Theatre and cinema refuses festival while it is backed by Israeli Embassy amid Gaza crisis; industry reacts via social media.

The Tricycle Theatre has refused to host the UK Jewish Film Festival (UKJFF) as long as it is backed by the Israeli Embassy in London amid the ongoing crisis in Gaza.

The festival was due to host at least 26 films at The Tricycle in north London, but organizers are now searching for another venue for the November event and have criticized the move as “unacceptable”.

In a written explanation Jonathan Levy, chairman of The Tricycle, said: “Given the present situation in Israel/Palestine, and the unforeseen and unhappy escalation that has occurred over the past three weeks, including a terrible loss of life, The Tricycle cannot be associated with any activity directly funded or supported by any party to the conflict.

“The Tricycle will be pleased to host the UKJFF provided that it occurs without the support or other endorsement from the Israeli Government.”

Organisers expressed “shock and sadness” over the decision.

Judy Ironside MBE, founder and executive director of the UKJFF said: “We pride ourselves on showing a diverse programme of films, which present a comprehensive view of international Jewish life and Israeli films are of course an important part of that.

“We have always sought to convey a wide perspective on the conflicts in the Middle East and initiate open dialogue with our audiences and guest speakers; and the Israeli Embassy have always supported us in this. The Tricycle have refused to take this into account in their decision.”

Stephen Margolis, chairman of the UKJFF, added: “The Jewish community as a whole has enjoyed a successful relationship with the Tricycle and it is extremely saddening that they should look to politicise this festival by making demands that the UKJFF could never accept.”

Social media outrage

The boycott has prompted outrage from some industry and media on social media.

Actress Maureen Lipman said: “The Tricycle theatre under Nick Kent had a stunning history of truthful storytelling. A great part of its support and its audiences came from the Jewish sector.

“We always knew that even if we disagreed with the message, we accepted that it came from a reasoned and balanced argument. Today that ceased.

“The Tricycle have decided to punish Jewish people in the Diaspora for one view of what is taking place in the Middle East and that is quite unacceptable.”

Stephen Pollard, editor of the Jewish Chronicle, stated on Twitter: “Be clear on this. @tricycletheatre is now officially antisemitic. It is singling out the Jewish state for boycott.”

However, others have voiced support for the decision.

Lenny Abrahamson, director of What Richard Did and Frank, commented: “As a filmmaker of Jewish background I fully support the Tricycle’s position.”

Nicholas Hytner, director of the National Theatre, said he supported the move: “I greatly regret the UKJFF’s decision to leave the Tricycle cinema. Indhu Rubasingham and the Tricycle board could not have made clearer their commitment to Jewish culture or their desire to host a festival that would have included films from all over the world, including Israel.

“It is entirely understandable that they felt obliged to insist that no government agency should sponsor the festival.

“The Tricycle serves a diverse community with a notably diverse repertoire and it has a clear responsibility to make no statement about the dispute that is behind the current conflict.

“It greatly saddens me that the UKJFF have unwisely politicised a celebration of Jewish culture and I deplore any misrepresentation of the Tricycle’s position. I support Indhu Rubasingham and the Tricycle without reservation.”