August 06, 2014

Pushed or Pulled? Israel Embassy Funded Film Festival not to be Hosted by Tricycle Theatre

Little bit confusing this but hang in there.

For the past 8 years the Tricycle Theatre has been hosting a so-called Jewish Film Festival (UKJFF).  BDS activists have been trying to persuade the theatre not to host UKJFF on account of it being funded by the Israeli Embassy in London.  Well now, because of Israel's assault on Gaza, the theatre will not be hosting the festival.

Now this has been a very recent decision but there's already some fog about what happened.  The Jewish Chronicle wouldn't normally be the go to site for the facts of any case but theirs was the first site I saw the news on.  Here's their headline:

Tricycle Theatre refuses to host UK Jewish Film Festival over Israeli sponsorship

 So what do they say happened?
A major London theatre has refused to host the UK Jewish Film Festival because it is sponsored by the Israeli embassy.

The Tricycle Theatre was scheduled to be the main venue for the UKJFF in November, with 26 films due to be screened there as well as six gala events.

But in a statement issued on Tuesday, UKJFF executive director Judy Ironside said: “The Tricycle told us that they cannot be associated with a festival which in turn is associated with the UK’s Israel embassy”.

The embassy is a long-standing sponsor of the festival, whose programme includes Jewish-themed films from around the world.

Mrs Ironside described the decision by the theatre, which has hosted the UKJFF for the past eight years, as a “great surprise”.

She said: “That the Tricycle Theatre have shown themselves unwilling to work with what is clearly an apolitical cultural festival is tremendously disappointing.
 Ok, so they are saying that out of the blue the theatre has cancelled the event on account of its Israeli embassy funding.  In spite of the funding the director, Judy Ironside, claims the event is apolitical.  Now I can see how some people might argue that an event is apolitical even it is funded by an embassy.

But the Tricycle Theatre isn't happy with the coverage so it has issued a statement of its own:

The Tricycle has always welcomed the Festival and wants it to go ahead. We have proudly hosted the UK Jewish Film Festival for many years. However, given the situation in Israel and Gaza, we do not believe that the festival should accept funding from any party to the current conflict.  For that reason, we asked the UK Jewish Film Festival to reconsider its sponsorship by the Israeli Embassy.  We also offered to replace that funding with money from our own resources. The Tricycle serves many communities and celebrates different cultures and through difficult, emotional times must aim for a place of political neutrality. 

We regret that, following discussions, the chair of the UKJFF told us that he wished to withdraw the festival from the Tricycle.  

To be clear, at this moment, the Tricycle would not accept sponsorship from any government agency involved in the conflict. We hope to find a way to work with the UK Jewish Film Festival to allow the festival to go ahead at the Tricycle as it has done so successfully for the past 8 years.’
 So the UK Jewish Film Festival has withdrawn itself from the Tricycle because the Festival insists on being funded by the Israeli embassy even though the Tricycle offered to replace the funding.

Now its bad enough that the Festival wants to implicate all Jews in Israel's sheer criminality but to claim that the festival is apolitical is utterly bogus.

Anyway, lots of good has come out of this, not least the media coverage.  There are reports in the following mainstream newspapers/websites (in no particular order):

The Daily Mail

Yahoo News

The Guardian

The Daily Telegraph

There are bound to be more.  They're just the ones I've seen.

So, the Tricycle has certainly taken the principled stand in not hosting the Israeli embassy funded UK Jewish Film Festival but if the latter wasn't so nakedly political it could have been very different.  In fact if they didn't want this political confrontation with Tricycle they could have suspended Israeli embassy funding, taken the dough from Tricycle, and then carried on Zionist business as usual when emotions over the Gaza slaughter had calmed down.  Or maybe the Zionists know that their attack on Gaza has done lasting damage to public perceptions of Israel and that Israeli government involvement with any cultural event is a political kiss of death.

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