Category Archives: JBIG

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

 

STATEMENT ON THE BANNING OF A CONCERT BY GILAD ATZMON

Israeli-born saxophonist Gilad Atzmon has been targeted for intimidation by the Zionist zealots of the North West Friends of Israel (NWFOI), resulting in the cancellation of a concert at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester.
Atzmon’s views have set him at odds with the BDS movement and in particular with its Jewish supporters, but this must not prevent us standing up to acts of censorship by the pro-Israel lobby.
J-BIG founder member Prof Moshe Machover has written the following statement.
Dear Friends,
Regarding this article from the Manchester Evening News:
I know Gilad Atzmon personally and am familiar with the opinions that he spreads, which I find loathsome.
He is not so much anti-Zionist as anti-Jewish. Not so much a holocaust denier as holocaust justifier.*
At the same time I must protest strongly against  banning his appearances, muzzling him, and especially preventing his concerts.
Views, however unacceptable, should be defeated by argument, not by bureaucratic bans.
Moshé Machover

 

FREEDOM TO SPEAK OUT FOR PALESTINE UNDER THREAT IN BRITAIN

Home Secretary Theresa May has seized on bogus statistics alleging that Jews are in fear of their lives in the UK to placate pro-Israel lobbyists with measures which pose a threat to those who speak out for justice for Palestine.  Here we present some of the material available to counter this threat, starting with a letter submitted by Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods and published in the Guardian newspaper on January 23. Check the link to see the names of those who signed and read other letters on the subject.

We are shocked and alarmed that the home secretary has been swept up in the wave of hysteria deliberately whipped up by the so-called Campaign Against Antisemitism (Theresa May pledges extra police patrols to counter antisemitism threat, 19 January), claiming that a quarter of British Jews were considering leaving for Israel and that 45% believed that Jews had no long-term future in Britain. The CAA’s scaremongering report quotes from its own poll which, according to the Institute of Jewish Policy Research, was methodologically flawed and unreliable. Another poll by Survation, from a representative sample of more than 500 of Britain’s Jewish population, found that 88% of Jews had not considered emigrating.

The home secretary must know that the CAA was set up last summer, not to fight antisemitism but to counter rising criticism of Israel’s murderous assault on Gaza. Its first big success was bullying the Tricycle Theatre into withdrawing its objection to Israeli embassy funding of the UK Jewish Film Festival. The CAA and the home secretary conflate anti-Israeli and antisemitic views, convenient cover for her desire to legislate for a snooper’s charter and criminalise opinions she disagrees with.

Accusing critics of Israel and Zionism of antisemitism merely devalues the currency, while claiming the right for Jews to censor what others say about Israel is hardly the way to combat prejudice against them. We do not deny that there are fears abroad among Jews in Britain, ourselves included, but we see far greater racist threats to other minorities in this country, in particular the beleaguered Muslim community.

The Independent also carried letters on the subject, including one in similar vein from J-BIG’s Tony Greenstein.

The dubious surveys painting a grim picture of antisemitism in Britain came under scrutiny on BBC Radio 4’s More or Less programme, which examines ways in which statistics on many subjects can be misused and misinterpreted.

Jonathan Boyd from the Institute of Jewish  Policy Research told the programme that the CAA poll on Jewish experience of antisemitism had not met the key, basic requirements for a proper process.

Even the intensely Zionist Jewish Chronicle – always eager to detect hatred of Jews behind any pro-Palestinian utterance – published a piece debunking the CAA’s report. But it gave the group’s chairman Gideon Falter ample column inches to reply.

This all occurred in the wake of the killings in France of journalists at satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and Jewish shoppers at a kosher supermarket – immediately pounced upon by the Zionist lobby as evidence of mass hatred of Jews.

UK satirists at Private Eye seemed to have the measure of hypocritical world leaders with their front cover:

private eye charlie cover

BIBI in Private Eye

Columnist Allan C. Brownfeld on Mondoweiss highlighted Israel’s determination “to make European Jews feel unsafe in their native countries.”

Brownfield wrote:

Israeli politicians of both right and left have parroted his (Netanyahu’s) message that European Jews know ‘in their hearts that they have only one country.’ The logical corollary is that Jews cannot be loyal to other states they live in, such as France…In this regard, Netanyahu and the far-right share much common ground. He wants a Europe free of Jews..The far-right wants the same…One Israeli commentator noted pointedly that Israeli politicians like Netanyahu ‘were helping to finish the job started by the Nazis and their Vichy collaborators: making France Judenrein.

And Sarah Irving on Electronic Intifada exposed recent British government report attempting to smear the Palestinian call for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions as “anti-Jewish.”

Unfortunately it gets worse. It almost appears that the Zionist lobby has been preparing for this ‘felicitous’ moment for years.

This Guardian piece reports that “a panel of four prestigious international experts on constitutional law backed by the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation (ECTR) have spent three years consulting widely and drafting a 12-page document on “tolerance”. They are lobbying to have it converted into law in the 28 countries of the EU…. “
A major mover in this process is the European Jewish Congress an affiliate of the World Jewish Congress, which has this to say about Muslim/Arab Europeans on their website: “In 2008, the State of Israel celebrated its 60th anniversary. Although it is still the only fully democratic country in the Middle East, Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state is not only still questioned but this sentiment has proliferated. This is due to incitement among the large Islamic Diaspora where Muslims greatly outnumber Jewish populations in most Western countries.’

There’s tolerance for you.

This piece from the Institute of Race Relations website may help to restore some sanity.

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.”

PROTEST BRAND ISRAEL THEATRE ‘TERROR SPECIAL’

Sign up here by Tuesday 11th November (10:00 GMT) to protest the participation of European theatres in a Brand Israel exercise led by Israel’s national theatre, Habima. The ‘Terror Special conference’ is part of ‘TERRORisms’, a two-year project by the Union of Theatres of Europe, under the leadership of its current president, Habima’s Artistic Director Ilan Ronen. 

Letter in French here

Dear members* of the Union of Theatres of Europe:

We write as citizens of various countries in Europe, as enthusiastic patrons of independent and challenging theatre, and as people who cannot forget the terror visited on the civilian population of Gaza in July and August this year.

We note with some amazement that the Union of Theatres of Europe is about to hold its general assembly in Israel, a country that is not in Europe. We note with equal surprise that the current president of the Union of Theatres of Europe, Ilan Ronen, is Israeli.

Ronen is the artistic director of Habima, the national theatre of Israel. His name became familiar to a wider public in Europe in 2012, when he argued that Habima could not refuse to perform in Israel’s illegal settlements, including Ariel, in the West Bank: ‘Like other theatre companies and dance companies in Israel, we are state-financed, and financially supported to perform all over the country,’ he told theObserver newspaper in the United Kingdom. ‘This is the law. We have no choice. We have to go, otherwise there is no financial support.’ This is the line Ilan Ronen continues to take.

In the spring of 2014, an open letter was sent to Norway’s National Theatre (NT) asking it to withdraw from the partnership with Habima. The National Theatre responded by asking Habima to stop performing in the illegal settlements, as a pre-condition for continuing their collaboration. However Habima’s director explicitly refused to meet this pre-condition. Then in August came the Israeli assault on Gaza that left 2,000 Palestinians dead – 500 of them children – and over 10,000 injured. A further petition against NT’s collaboration was delivered to them, signed by actors from a range of Norwegian theatre companies. Responding to the controversy the Haifa-based Palestinian theatre, ShiberHur, did decide to withdraw from the project. Nevertheless, and despite Habima’s refusal, the National Theatre dropped its principled pre-condition, and decided to continue its partnership with Habima.

In other countries in recent years, people alleged to have broken international law have been referred to the International Criminal Court – but you, theatres of Europe, appear on the face of it to be willing to endorse Habima’s participation in the Israeli colonisation of Palestinian land and the apartheid practices of the settlers (how many Palestinian villagers whose land was stolen by the settlement of Ariel, for instance, do you think are allowed to attend theatre performances by Habima in Ariel?).

To say we’re surprised is an under-statement. To say we wish you were not holding your general assembly in Tel Aviv – and not participating in a four-day colloquium on the theme of TERRORisms (sic) conceived and organised by Habima – is to put it mildly.

We’ve had a look at the synopsis of God Waits at the Station, the Israeli play which will premiere on the first night of your meeting. It’s about a suicide bombing by a Palestinian woman inside Israel. Such things have happened. But we’ve scoured the rest of what’s publicly available of your programme to see where the terror experienced by Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank at the hands of the Israeli army and air force and Israeli settlers might be explored as dramatic material, workshopped for its potential to reach audiences in Norway, Germany, and so on. We can’t find any such thing.

You are using funds from the Culture Programme of the European Union to run a programme that sounds as if it was written by the Israeli foreign ministry: a one-day ‘Terror Special’ conference on the challenge of suicide bombings to democracies; a round-table on cultural boycott that sounds as though it’s already made up its mind: ‘Shouldn’t artists and cultural institutions make every effort to become a “bridge’ in conflict zones’, you say (while you sit in a country whose government uses culture not as a bridge, but as legitimisation for its project of colonisation).

We’re amazed. We think you shouldn’t go. We don’t understand how you’ve got yourselves into this relationship with Habima. Europe had experience of oppressive military occupations not so long ago. Have you forgotten the terror inflicted on those civilian populations?

Signatories (continuously updated until deadline):

Jenny Morgan, film-maker, UK
Miranda Pennell, film-maker, UK
Professor Jonathan Rosenhead, UK
Dror Warschawski, researcher, France
Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, UK
Eleanor Kilroy, Artists right to say ‘no’, UK
Ofer Neiman, co-editor of The Occupation magazine, Israel
Michel Bühler, singer, writer, Switzerland
Hafid Melhay, bookseller, France
Mohamed Paz, Artistic director of Prana Natyam, France
Caryl Churchill, playwright, UK

* The following theatre companies are listed as participating in the ‘TERRORisms’ project:

Staatsschauspiel Stuttgart, Germany 
National Theatre of Oslo, Norway 
Jugoslovensko Dramsko Pozoriste, Belgrade, Serbia 
Habima – National Theatre of Tel Aviv, Israel 
Young Vic Theatre London, England [an associate member of the project, not attending the Tel Aviv meeting] 
Shiber Hur Company, Palestine [withdrawn] 
Comédie de Reims, France


About the Union of Theatres of Europe (U.T.E.):

U.T.E. was founded by French politician Jack Lang in 1990 and established under the presidency of Giorgio Strehler and the directorship of Israeli director-producer Eli Malka. Jack Lang served as France’s Minister of Culture from 1981 to 1986 and 1988 to 1992. It has been funded by the French Ministry of Culture since its establishment.

Jack Lang continues in the role of U.T.E. ‘member of honour.’ ThisElectronic Intifada article from 2003 offers an important insight into the sympathies of U.T.E’s founder:

…a mere statement by the administrative council of the prestigious University of Paris-VI has caused an uproar in Europe over alleged “boycotts” of Israeli academics. On December 16, the French university’s administrative body approved a motion calling on the European Union to suspend financial support for Israeli universities on the grounds that “The Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza renders impossible teaching and research by our Palestinian colleagues.” This decision produced a near hysterical reaction among some of France’s celebrity intellectuals and political figures. Philospher Bernard Henri-Levy declared that “The professors who voted for this motion conducted themselves like the most extremist of extremist Palestinians,” and went on to compare the motion to the 1933 Nazi laws against Jews. The leftist Mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe, called the resolution a “shocking act and a tragic error,” while former French culture minister, Jack Lang, opined that “Israeli universities are oases of tolerance,” and calls for a boycott “encourage fanaticism.” http://electronicintifada.net/content/israels-academic-freedom-defended-while-palestines-destroyed/4325

See also an article in Aftenposten (Norwegian for ‘The Evening Post’), Norway’s largest newspaper: ‘It is the artist’s right to say no

GREEN PARTY MAGAZINE PROMOTES BDS — AND J-BIG

The Autumn edition of Green World – the magazine of the UK Green Party – includes a well-argued explanation of the party’s support for the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, and also a write-up about Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (J-BIG) by founder member Deborah Fink, who is also a Green Party activist.

Green World is a print-only publication so we are posting scans of the relevant pages here. Click on the text to make it easier to read.

green world bds 001

Green World  BDS 2 001

 


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