London Theater Backs Out of Hosting Jewish Film Festival Over Israeli Embassy Funding

The Tricycle Theatre explicitly linked its decision over the UK Jewish Film Festival to the Israel-Gaza war; critics charge anti-Semitism.

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Poster for last year's UK Jewish Film Festival.
Poster for last year's UK Jewish Film Festival.Credit:

A major London theater has backtracked from a commitment to host the UK Jewish Film Festival, saying it cannot be associated with the Israeli Embassy, which is sponsoring the festival, British media reported.

The Tricycle Theatre in London, which has hosted the festival for the past eight years, explicitly linked its decision to the Israel-Gaza war.

"The festival receives funding from the Israeli embassy and given the current conflict in Israel and Gaza, we feel it is inappropriate to accept financial support from any government agency involved," said Tricycle artistic director Indhu Rubasingham, according to British media reports.

Jonathan Levy, chairman of the Tricycle, said in a written explanation that the theater could not be associated with "any activity directly funded or supported by any party to the conflict," given the "unforeseen and unhappy escalation that has occurred over the past three weeks, including a terrible loss of life."

The decision has sparked protest from festival organizers and others.

"They have chosen a boycott over meaningful engagement – to the great detriment of this celebration of Jewish culture," Judy Ironside, the executive director of what she described as an "entirely apolitical" festival, said in a statement Tuesday.

Protesters against Tricycle's decision were planning to hold a protest in front of the theater on Thursday, and a Facebook group called Boycott the Tricycle Cinema had 1,818 likes by Wednesday afternoon.

British actress Maureen Lipman said it was "unacceptable" to punish British Jews for what is taking place in Israel and Gaza.

"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," Lipman said in a statement.

Stephen Pollard, editor of The Jewish Chronicle, said the decision was anti-Semitic.

"Be clear on this," he tweeted. "@tricycletheatre is now officially anti-Semitic. It is singling out the Jewish state for boycott."

Tricycle said it still wants to host the festival if it is no longer funded by the Israeli Embassy, which has sponsored the festival for 17 years, but the festival said it no longer wants to be associated with the theater, the Chronicle said.

Rubasingham said Tricycle has offered to provide alternative funding to cover the loss from the embassy, saying, "We want the festival."

But the festival said in a statement that it considers "the demands of the theatre to be entirely unacceptable and is now taking its screenings elsewhere."

The theater had been scheduled to screen 26 films as part of the 18th UK Jewish film festival from November 6-23.

Nicholas Hytner, director of London's National Theatre, said he supported the Tricycle's decision, The Guardian reported.

"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," he said.

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