There were renewed fears of a British cultural boycott of Israel this week after Israeli acts were snubbed, British performers cancelled shows in Israel and the UK Jewish Film Festival was left looking for a new venue.
Due to be held at the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn in November, organisers of the 26-film Festival were this week left “surprised” after their first choice location sought to distance itself from Israel.
“They told us they couldn’t be associated with the UK’s Israel embassy,” said UKJFF director Judy Ironside. “So they have chosen a boycott over meaningful engagement.”
In Edinburgh for the world-famous Fringe, performers from the Incubator Theatre of Jerusalem were stopped by protesters from reaching the stage for their show The City at the Underbelly, to the chagrin of some observers.
“The principle of freedom of expression trumps the need to put pressure on any government,” said theatre critic Joyce McMillan. “A cultural boycott of Israel will do nothing to help the suffering people of Gaza.”
Irish singer Sinead O’Connor pulled out of an Israel gig next month, saying: “Nobody with any sanity would have anything but sympathy for the Palestinian plight. There’s not a sane person on Earth who in any way sanctions what the f*ck the Israeli authorities are doing.”
She is the latest high-profile artist to voice concerns, after rock stars Peter Gabriel, Brian Eno and Bryan Adams put their names to an open letter to Prime Minister David Cameron calling for an Israel arms embargo.
Alongside the cultural boycott, Palestinian supporters pushed for an economic boycott, with Hayes’ Labour MP John McDonnell (pictured, left) addressing 150 protesters in one of several local protests.
“We decided as a community,” he said, explaining the boycott decision. “We are going to visit local shops to ask them to boycott Israeli goods that come from occupied territories and find alternative suppliers.”
The major retailers have also been targeted. Tesco last week denied that the withdrawal of its only product from the West Bank was a political decision, while across the country protesters descended on Sainsbury’s stores.
In Brixton, supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement flooded the local store, while in Birmingham city centre, the branch on Union Street was forced to close.
In Ireland, the owners of Smyths, a prestigious toy store, had to tell staff to remove a sign telling shoppers that Israeli products had been removed. The sign specifically referred to toys made by Amav Ltd, based in Ashdod.
“Great, I’ll buy my Israeli toys elsewhere,” replied one shopper online. Another wrote: “What next? No Jews allowed?”
Elsewhere, British companies including security contractor G4S and construction equipment manufacturer Caterpillar and were targeted by BDS campaigners for their links to the West Bank.