palestinians themselves,” she said. “Not to boycott would be crossing a picket line and I am not a scab!”

Dramatist April De Angelis, another member of the panel, pointed out that there were several current and historical instances of boycotts challenging dubious sponsorship of the arts - a process she called “culture-washing”.

She pointed to the stand taken by the Writers Guild of the UK and Actors’ Equity in supporting the boycott campaign targeting Apartheid South Africa in the 1970s and beyond, and noted that today, the Art not Oil coalition “campaigns against sponsorship by criminally negligent corporations.”
Having worked with young Palestinians in play-writing workshops De Angelis had decided to reject Israeli “culture-washing” and join the cultural boycott. “Those kids would not have had access to my work if performed in Israel,” she told the meeting.

The final member of the panel, Ofer Neiman, an active member of the Israeli group Boycott from Within, explained culture-washing in more detail.

He quoted a special department in the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs describing its own responsibilities as "attaining prominence and high exposure abroad for Israel's cultural and scientific activity, as an important tool for the promotion of its political interests."

The term Hasbara (“explaining” in Hebrew) is frequently used to describe the way presenting positive messages about Israel serves to “drown out the growing criticism of its appalling human rights violations,” said Neiman.

He cited Nissim Ben-Shitrit, former deputy director general at the foreign affairs ministry: "We regard culture as a hasbara tool of the highest order, and I do not differentiate between hasbara and culture".

Efforts to bring about change in the actions of the Israeli government need to be based on the understanding that culture cannot be separated from politics.

Neiman said Israeli dissidents were too few to bring about change by themselves, from within.

“Artists, in the UK and elsewhere, can play an important role in the collective effort to stop the Israeli regime's crimes, simply by saying no to the use of culture for Israeli state propaganda. Those who do so may face smearing and bullying, but they will find supporters all over the world, including Israeli citizens who will stand with them.”

Friday, 3 October 2014

Debate on Tricycle Theatre and Israeli Embassy funding of Film Festival

Amnesty has sent the following invitation which will be of interest to readers involved in the debate over the Tricycle Theatre's refusal of Israeli Government funding (via the Embassy) and the subsequent events.

Do artists and arts organisations have the right to say ‘no’ when governments with negative human rights records try to co-opt culture in the service of their public relations strategies? 

Please join the discussion – After the Tricycle: Can arts organisations say ‘no’ to embassy funding?
In August 2014, during the Israeli bombardment of Gaza, the Tricycle Theatre asked the UK Jewish Film Festival to forego Israeli embassy funding. The festival refused, walked away from the Tricycle, and briefed the press that the theatre was boycotting a Jewish festival. The theatre came under sustained attack: campaigns to de-fund the theatre, denunciations by liberal newspaper columnists, even intervention by the Secretary of State for Culture himself.

Do we have to accept that the kind of backlash the Tricycle experienced is inevitable as far as funding by a powerful state is concerned, and make sure we never follow where this theatre led?
Panel chair: Kamila Shamsie, novelist.

Speakers: April De Angelis and Tanika Gupta playwrights, Antony Lerman writer & commentator, and Ofer Neiman of the Israeli group Boycott from Within.

Panel discussion. Free entry, but reservation is recommended.
There will be a drinks reception afterwards.
When: Tuesday 7th October, 19:00 – 21:00. Doors open 18:30
Where: Amnesty International UK Human Rights Action Centre, 17-25 New Inn Yard, London. EC2A 3EA.
Amnesty Human Rights Centre map

Friday, 29 August 2014

Lobby Brent and Harrow MPs on Gaza and Arms Trade on September 9th


 There is to be a mass lobby of MPs over Gaza on September 9th (details below) and we would like to organise to cover our constituencies: Brent Central (Sarah Teather), Brent North (Barry Gardiner), Hampstead and Kilburn (Glenda Jackson), Harrow West  (Gareth Thomas) and Harrow East (Bob Blackman)

We would like to hear from members and supporters in these constituencies who wish to take part in the lobby or would like to make separate representations at surgeries etc. We will then be able to put you in touch with each other so that you can go together.  Please email Martin at mafran@globalnet.co.uk if you wish to take part.


Mass Lobby of Parliament for Gaza

Westminster Cathedral Hall
Ambrosden Avenue - London
Details
Date
09/09/2014
12:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Location
Westminster Cathedral Hall
Ambrosden Avenue
London

Between 12-1.45pm – please arrive at Cathedral Hall, Ambrosden Avenue, just off Victoria St London
Lobby 2-4pm, Committee room 11, House of Commons, Parliament
Join with hundreds of others in lobbying your MP at this special lobby for Gaza, Palestine.
The day will start with briefings to prepare you at Cathedral Hall. We will then move on to the House of Commons.
The lobby is calling for:
  • An immediate and permanent lifting of the blockade on Gaza, allowing free movement of people, goods and humanitarian aid
  • An end to the arms trade, and all military-industrial collaboration, with Israel
  • Sanctions against Israel until they abide by international and human rights law
Put this into your diary now. Ask your friends and family to come.
You can also send a letter to your MP asking them for a meeting>
But don’t worry if you don’t get a reply – do come along and make sure our voices are heard!
- See more at: http://www.palestinecampaign.org/events/emergency-lobby-parliament-gaza/#sthash.SuPXnsH8.dpuf
Mass Lobby of Parliament for Gaza
Westminster Cathedral Hall
Ambrosden Avenue - London
Details






Date
09/09/2014
12:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Location
Westminster Cathedral Hall
Ambrosden Avenue
London



Between 12-1.45pm – please arrive at Cathedral Hall, Ambrosden Avenue, just off Victoria St London


Lobby 2-4pm, Committee room 11, House of Commons, Parliament

Join with hundreds of others in lobbying your MP at this special lobby for Gaza, Palestine.

The day will start with briefings to prepare you at Cathedral Hall. We will then move on to the House of Commons.

The lobby is calling for:

  • An immediate and permanent lifting of the blockade on Gaza, allowing free movement of people, goods and humanitarian aid
  • An end to the arms trade, and all military-industrial collaboration, with Israel
  • Sanctions against Israel until they abide by international and human rights law

Put this into your diary now. Ask your friends and family to come.


But don’t worry if you don’t get a reply – do come along and make sure our voices are heard!




Mass Lobby of Parliament for Gaza

Westminster Cathedral Hall
Ambrosden Avenue - London
Details
Date
09/09/2014
12:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Location Westminster Cathedral Hall
Ambrosden Avenue
London


Between 12-1.45pm – please arrive at Cathedral Hall, Ambrosden Avenue, just off Victoria St London
Lobby 2-4pm, Committee room 11, House of Commons, Parliament
Join with hundreds of others in lobbying your MP at this special lobby for Gaza, Palestine.
The day will start with briefings to prepare you at Cathedral Hall. We will then move on to the House of Commons.
The lobby is calling for:
  • An immediate and permanent lifting of the blockade on Gaza, allowing free movement of people, goods and humanitarian aid
  • An end to the arms trade, and all military-industrial collaboration, with Israel
  • Sanctions against Israel until they abide by international and human rights law
Put this into your diary now. Ask your friends and family to come.
You can also send a letter to your MP asking them for a meeting>
But don’t worry if you don’t get a reply – do come along and make sure our voices are heard!
- See more at: http://www.palestinecampaign.org/events/emergency-lobby-parliament-gaza/#sthash.SuPXnsH8.dpuf

Mass Lobby of Parliament for Gaza

Westminster Cathedral Hall
Ambrosden Avenue - London
Details
Date
09/09/2014
12:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Location Westminster Cathedral Hall
Ambrosden Avenue
London


Between 12-1.45pm – please arrive at Cathedral Hall, Ambrosden Avenue, just off Victoria St London
Lobby 2-4pm, Committee room 11, House of Commons, Parliament
Join with hundreds of others in lobbying your MP at this special lobby for Gaza, Palestine.
The day will start with briefings to prepare you at Cathedral Hall. We will then move on to the House of Commons.
The lobby is calling for:
  • An immediate and permanent lifting of the blockade on Gaza, allowing free movement of people, goods and humanitarian aid
  • An end to the arms trade, and all military-industrial collaboration, with Israel
  • Sanctions against Israel until they abide by international and human rights law
Put this into your diary now. Ask your friends and family to come.
You can also send a letter to your MP asking them for a meeting>
But don’t worry if you don’t get a reply – do come along and make sure our voices are heard!
- See more at: http://www.palestinecampaign.org/events/emergency-lobby-parliament-gaza/#sthash.SuPXnsH8.dpuf



Saturday, 23 August 2014

PROTEST Stop Arming Israel - Downing Street protest 12.30pm today


OIn Yer Trike: The perils of taking a principled stand

We are reprinting this excellent article by Aisha Maniar from her website One Small Window...  with her permission LINK

Aisha reflects on the summer controversy over the Tricycle Theatre's rejection of Israeli government funding during the current Gaza conflict and its wider ramifications.

Showing solidarity…
 
The targeting of Gaza’s infrastructure, including its only power plant, and UN safe havens where unarmed civilians sought shelter has inspired some Latin American states to recall their ambassadors to Israel, effectively cutting diplomatic ties in protest. Elsewhere, the international community has largely maintained a deafening silence on the latest war and destruction of the Gaza Strip. Some states have signalled their tacit approval of possible war crimes. On the other hand, the solidarity of ordinary people has been well demonstrated in this conflict as millions of people worldwide have taken to the streets of their cities in solidarity with the beleaguered people of Gaza.

In Britain, the response has been varied and has involved solidarity actions as diverse as pop star Zayn Malik tweeting “#FreePalestine”, for which he received death threats, to England cricketer Moeen Ali wearing “Free Palestine” and “Free Gaza” wristbands, which were later banned by the International Cricket Council on the basis that they were political and in breach of the rules. With the England Cricket Board (ECB) and others agreeing that the bands were humanitarian and not political, the action received widespread support.

Many ordinary people have chosen to take peaceful direct action through boycotts of companies and products that support Israel. As elsewhere in Europe, the BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanction) movement has been gaining traction. As part of a national day of protest against the supermarket chain Sainsbury’s on 2 August, activists in Brixton, south London, closed down two shops. Other similar protests have been held outside other retailers.

The UK’s continuing military support and arming of Israel has been targeted. Protests have been held outside and in Barclays Bank due to its investment in arms sales to Israel, leading in some cases to temporary branch closures. Amnesty International has set up a petition calling on the UK government to end all arms sales to Israel: “We must not facilitate war crimes”. On 5 August, nine activists from the London Palestine Action group successfully closed down a drone component factory owned by Israeli defence contractor Elbit Systems in Staffordshire for two days. The 9 were forcedly removed and charged with aggravated trespass, and are due to appear in court on 20 August. The Campaign against The Arms Trade (CAAT) has announced it is bringing legal action against the British government “unless it stops sending arms to Israel and conducts a review of its current arms export licences”.

…at the Tricycle

Against this backdrop, an arts protest might seem almost twee or hipster. Applying the “think global, act local” philosophy, this month a small theatre in north London has found itself at the centre of a storm pitting it against the full force of the powerful pro-Israel lobby and the duplicity of the mainstream media.

The Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn, north London, has hosted the UK Jewish Film Festival (UKJFF) for the past 8 years of the festival’s 17-year history. This year, however, in a statement dated 5 August, now permanently removed from its website, the theatre announced, “Given the situation in Israel and Gaza, we do not believe that the festival should accept funding from any party to the current conflict… [Thus], we asked the UK Jewish Film Festival to reconsider its sponsorship by the Israeli Embassy”; “at this moment, the Tricycle would not accept sponsorship from any government agency involved in the conflict”. The funding by the embassy is worth around £1400 and the festival would have involved 26 film showings and 6 gala events at the venue.

The theatre, which “has always welcomed the Festival and wants it to go ahead” instead “offered to replace that funding with money from our own resources”. Ultimately, however, this offer was turned down: “We regret that, following discussions, the chair of the UKJFF told us that he wished to withdraw the festival from the Tricycle”. It was perhaps na├»ve of the theatre to assume the UKJFF would turn down funding from a sponsor that has supported it throughout its history.

The crux of the matter is that the Tricycle Theatre refused sponsorship for an event it was hosting from a state currently accused of war crimes by the UN. It offered the organisers an alternative which they rejected. The organisers have since found alternative locations for this year’s festival. That should have been the end of the matter, with perhaps the Tricycle and the UKJFF being able to reach an agreement on next year’s festival. This, however, is no ordinary sponsor. Israel is not a state that can be defied at any time by anyone. This was not a rejection of sponsorship; this was a call to arms.
The 5 August statement was put out as the theatre had been “been contacted by several patrons who have been given misleading information about the Tricycle and the UK Jewish Film Festival”.

On the same day, the UKJFF issued a press release that stated “The Tricycle Theatre has refused to host the UK Jewish Film Festival for the first time in eight years, for so long as it is supported by the cultural department of the Israeli Embassy in London”. The organisers said they had been told in a letter by the Tricycle’s chair, Jonathan Levy, “Given the present situation in Israel/Palestine, and the unforeseen and unhappy escalation that has occurred over the past three weeks, including a terrible loss of life, The Tricycle cannot be associated with any activity directly funded or supported by any party to the conflict…the Tricycle will be pleased to host the UKJFF provided that it occurs without the support or other endorsement from the Israeli Government”.

David v Goliath

The mainstream media, which took days to acknowledge the bombardment and carnage in Gaza, pounced on the story immediately. Not the story above, but a narrative of its own making. Applying a selective and restricted reading of the UKJFF press release, the theatre “has refused to host” the festival, has cancelled “plans to host UK Jewish Film Festival”, and elsewhere was reported to have “banned” and “boycotted” the festival. This was clearly not the case. The Tricycle itself did not refer to its action – of refusing sponsorship – as a boycott. The media has little interest in reporting the truth and the news story quickly degenerated into comment pieces and op-eds on the nature and relevance of cultural boycotts and the anti-Semitic and anti-Jewish nature of the Tricycle’s action. Anti-Semitism is a charge sometimes applied uncritically and broadly to mute any opposition to Israel, conflating Jewish people and the state of Israel, with the latter using the former as a shield to hide behind. This line of attack was pursued with full force.

Many of the articles were also written by commentators who have clearly never visited the theatre or the area. In spite of the usual middle-class connotations of the arts and theatre, the Tricycle is truly a part of the working-class community that surrounds it in Kilburn and shows a wide range of films and theatre. In recent years, its theatrical repertoire has included cutting-edge and challenging material on the 2011 riots, the inquiry into the murder of black south London teenager Stephen Lawrence, the Baha Moussa Inquiry and Afghanistan. The Tricycle does not only show works of Jewish interest during the UKJFF and has often hosted works by the talented Muslim-Jewish theatre company MUJU. Its repertoire fosters social dialogue which until this year, the UKJFF was a part of.
The theatre also does a lot of outreach work with local schools in an area where children would not otherwise necessarily have such access to the arts and provides training schemes for black actors; theatre, as an establishment, is hardly known for its opportunities for ethnic minorities.

The local area, Kilburn, is highly diverse and no one ethnic or religious group could claim to dominate, as reflected in the diversity of the shops and entertainment available. The wider area, Brent, is the second most diverse part of the UK after Newham in east London, and enjoys relative harmony in its community affairs. It is also home to the largest Hindu temple outside of India, the popular Jewish Free School and has many houses of worship of all faiths and denominations. Recent visits by racist right-wing agitators have failed to divide the local community. This is not to imply that racism and other forms of discrimination do not exist in Brent.

Charge!

The attack on the Tricycle has not been limited to the newspapers. At the same time, a more sinister parallel campaign was underway – if the Tricycle’s actions could be construed as a “boycott”, then the Tricycle too was a legitimate target to boycott. The arts after all are dependent on their patrons. If the Tricycle was about to start a trend in the arts, it would have to be nipped in the bud. If the Tricycle was to naively set an example by defying Israel, then the Tricycle would have an example made of it by facing the full force of the pro-Israel lobby.

Calls were made for Brent council, which provides almost £200,000 of funding each year, to discontinue its support. Conservative councillor, John Warren, launched an investigation into the council’s funding of the theatre. Clearly a populist move, he told the local newspaper “We disagree with artistic discrimination, and as such disagree with the Tricycle decision to cancel the Israeli Film Festival”, yet he seems uninformed that the theatre made no such decision.

On 7 August, the Jewish Chronicle printed the names of several patrons of the theatre who refused at the time to comment on the situation, yet one week later, one of those people, Sir Trevor Chinn, had decided to withdraw his financial support for the theatre. In the week following the announcement of the news, other donors, who may well have been pressurised into doing so, also publicly withdrew their funding. On the same day, a noisy protest was held outside the theatre by around 100 people. It was organised by a group called the Campaign Against Antisemitism, formed to deal with this issue. Placards held up by protesters read, among others, “Don’t Punish London’s Jews”, “UK Jewish Community Stands with Israel” and “No! To Jewish Film Festival Ban”. The issue was further politicised when Culture Secretary, Conservative MP Sajid Javid, called the Tricycle’s actions “misguided”.

The Tricycle Theatre’s position garnered its own admiration and support. With other local residents, I signed a letter to the media in support of the theatre and against the misleading claims made in the national press. One hundred and six local residents also signed a letter of support that was published in three local newspapers in Camden and Brent. In addition, over 500 artists and theatre professionals added their names to a letter of support published in The Guardian on 15 August. On Saturday 9 August, one theatregoer reported two members of the audience stood up at the beginning of the performance and told everyone else “with the recent actions of the Tricycle Theatre we are boycotting this performance”, to which the rest of the audience responded that they could go.

Another protest against the Tricycle was planned for 20 August. It is unlikely to go ahead as on 15 August, the beleaguered theatre crumbled under the pressure. In a new joint statement with the UKJFF, the Tricycle Theatre stated, “Following lengthy discussions between the Tricycle and UKJFF, the Tricycle has now withdrawn its objection and invited back the UK Jewish Film Festival on the same terms as in previous years with no restrictions on funding from the Embassy of Israel in London”. The final paragraph, in light of the events of the previous two weeks, is almost entirely one-sided: “We both profoundly hope that those who take differing views on the events of the last few weeks will follow our lead and come together to acknowledge that dialogue, reconciliation and engagement will resolve points of difference and ensure that cultural diversity thrives in all communities”. The return of the festival to a venue it should never have left is welcome, but unless one considers bullying and intimidation a reasonable course of action, this can hardly be considered a victory for anyone.

Microcosms and macrocosms of conflict

Wars are not as spontaneous as the media would like us to believe; weapons arsenals do not grow on trees. Consequently, before the first shot is even fired, the truth is already a casualty. In many ways, this episode, no way near as significant or important as the actual war and destruction in Gaza, is a microcosmic demonstration of what happens on the larger world stage: here too the narrative of the media, which has found this story far more engaging and newsworthy than war in Gaza or elsewhere, differs sharply to the actual facts of the matter.

It is not the only the Israeli state and its agents that face censure for their actions abroad: last year, Brent was also the location of protests calling for a potential visit to the UK by the current Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, not to go ahead; he had previously been subject to a decade-long ban due to his implication in war crimes following a 2002 massacre of Muslims in west India. Other high-ranking Indian state officials have also had their travels overseas accompanied by protests, particularly by the Indian Sikh community, which was subject to a massacre in 1984 that has never been properly investigated by the Indian authorities. US NGO Sikhs for Justice is currently seeking a ban and will protest if Modi visits the US next month.

Not only do so-called democratic states act as though they are above the law and beyond prosecution, they use increasingly sophisticated methods to quell any dissent and questioning of their actions, so much so that expressions of human solidarity and kindness are more likely to be penalised than criminal acts. Israel must not be penalised for its actions in Gaza but the Tricycle must be penalised with the threat of closure and disrepute. On the macro level, this is demonstrated through the imprisonment of Chelsea Manning for 35 years for disclosing US war crimes while the war criminals whose actions were disclosed plot their latest bloody moves in Iraq. On the micro level, this translates into the victimisation of victims of violent crimes such as rape and paedophilia: the aggressor wins every time.

Although the Tricycle’s decision to back down from its commendable position is regrettable, it did so under immense pressure. In all possible outcomes, it loses. Supporting the people of Gaza besieged under war in the world’s largest open prison is not wrong or an immoral act. Taking peaceful action to oppose the actions of a belligerent state is not wrong either. It is simply a human expression of support for the human rights and indeed the very right to life of fellow human beings.



Monday, 18 August 2014

The full list of signatories to Tricycle Theatre support letter

As the local newspapers did not publish the full list of names on our letter of support for the Tricycle Theatre's originakl decision not to accept Israeli government funding for the UK Jewish Film Festival we repoduced the letter and the signatures below. As you will see signatories include local councillors, well known activists, local residents and people of all religions and none, including Jews, Christians and Muslims.
We, the undersigned, activists and local residents, support the decision of the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn not to accept funding for the UK Jewish Film Festival (UKJFF) from the Israeli Embassy due to the ongoing war in Gaza. The theatre has hosted this film festival for the past eight years, and has a broad and inclusive repertoire that reflects its location in one of the most multi-ethnic and religiously pluralist parts of the country. Brent is also one of the most tolerant and diverse with a rich cultural heritage made up of people from various backgrounds. 

The theatre has decided not to “accept funding from any party to the current conflict” and has offered to provide funding with "money from our own resources". We hope that the chair of the festival will retract his decision to withdraw so that the UKJFF can go ahead at this venue, which remains at the cutting edge of artistic production in the UK, tackles a wide variety of issues and embraces many cultures and communities. The decision cannot be construed as anti-Semitic, anti-Jewish or political, but a cultural boycott of a party that currently stands accused of war crimes by the UN and potential genocide by other agencies. It is a humanitarian gesture that should be applauded and emulated elsewhere.
 
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Signatories
Abbie Spallen
Abe Hayeem
Aisha Maniar
Aisling MacSweeney
Alberto Zerda-Noriego
Andrew Papworth
Ann Drinkell
Anna Dolezal
Anna Ferrie
Armine Mouffok
Asa Winstanley
Ashok Sethi
Audrey Bomse
Ayse Hassan
Basma Elshayyal
Beatrix Campbell
Beryl Maizels
Beverley Lyn-shue
Charlie Pottins
Christine McLeod
Cllr Ahmad Shahzad
Cllr Aslam Choudry
Cllr Claudia Hector
Corinne Mullin
Dave Statham
David Berridge
David Kay
Diana Neslen
Diane Robin
Dr Hamza Hamouchene
Dr RF Leao Neto
Dr Yonit Percival
Faduma Hassan
Faical Ragbi
Frances Ellery
Gerry Downing
Graham Barratt
Graham Durham
Hazel Chelqi
Hiadee-Laurie Giles
Ian Saville
Ibrahim Taguri (Brent Central Lib Dem PCC)
Ilana Machover
Jacqui Brown
Jamie Ritchie
Jane Bell
Jane Bell
Jenny Doble
Jenny Morgan
Joanthan Boud
John Snelling
John Tymon
Judit Druks
Judith Jones
Khalida Khan
Kam Datta
Karin Barratt
Kate McLean
Lane Atwood
Leena Dhingra
Leon Rosselson
Leslie Safran Barson
Linda Reid
Lionel Morrison OBE
Liz Floyd
Liz Lindsay
Liz Morrison
Liz Rowland
Luca Salice
Maha Rahwanji
Maree Shaw
Margaret Mann
Margaret Mann
Margery Hancock
Marie Lynam
Martin Francis
Mary Holmes
Meg Graham
Mehrzad Mazkoory
Mike Baker
Mike Griffin
Mike Phipps
Mona Bani
Mona Mansour
Moshe Machover
Nadia Idle
Natalie Holmes
Neil Walsh
Pam Lawrence
Paul Scott
Pete Firmin
Rahila Gupta
Ratha Lehall
Ravinder Randhawa
Riva Joffe
Roaa Al -Hassan
Rosamine Hayeem
Rukhsana Ahmad
Ruth Teddern
S. Albertson
S. Sharkey
Sarah Cox
Shane McKenna
Sharly Kibbat
Sheila Robin
Steven Payne
Sujata Arora
Tamara Abood
Tessa van Gelderen
Theresa Peters
Tom Grosvenor
Tony Traub
Txus Santacara
Viv Stein
Zainab al -Shariff
Zainab Maniar