Category Archives: Censorship

PRO-ISRAEL TORIES AIM TO BAN ETHICAL DIVESTMENT BY LOCAL AUTHORITIES

This analysis first appeared on the website of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP). It is a response to a blatant attack by the Conservative government on local councils, trade unions and pension funds which attempt to implement an ethical procurement or divestment policy in solidarity with the Palestinian people.  

The full text of the email outlining the Conservative attack appears at the bottom of this post.

TORY ATTACK ON LOCAL AUTHORITY INDEPENDENCE

Britain’s Conservative government has announced a new policy to block local councils from choosing to boycott or divest from companies complicit in the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine. A statement on October 3 said the government would change procurement guidelines affecting local authorities in England and pension regulations in England and Wales in order to “stop the growing spread of militant divestment campaigns against UK defence and Israeli firms.”

It says that “foreign nations” may only be targeted for boycott if the government has imposed “formal legal sanctions”.

The announcement brands Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, a number of local authorities in England, “Labour-affiliated” unions UNISON and GMB, the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign as part of a “hard left”, “politically motivated” “radical fringe” guilty of “poisoning community relations” by supporting the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement called for by Palestinians.

The government statement retails baseless allegations that the boycott movement targets Kosher products and Jewish films. It suggests that British Jews depend for their identity on supporting the state of Israel – a wrongheaded idea far more poisonous to community relations than a justice-based BDS campaign for human rights and respect for international law.

The Conservatives have, to all intents and purposes, adopted wholesale the agenda of “politically motivated radical fringe” Zionist groups intent on outlawing boycott actions which they define as antisemitic.

Whatever one’s attitude to BDS, the new government policy is alarming for all those concerned about the wider government agenda of curtailing freedoms in other areas of society, from trade union rights, to lobbying by charities, to imposing a surveillance role on teachers and lecturers under the Prevent strategy. The latter, with its focus on identifying individuals “vulnerable to radicalisation,” primarily among Muslims, is genuinely damaging to community relations.

Although Scotland is not covered by the threatened restrictions on democratically elected local authorities, the Scottish National Party also comes under attack in the government statement for “strongly discouraging trade and investment from illegal settlements.”

PSC has noted that this contradicts warnings to business from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) about the financial, legal and reputational risks of working with or in Israel’s illegal settlements.

The government statement is at least honest in expressing fears about the “threat” that human rights campaigners can cause to the UK military and defence industry, and its close relationship with Israel through the arms trade and military and security cooperation.

This is the Tory response to growing support for campaigns uniting ethically concerned citizens who are opposed to both the international trade in instruments of mass killing and the Israeli state which buys them, sells them and uses them against Palestinians with impunity.

BRICUP will be working with other concerned organisations to defend the right of dissent from the policies of an increasingly repressive Westminster government.

CONSERVATIVE PRESS RELEASE ON PLAN TO BAN “TOWN HALL BOYCOTTS AND SANCTIONS”

From: “Jackson, Richard N.” <Richard.N.Jackson@Conservatives.com>

To: “Jackson, Richard N.” <Richard.N.Jackson@Conservatives.com>

Subject: Government to stop ‘divisive’ town hall boycotts & sanctions

 

Press Release

(Press) 020 7984 8121

(Broadcast) 020 7984 8180

020 7222 1135

3 October 2015

 

Government to stop ‘divisive’ town hall boycotts & sanctions

 

Action to curtail ‘municipal foreign and defence policies’

  • Growing spread of militant divestment campaigns against UK defence and Israeli firms.
  • Conservatives warn economic and national security from municipal militancy.
  • Government to change pension and procurement rules to protect taxpayers’ interests.

 

Government Ministers announced today new rules to stop politically-motivated boycott and divestment campaigns by town halls against UK defence companies and against Israel. There is growing concern over the militant actions of left-wing councils, spurred on by trade unions and the Labour leadership, which threaten to poison community relations and harm Britain’s economic and international interests.

 

Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, alongside Labour-affiliated trade unions, are urging councils to use their procurement and pension policies to punish both Israel and the UK defence industry. Faith leaders have expressed alarm at such policies fuelling anti-Semitism – and worryingly encouraging further protests such as kosher food being taken from supermarket shelves and Jewish films being banned. Separate hard-left campaigns against British defence companies threaten to harm Britain’s £10 billion export trade, destroying British jobs, and hinder joint working with Israel to protect Britain from foreign cyber-attacks and terrorism.

 

The Government will amend pension legislation to make clear using pensions and procurement policies to pursuit boycotts, divestments and sanctions campaigns against foreign nations and the UK defence industry are inappropriate, other than where formal legal sanctions, embargoes and restrictions have been put in place by the Government. The Government will similarly issue new Procurement Policy guidance to implement the same approach in procurement law.

 

Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said:

 

“Divisive policies undermine good community relations, and harm the economic security of families by pushing up council tax. We need to challenge and prevent the politics of division. Conservatives will provide the stable, competent and sensible Government that working people want to see.”

 

Matthew Hancock, Minister for the Cabinet Office, said:

 

“Conservatives are on the common ground. We will take steps to stop such outdated policies being pursued through procurement and pension policies. We will safeguard the security of families at home and prevent such playground politics undermining our international security.”

 

ENDS

 

For further information, please contact the press office on 020 7984 8121.

 

Notes to Editors

 

HARD-LEFT FOREIGN AND DEFENCE POLICIES ON THE RISE

 

  • In November 2014, Labour-run Leicester City Council passed a policy to boycott goods produced in Israeli settlements in the West Bank (link). Jewish groups have recently launched a judicial review against the council’s decision, warning ‘this amounts to a get-of-out-town order to Leicester Jews’ (Daily Express, 25 August 2015, link).

 

  • In January 2015, Labour councillors on Nottingham City Council debated a boycott against Israel (link) – the council resolved to consider the issue further and ‘work with the Nottingham Palestine Solidarity Campaign’ (link). Jewish faith leaders warned: ‘local authorities need to be guardians of good community relations and not go down the route of setting one community against the other by adopting partisan campaigns’ (Jewish News, 26 January 2015, link).

 

  • Jeremy Corbyn is a patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign radical fringe group (link). In August 2015, whilst running for Labour leader, he endorsed the boycott of Israeli settlement goods and was receptive of academic boycotts of Israeli universities involved with the arms trade (link). He asserted: ‘I fully support the call to end all trade and investments with the illegal settlements’ (Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle Eastlink) and ‘I think the boycott campaign, divestment campaign, is part and parcel of a legal process that has to be adopted’ (link).

 

  • Corbyn has also called for the removal of Israel’s right to trade with the UK and the EU: ‘It’s time, indeed past time, to demand the immediate suspension of the trade agreements between the EU and Israel’ (Morning Star, 2 June 2010) and cutting all off commercial and diplomatic ties: ‘no arms, no money, no recognition and no support for Israel’ (Haaretz, 13 April 2002, link). Corbyn was even heckled at the Labour Party Conference’s Labour Friends of Israel event for refusing to refer to Israel by name in his speech (Daily Telegraph, 29 September 2015, link).

 

  • Labour MPs such as Shabana Mahmood have personally taken part in supermarkets protests against Israeli goods (Daily Mail, 19 August 2014, link).

 

  • Both Corbyn and John McDonnell have sponsored a Commons motion urging the boycotting of Israeli goods, including demanding that all supermarkets boycott such goods (EDM 57, 14 May 2012). John McDonnell has told shops in his constituency of Hayes ‘to boycott Israeli goods… and find alternative suppliers’ (Get West London, 1 August 2014).

 

  • In August 2014, the SNP-led Scottish Government published a procurement notice to Scottish councils which ‘strongly discourages trade and investment from illegal settlements’, though conceding that ‘decisions need to be taken on a case by case basis’ (Scottish Procurement Policy Note 4/2014,link). Four Scottish councils have resolved to boycott Israeli goods: Clackmannanshire, Midlothian, Stirling, West Dunbartonshire (link).

 

  • In June 2015, Labour-affiliated UNISON launched a campaign to lobby councils to divest their Local Government Pension Schemes from companies linked with Israel (A UNISON guide to pension fund engagement and divestmentlink). In July 2014, Labour-affiliated Unite resolve to campaign for boycott of goods produced by Israeli settlements and divest from any financial holdings in any companies or funds linked to the settlements (Unite press release, 11 July 2014, link). In July 2013, the Labour-affiliated GMB voted to support boycott and divestment initiatives against Israeli settlements, and banned its members from visiting Israel on delegations organised by the Trade Union Friends of Israel (link).

 

  • By contrast, the last Labour leader, Ed Miliband, opposed such ‘BDS’ policies: ‘I think the boycotts of Israel are totally wrong. We should have no tolerance for boycotts. I would say that to any trade union leaders’ (Jewish Chronicle, 7 March 2013, link) and ‘boycotts of Israel will never be a way of advancing the cause of peace. They are the wrong response and I will never support them. Labour will continue to resolutely oppose the isolation of Israel. The answer has to be greater dialogue and greater engagement rather than disengagement and boycotts’ (Jewish News, 1 May 2015, link).

 

  • The hard-left Campaign Against the Arms Trade has been lobbying for Local Government Pension Schemes to divest funds in British manufacturers such as BAe (link). Jeremy Corbyn has endorsed their campaign: ‘The Campaign Against the Arms Trade… has a long and honourable tradition… The scale of British arms sales is truly astounding… we need a clear lead for arms conversion. Let the brilliance and skill of those in the arms industry be converted for peaceful purposes’ (Corbyn website).

 

  • Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, has similarly called for ‘the end of the arms trade’ (Guardian, 1 April 2009).

 

DANGEROUS CONSEQUENCES OF HARD-LEFT POLICIES

 

  • Local government pensions are a funded scheme. Councils’ goals should be to ensure that their pension funds investments deliver the best rate of return. Councils receive £3.1 billion a year from their pension investment returns; in addition, town hall pensions cost taxpayers a further £6.0 billion a year in employer contributions – equivalent to over £300 a year on a Band D council tax bill. Twisting investment decisions on political grounds risks reducing investment returns, requiring larger employer contributions to compensate: in turn, such higher costs would force cuts to services and/or hikes in council tax.

 

  • It is not for local government to pursue its own municipal foreign or defence policies – as rightly, that matter is reserved to the UK Government. The Government has to take into account the international implications of such policies, and the broader need to maintain stability and security in international relations. Rather than encouraging legitimate debate, such boycotts are counter-productive – they widen gaps in understanding, poison and polarise debate, and block opportunities for co-operation and collaboration.

 

  • The call for municipal boycotts against Israel threatens to inflame tensions in local communities, undermining integration and fuelling broader anti-Semitism. Such militant boycotts have already led to hard-left groups pressuring supermarkets to take Kosher products off their shelves (link), and Jewish films being banned as part of such boycotts (link).

 

  • The campaign against British defence companies risk harming Britain’s export trade and would destroy British jobs across the country. The UK defence sector has a £22 billion turnover a year and contributes £10 billion to UK exports (ADS fact sheetlink).

 

  • This Government wants to enhance the growing economic ties between the UK and Israel, particular in areas like technology and science, as well as working together to strengthen security against cyber-attacks and tackle Islamist extremism (No10 press release, 10 September 2015).

 

  • The UK Government has put in place formal legal sanctions and restrictions at a national level, when justified as in the national interest (link).

 

GOVERNMENT ACTION

 

The Government will take action to curtail such municipal foreign and defence policies:

 

  • The Local Government Pension Scheme (Management and Investment of Funds) Regulations 2009 requires local authorities to publish and follow a Statement of Investment Principles (link). These statements must also comply with guidance issued by the Secretary of State. The government propose to amend the secondary legislation to make clear that such boycott, divestment and sanctions (‘BDS’) campaigns are inappropriate – other than where formal legal sanctions, embargoes and restrictions have been put in place by the Government.  There is a statutory requirement to consult on the pension law changes.

 

  • The Cabinet Office will issue a revised Procurement Policy Note to public authorities to make clear that boycotts in procurement policy are inappropriate, outside where formal legal sanctions, embargoes and restrictions have been put in place by the Government. Indeed, the WTO Government Procurement Agreement – an international market access agreement – requires all those countries that have signed up to the Agreement to treat suppliers equally. This includes the EU and Israel. Any discrimination against Israeli suppliers involving procurements covered by the Agreement would therefore be in breach of these treaty obligations.

 

Procurement guidance relates to England. Local government pension regulations relate to England and Wales.

 

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Exposed – Israel lobby’s threat to artistic and academic freedom

Letters in today’s Guardian (April 6) highlight the growing threat to artistic and academic freedom by pro-Israel lobbyists seeking to criminalise criticism of the Zionist state.

Playwright Caryl Churchill, a leading signatory of the UK Artists’ Pledge for Palestine, noted the alarming conjunction of a threat to funding of arts institutions that decline Israeli state links and cancellation of an academic conference planned for April 17-19 at the University of Southampton after Zionist pressure.

The organisers have launched a legal challenge to the decision to cancel. See lower down this post for a message from Southampton Students for Palestine explaining the campaign to raise funds to support the challenge.

“All Charlie Hebdo?” wrote Churchill, alluding to the collective outpouring of official outrage at the murder of cartoonists in France in January. “Except when freedom of expression means freedom to criticise Israel.”

Culture Secretary Sajid Javid’s comments on Israeli sponsorship ‘breached the principle of an arms-length relationship between the government and the arts’, writes playwright Caryl Churchill. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA

Another letter, from Professors Hilary and Steven Rose, prominent proponents of the academic boycott, said the university had “shamefully capitulated to pressure from the pro-Israel lobby”, as evidenced by the statement issued by the university authorities.

The university had initially listened to the hundreds of academics who rallied in support of the conference despite a barrage of attacks from a roll-call of Tories and Israel lobbyists, among them Communities Minister Eric Pickles, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Zionist Federation.  Pickles & Co alleged that the conference was a one-sided antisemitic rant against Israel’s “right to exist” and threatened demonstrations and disruption if it went ahead. This seems to have been what forced vice-chancellor Prof Don Nutbeam to announce the cancellation on unconvincing “health and safety” grounds.

A letter the Guardian declined to publish,  submitted by Tony Greenstein on behalf of J-BIG (full text at the bottom of this post) contrasted this cowardice with the fate of Danish film director, Finn Noergaard, killed at a cafe in Copenhagen in February while defending the right to debate freedom of speech.

The organisers of the three-day Southampton conference, titled International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism, had assembled an array of expert participants from around Europe, North America and the Middle East, including many Jews.   If the conference programme lacked representation from Israel’s friends, it is because invitations issued by the organisers to defenders of Zionism were rejected by the recipients.

As explained by Prof Haim Bresheeth on the website of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP),  Israel and its apologists are resorting to all possible means to prevent the issues addressed by the conference being aired.

One of the conference organisers,  engineering professor Suleiman Sharkh, a Palestinian from Gaza, explained its importance.

“International law was responsible for our misery. It was used to legalize the theft of our homes and it continues to be used to legalize the ongoing oppression of my people by the State of Israel. The questions asked by the conference are therefore questions that I have been asking all my life. They are important questions that need to be answered.”

 

Information from Southampton Students for Palestine.
Subject: Conference donations: update & important information
Q1: What is the final university decision in relation to the conference? 
The university’s initial decision to withdraw its consent was appealed by the organisers but the internal appeal was rejected by the Vice Chancellor and the withdrawal of consent was confirmed. University’s public statement: http://www.southampton.ac.uk/news/statements.page#.VRxbTkFmtTw.twitter
Q2: Are you collecting donations now or shall we wait further notice?
Donations are being collected now. Please see information on donations below.
Q3: Does this mean that you are proceeding with legal action?
Yes. Legal action has been initiated today. Please see official organisers’ statement attached hereby. Also see: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/17842-academics-pursue-judicial-review-over-cancelled-israel-conference
Q4: Why are we making donations to Student Palestine Solidarity/Students for Palestine? 
You are not making donations to these organisations. They are only carriers of the funds to help facilitate payment since we are not using any personal accounts to collect donations.
* Information on donations*
Many thanks to those who have already sent their donations and sent me a confirmation email in that regard, I can confirm that they have been received.
If you are yet to donate, please find bank/paypal details below. Kindly consider a bank transfer as a first option (if possible) since paypal are deducting a fee on each incoming transaction. If a bank transfer is not possible then please feel free to make your donation via paypal. 
UK bank transfer:
Account name: Students for Palestine Southampton
Account number: 26617360
Sort Code: 30-90-34
 
International bank transfer:
Bank: LLoyds Bank
IBAN (for International Transfers Only): GB84 LOYD 3090 3426 6173 60
BIC (for International Transfers Only): LOYDGB21148
Paypal: 

J-BIG LETTER SUBMITTED TO THE GUARDIAN

The decision of Southampton University to cancel a Conference on Israel and the State of Israel [University event questioning Israel’s right to exist is cancelled, Guardian 31st March] is a disgraceful surrender to powerful bullies.  Zionist groups have a long track record of trying to ban anything they disagree with, given their inability to defend the indefensible.  The normal response is to stand up to them.

It was less than three months ago that four million people and world leaders marched in France in support of freedom of speech, in the wake of the murder of the journalists of Charlie Hebdo.  Amongst them was David Cameron.  If Cameron was sincere he would sack Eric Pickles MP from his government for having lent his support to the call to ban an academic conference.

The use of health and safety as the pretext to cancel the conference is absurd and illogical.  Is it really being suggested that Southampton University was incapable of protecting those attending the conference?  The Police were quite confident they could deal with any threats.

Southampton’s charter includes a commitment to secure academic freedom. With this decision it has been shown to be worthless.

It was barely a month ago that Danish film director, Finn Noergaard, was killed [while defending the right to] debate [on] freedom of speech.  The actions of Southampton University’s Vice Chancellor Don Nutbeam and the university administration in failing to uphold the basic norms of a democratic society are an act of abject cowardice.  If they have any integrity left they should collectively resign.

Yours faithfully

Professor Haim Bresheeth

Mike Cushman

Deborah Fink

Tony Greenstein

Professor (Emeritus) Moshe Machover

Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi

(Dr) Les Levidow

Roland Rance

 

CHARLIE HEBDO AFTERMATH MUST NOT STIFLE RIGHT TO PURSUE BDS

The murders of journalists at Charlie Hebdo magazine, and of shoppers at a kosher supermarket in Paris, by three young French jihadis who were themselves shot dead by French police, have generated thousands of column inches and endless hours of air time full of confused and confusing rhetoric about the killings and the reaction to them.

The dominant narrative has been one of self-congratulation on the part of the predominantly Christian West. Rallying in thousands, claiming freedom of expression as the marker of democracy and civilisation, “we” cast anyone who dares take offence when targeted with racist lampoonery as  irredeemably at odds with “our values”.

“They” represent  the barbarian intolerance of the Islamic world and this entitles “us” to take a good principle and pervert it, self-righteously insisting on a spurious right to insult millions of powerless people.

We, made fearful of seemingly irrational terror in our midst, will accept growing limitations on our freedoms in the name of security.

Never mind the countries our war-mongering governments have devastated, the dictators we have foisted upon them, the penury and hopelessness imposed upon migrants who try to make better lives for themselves in France, the Netherlands or the UK.

And, it goes without saying, never mind our governments’ support for Israel in its endless persecution of the Palestinians.

Step forward Israeli PM Benyamin Netanyahu, beaming at the front of the crowd in the huge Paris “Je Suis Charlie” march, determined to milk the criminal killing of four Jews as a political opportunity. His cynicism in exploiting those tragic deaths to call on French Jews to flee to alleged safety in Israel, alongside his attempt to present his racist, far-right government as a defender of free speech, is jaw-droppingly obscene.

Equally abhorent is the ongoing campaign by a group in the UK calling itself the Campaign Against Antisemitism and claiming support from all the country’s leading Jewish community organisations. Set up  last summer to counter rising criticism of Israel’s murderous assault on Gaza, its first triumphant success was bullying the Tricycle theatre into withdrawing its objection to Israeli Embassy funding of the UK Jewish Film Festival.

Now this outfit is peddling a scare-mongering report based on its own highly dubious poll, claiming that 77 percent of British Jews “have witnessed antisemitism disguised as a political comment about Israel”, that 82 percent believe antisemitism is fuelled by biased coverage of Israel and 84 percent “find boycotts of Israeli businesses intimidatory.”

The Institute for Jewish Policy Research has questioned the poll’s methodology, but the CAA is urging supporters to use its “statistics” when contacting the press or  local police about planned boycott protests. They are working with the UK government to implement “zero tolerance law enforcement” on what they consider to be hate speech or antisemitic actions. They allege that protesters against Israeli slaughter in Gaza or groups organising supermarket boycotts “regurgitate ancient antisemitic prejudice”.

In other words, anyone wanting to speak or protest on behalf of Palestine will have to defend their right to freedom of expression against coordinated legal and political attacks from Israel’s apologists.

There is a bitter irony here. The pro-Israeli lobby attempts to take up a position within the narrative of countering terror and defending freedom of speech, while claiming an exceptional right for Jews to limit the freedom of others to protest at the violent actions of the state it supports. Claiming the right for Jews to censor what others say about Israel is hardly the way to combat antisemitism.

On the contrary, the lesson we should draw from France is that Jews need to be part of a united struggle against all forms of racism, including Islamophobia and anti-Jewish racism when it rears its head.

As Tony Greenstein says on his blog:

“There will always be a few people who are taken in by the proclamation of Jewish communal bodies, such as the British Board of Deputies of Jews, that British Jews stand with Israel in its attacks on Palestinians.  Such people are, wittingly or otherwise, fostering anti-Semitism.  Our  job is to break the connection.”


TIME FOR ARTISTS TO DEFY PRO-ISRAEL CENSORSHIP

Novellist Kamila Shamsie (left) chaired a panel discussion with Tanika Gupta, Antony Lerman, Ofer Neiman and April De Angelis

Novellist Kamila Shamsie (left) chaired a panel discussion with Tanika Gupta, Antony Lerman, Ofer Neiman and April De Angelis

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.”

  • The International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN), which first drew the Tricycle Theatre’s attention to the Israeli Embassy funding of the UK Jewish Film Festival in 2013, has set up an initiative under the rubric No Israeli Funding for the Arts. It is calling on all of the venues hosting the film festival following its rift with the Tricycle theatre to pull out of the screenings because of the Embassy link.
  • Full details follow.
NO ISRAELI FUNDING OF THE ARTS

IJAN is centrally involved in the No Israeli Funding of the Arts initiative – we want everyone we are in touch with to know that the Israeli-funded UKJFF (UK Jewish Film Festival) is taking place this year (6-23 November) in cinemas in Glasgow, Leeds, London, Manchester and Nottingham.

We have written to all the cinemas – see our letter below – and we are asking that you contact your local (or even a distant) cinema by phone, email, website, leaflet or street protest, and let them know what you think of them hosting an Israeli-funded event. (All cinema contact details are at end of this email.) Call or write to the local press or call-in radio to tell them what you think of their not caring for the Jewish films, only for the Israeli rebranding (see below).

Check the UKJFF calendar to find when each cinema is hosting UKJFF films. The opening gala night is at the London BFI on 6 November – we are planning to protest their collaboration with the slaughterers of the Gazan people.

Note: IJAN workshop, From Gaza to Ferguson @ Anarchist Bookfair, 18 Oct, 3-4pm

NO ISRAELI FUNDING OF THE ARTS

LETTER TO CINEMAS HOSTING THE UK JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL

We are writing to you as one of the cinemas hosting the UK Jewish Film Festival (UKJFF) 6-23 November, 2014, to ask that you reconsider.

 

Who we are
We are a diverse group, including Israeli and other Jewish people, most of us local to, and often in the audience of, the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn, northwest London. In 2012 local residents leafleted the cinema to oppose its hosting of the Israeli-sponsored UKJFF; in 2013 we protested outside the Tricycle when it again hosted the UKJFF. (The protests were called by the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network.)

 

Tricycle / UKJFF
This year, many including ourselves, welcomed the Tricycle’s stand against the festival’s funding by the Israeli Embassy during Israel’s 50-day slaughter on Gaza.

The Tricycle had offered the organisers of the UKJFF replacement funding so that the film festival could go ahead at the Tricycle.  But the UKJFF refused their offer and to dissociate itself from the Israeli government – the priority was Israeli sponsorship, rather than the film festival.  Is the UKJFF merely a means to a political end, to give Israel a humanist image?

 

Who attacked the Tricycle
The Government’s Chief Whip, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and the Israeli Ambassador, each publicly attacked the Tricycle for having refused Israeli sponsorship.  They slandered the Tricycle by accusing it of antisemitism; as did donors and local councillors who threatened to withdraw funds and involve the Charity Commission.

 

Who defended the Tricycle
Support came from National Theatre director, Nicholas Hytner, acclaimed director Lenny Abrahamson; over 500 artists, including prominent theatre directors and playwrights, some of whom affirmed “We artists have a right to boycott” (letter to the Stage); and note the artists’ solidarity page: “The Tricycle Theatre is Not Anti-Semitic.

 

In July, Scottish artists, including National Poet Liz Lochhead, signed an open letter in The Herald protesting an Israeli-funded theatre company at the Edinburgh Fringe. After vociferous public protest, the show closed after one performance.

 

Following the Tricycle’s refusal of Israeli funding, the Encounters Film Festival in Bristol and artists from the 31st Sao Paulo Art Biennial in Brazil also refused Israeli funding.

 

What Israel’s apologists did
While crying antisemitism, Israel’s apologists used their attack on the Tricycle to try to distract the public from Gaza: from seeing Israeli politicians, religious authorities, journalists and the public, calling for mass rape, mass murder, even genocide of Palestinians; from the bloodied tanks, F16s, drones, bunker busters, sea-to-land missiles, remote-controlled machine guns, that blasted schools, hospitals, mosques, blocks of flats, children playing football; and from the 2,200 Gazans killed — over 500 children, and half a million displaced.

 

The Russell Tribunal on Palestine found evidence of war crimes, crimes against humanity, crimes of murder, extermination and persecution and also incitement to genocide.

 

What happened to the Tricycle
Even while Gaza was being destroyed, the Tricycle was forced to retreat.  But actress Maureen Lipman, advocating for the UKJFF admitted that they knew the depth of the community’s support for the theatre’s stand, announcing that the festival was unlikely to go back to the Tricycle any time soon.

 

That stand reaffirmed that the arts are social and political.  It was welcomed by anti-racists everywhere. And please note: both the local council and the Arts Council ruled out loss of funding.

 

What we want you to do
The assistant manager of the Everyman cinema insisted that “refusing to host any arts festival on political grounds will cause more harm than good.” (Email, 10 September 2014.) The Everyman’s is not a principled position – it is complicity and appeasement.  It is the argument of those who refused to boycott South African apartheid.

 

Who knows better than Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a proponent of cultural boycott, who said, “We in South Africa know about oppression and occupation and know about the power of BDS” (Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions)?

 

We ask that you take direction from the anti-racist, non-violent, Palestinian-led BDS movement.

 

We ask that you refuse to host the UKJFF – not because it is Jewish, of course, but because it is funded by the Israeli Embassy.  The embassy’s job, especially in London (the boycott “hub”) is to promote what it calls Brand Israel – state-sponsored propaganda, designed to camouflage Israeli brutality within a smokescreen of culture, including film festivals.

 

We ask that you side with the victims and survivors of the assault on Gaza – not be part of the cover-up of war crimes being committed against them.

NoIsraeliFundingOfTheArts@gmail.com

 

CINEMAS HOSTING THE UKJFF

Glasgow

Venue              CCA (Centre for Contemporary Arts)

Address           350 Sauchiehall St, Glasgow G2 3JD

Email               gen@cca-glasgow.com

Telephone       0141 352 4900

 

Venue              Glasgow Film Theatre

Address           12 Rose St, Glasgow, Lanarkshire G3 6RB

Email               jaki.mcdougall@glasgowfilm.org (Chief Executive)

Telephone       0141 332 6535

Leeds

Venue              MAZCC

Address           311 Stonegate Road, Leeds LS17 6AZ

Email:              enquiries@ljwb.co.uk

Telephone       0113 268 4211

 

Venue              Seven Arts Centre

Address           31(a) Harrogate Road, Chapel Allerton, Leeds, LS7 3PD

Email               info@sevenleeds.co.uk

Telephone       0113 26 26 777

 

London

Venue              Arthouse Crouch End

Address:          159A Tottenham Lane, N8 9BT

Email               info@arthousecrouchend.co.uk

Contact form   http://www.arthousecrouchend.co.uk/contact/

Telephone       020 8245 3099

 

Venue              BAFTA British Academy of Film and Television Arts

Address           195 Piccadilly, W1J 9LN

Email               info@bafta.org

Contact form   http://www.bafta.org/contact-us.html

Telephone       020 7734 0022

 

Venue              Barbican

Address           Barbican Centre, Silk Street, EC2Y 8DS

Email               film@barbican.org.uk

Feedback        https://www.barbican.org.uk/general/online-feedback-form.asp

Telephone       020 7638 4141

 

Venue              BFI Southbank

Address           Belvedere Road, South Bank, SE1 8XT

Email               director@bfi.org.uk

Contact form   http://www.bfi.org.uk/form/contact-bfi-southbank

Telephone       020 7255 1444

 

Venue              Ciné Lumière

Address           17 Queensberry Place, SW7 2DT

Email               box.office@institutfrancais.org.uk

Telephone       020 7871 3515

 

Venue              Curzon Mayfair

Address           38 Curzon Street, W1J 7TY

Email               manager.mayfair@curzon.com

Contact form   http://www.curzoncinemas.com/contact_us/

 

Venue              Odeon Muswell Hill

Address           Fortis Green Road, N10 3HP

Contact form   http://www.odeon.co.uk/contactus/

Telephone       0207 321 6237 (conferencing & events)

 

Venue              Everyman Maida Vale

Address           215 Sutherland Avenue, W9 1RU

Email               maidavale.manager@everymancinema.com

Contact form   http://www.everymancinema.com/contact-us/

Telephone       0871 906 9060

 

Venue              Everyman Hampstead

Address           5 Holly Bush Vale, NW3 6TX

Email               hampstead.manager@everymancinema.com

Contact form   http://www.everymancinema.com/contact-us/

Telephone       0871 906 9060

 

Venue              JW3

Address           341-351 Finchley Road, London NW3 6ET

Email               info@jw3.org.uk

Telephone       020 7433 8988

 

Venue              LJCC (London Jewish Cultural Centre)

Address           Ivy House, 94-96 North End Road, NW11 7SX

Email               admin@ljcc.org.uk

Contact form   http://www.ljcc.org.uk/contact/

Telephone       020 8457 5000

 

Venue              Odeon South Woodford

Address           60/64 High Road, South Woodford, E18 2QL

Contact form   http://www.odeon.co.uk/contactus/

Telephone       0207 321 6237 (conferencing & events)

 

Venue              Odeon Swiss Cottage

Address           96 Finchley Rd, NW3 5EL

Contact form   http://www.odeon.co.uk/contactus/

Telephone       0207 321 6237 (conferencing & events)

 

Venue              Phoenix Cinema

Address           52 High Road, East Finchley, N2 9PJ

Email               management@phoenixcinema.co.uk

Telephone       020 8444 6789

 

Manchester

Venue              Cornerhouse

Address           70 Oxford St, Manchester M1 5NH

Email               info@cornerhouse.org

Telephone       0161 228 7621

 

Venue              Cineworld Didsbury

Address           Parrs Wood Entertainment Centre, Wilmslow Rd, Manchester M20 5PG

Contact form   https://www.cineworld.co.uk/contact  (250 words max.)

Telephone       0208 742 4010

 

Venue              Menorah

Address           198 Altrincham Rd, Wythenshawe, Manchester M22 4RZ

Email               filmclub@menorah.org.uk

Contact form   https://menorah.org.uk/contact-us/

Telephone       0161 428 7746

 

Nottingham

Venue              Broadway Cinema

Address           14–18 Broad St, Nottingham NG1 3AL

Email               info@broadway.org.uk

Contact form   http://www.broadway.org.uk/contact/steve (Chief Executive)

Telephone       0115 9526 611