CANTERBURY, England (RNS) A London theater is refusing to host the UK Jewish Film Festival because it receives partial funding from the Israeli Embassy.
The Tricycle Theatre has hosted the film festival for the last eight years and was scheduled to screen 26 films in November.
But the theater’s artistic director, Indhu Rubasingham, the English-born daughter of Sri Lankan parents, issued a statement Tuesday (Aug. 5) saying that because of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the theater’s board decided not to host the festival under its current sponsorship arrangement.
“The festival receives funding from the Israeli embassy and given the current conflict in Israel and Gaza, we feel it inappropriate to accept financial support from any government agency involved,” she said in a statement. “We offered to provide alternative funding to cover the loss of the contribution from the Israeli embassy. However, the UKJFF decided it was not willing to decline sponsorship from the Israeli embassy and, to our regret, withdrew the festival from The Tricycle.”
Judy Ironside, founder and executive director of the UKJFF, said the Tricycle Theatre had “chosen a boycott over meaningful engagement to the detriment of this celebration of Jewish culture which is intrinsically connected to the state of Israel.”
The festival’s patrons also include Sky, the digital satellite television and radio service; the National Lottery film fund; and the Swedish Embassy.
Commenting on BBC Radio Four, Stephen Pollard, editor of The Jewish Chronicle, described the theater’s action as “extremely reprehensible.”
He said it was a Jewish and not an Israeli film festival. “What Tricycle has said is that they refuse to allow Jews who associate with Israel in any way to show films in their cinema.”
But Laurie Penny of the left-leaning New Statesman denied that the theater’s stance smacked of anti-Semitism, saying: “Anti-Semitism it is not. Anti-Zionism, it is.”
In the wake of the Gaza conflict, Jews in Europe, particularly France, Germany and Italy, have been subject to attacks and hate speech, as the thin line between anti-Israel and anti-Semitic feelings has vanished.