Actress Maureen Lipman this week criticised Jewish artists for backing a cultural boycott of Israel, after an open letter signed by more than 100 people was published in The Guardian newspaper.
In an initiative known as Artists for Palestine, signatories said they would “not engage in business-as-usual cultural relations with Israel” and that they would stay away for concerts, awards ceremonies, exhibitions, festivals and conferences.
Together with well-known Jewish critics of Israel, such as comedians Ivor Dembina and Alexei Sayle, there were several lesser-known names, such as Alisa Lebow, a documentary maker whose film Treyf explored her life as a Jewish lesbian. Folk music singer and children’s author Leon Rosselson, from north London, is also featured on the list, together with anti-apartheid activist and renowned architect Peter Ahrends, whose family fled Nazism in Berlin in the 1930s.
Lipman dismissed the boycotters for making a “belated, theatrical gesture at a time when anti-Semitism – based on extremist hatred of the Jewish state – shows neither timing, respect or understanding for the real problems of the Middle East”. She concluded: “Shame on the whole raddled bunch of them.”
Others putting their name to the letter have covered the subject of Israel in their work. London-based filmmaker and photographer Haim Bresheeth has written about the Holocaust and the Gaza blockade, while fellow signatory Peter Kosminsky produced Channel 4 drama series The Promise, which looked at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the eyes of two Britons.
Some names are recognisable campaigners, including Ann Jungman, a children’s author who has long been involved with Jews for Justice for Palestinians and Independent Jewish Voices.
Actress Miriam Margolyes said: “My support for the Palestinian cause is fiercer because I’m Jewish. The Israeli forces’ lack of humanity disgusts me. I want no part of it. We were fed a lie about the foundation of Israel.”