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UK'S Department for Culture worked with Israeli embassy to pressure Tricycle Theatre

October 7, 2014 at 2:08 pm

A letter has been published that shows the UK government cooperated with the Israeli Embassy in pressuring the Tricycle Theatre over its public row with the UK Jewish Film Festival in August.

As Israel was bombing Gaza, the Tricycle Theatre asked the festival to forego Israeli embassy funding, on the basis that, given the ongoing bloodshed, it was “inappropriate to accept financial support from any government agency involved.”

Though the Tricycle management offered to provide alternative funding, the Jewish Film Festival insisted on the embassy link, thus withdrawing the festival (see a timeline of events here).

According to campaigners, the newly published letter was sent by an official in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport “to a member of the public who had asked for an explanation of Secretary of State Sajid Javid’s public denunciation of the Tricycle Theatre.”

The activists note that the letter “repeatedly refers to anti-Semitism and threats to freedom of speech, while offering no evidence that the theatre had been guilty of either.”

The official also confirms that the department “kept closely in touch with the Israeli Ambassador during this unfortunate chain of events and assured him of the Government’s commitment to challenge anti-Semitism wherever it might arise.”

This was in addition to what even opponents of the Tricycle Theatre’s decision described as “a lot of pressure from funders and the Jewish community to backtrack”.

Tonight, a discussion panel at Amnesty International UK will examine the issues at the heart of the Tricycle Theatre affair, including the question of “what is at stake when the arts are used for public relations purposes.”

Those speaking include award-winning playwrights April de Angelis and Tanika Gupta, writer and commentator on anti-Semitism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Antony Lerman, and Ofer Neiman of the Israeli group, Boycott from Within.