Pro-Palestinian campaigners protested outside JW3 community centre on Tuesday night, over a film it is showing as part of Seret, the Israeli film festival.
Camden Palestine Solidarity Campaign and other far-left activists accused the festival of hosting a fundraiser for the IDF by showing a film called The Other Story.
JW3 was accused by the pro-Palestinians of trying to help recruit young people into the Israeli army to, disputed by organisers, who say it was raising money for Israel’s Scouts’ Association.
Around 20 anti-Israel demonstrators began their protest on Tuesday evening, shouting “free free Palestine” and “Palestine will win” outside the north London Jewish centre.
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Football Against Apartheid and the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network were among groups present at the demo.
Demonstrators held up signs including “End the Occupation”, calling for an “arms embargo” on Israel, and one protester had a banner around his neck reading LiKKKud, comparing the party of Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the American far-right racist movement, the Ku Klux Klan.
Another protester had a banner reading “boycott Israeli film festival recruiting murderers” while two demonstrators had a sign which said: “solidarity with conscientious objectors refusing to oppress Palestinians”.
A small group of counter-protesters met the demonstration outside JW3, using a megaphone to criticise the BDS activists.
One pro-Israel supporter urged a police officer at the demo to arrest some of the BDS supporters, but police confirmed to Jewish News no arrests were made.
JW3 Chief Executive Raymond Simonson said the sell-out event went smoothly, adding that: “As JW3 is not a political organisation, our approach is to leave protesters alone to protest, as long as they do not disrupt our activities. We trust the police to intervene if they do anything illegal or are causing any genuine security or safety concern.”
He also paid tribute to the Community Security Trust, SQR (JW3’s security partner), the Met Police, and Camden Councils’ community safety team who “were all fantastically supportive and extremely helpful” in ensuring that “all of JW3’s events and activities, classes and film screenings went off smoothly without a hitch.”
Commenting on the protest against the SERET UK Israeli Film and TV Festival outside JW3 last night, co-founders Odelia Haroush, Anat Koren and Patty Hochman said: “Each year we have threats of boycotts and protests, and there have been very few years when we haven’t had a group protesting outside one of our screenings. Everyone has a right to peaceful protest, and we respect the views of all people.
“However, this year, as for previous Festivals, it doesn’t stop us from showing great films from Israel to audiences of all faiths and communities, nor does it affect the success of our Festival.”
Gerry Downing, who was expelled from Labour over alleged antisemitism said ahead of the demonstration: “We are calling a picket of the JW3 [Jewish community centre] which is hosting a fundraiser to recruit young people in the UK to join the Israeli army”.
Writing on Facebook before it took place, Simonson said JW3 was “showing an Israeli film, that a partner organisation [the Jewish Agency for Israel UK] has now purchased all the tickets to, and has resold them at a mark up to raise money for the Israeli Scouts association.”
A spokesperson for JW3 told the JC: “The Jewish Agency bought all the tickets out for the film and resold them as a fundraiser for the Tzofim, the Israeli Scouts in the UK, not the IDF.”
According to Seret’s directors, this year it highlights films and documentaries which “comment on the plight of ‘the other’ through examining immigration, sexual transition and disability”.
They said: “We have chosen films which examine fatherhood and family trauma with heart and soul; which open the lid on suppressed political intrigues, which share religious and spiritual journeys, and which demonstrate the effects of the wars of yesterday and today.”