A bullying smear campaign which succeeded in pushing London community theatre the Tricycle into withdrawing its refusal of Israeli Embassy funding for a Jewish film festival reveals the lengths to which Israel’s supporters will go to destroy any small signs of independent thinking in the arts.
Intense pressure on Tricycle director Indru Rubasingham and her board included public denunciation from Israeli Ambassador Daniel Taub and British Culture Secretary Sajid Javid, a Conservative Friend of Israel. The Jewish Chronicle could hardly suppress its delight at the success of the Zionist campaign of blackmail and threats, including withdrawal of sponsorship funds and calls for Rubasingham to be sacked.
Blogger Mark Elf, analysing the affair in forensic detail, saw evidence that the the Arts Council may have been leaned on to threaten the Tricycle with loss of its main source of funds.
The Tricycle Theatre buckled to threats made by either the Israeli ambassador, Daniel Taub, the UK Culture Secretary, Sajid Javid or both. And, given the courage involved in their original stance, what threat would mean anything to them?
My guess is that the Arts Council threatened to close the theatre down by withdrawing its £760+k contribution. Now should an Israeli ambassador or even a UK culture minister be in a position to influence that for the sake of their own politics? I think not but I think that’s precisely what happened.
Thankfully for the many courageous people working in the arts in the UK, growing awareness of the legitimacy of cultural boycott as a means of acting in solidarity with Palestinians has prompted a generous, collective response from the theatre world.
A letter signed by more than 500 theatre professionals appeared in the Guardian on August 15 saying:
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.