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Mike Leigh cancels Israel trip over loyalty oath

Mike Leigh, the British filmmaker, has cancelled a trip to Israel in protest against controversial plans to introduce an oath of loyalty for new non-Jewish citizens.

The bill, which was passed by Israel's Cabinet last week and has yet to be approved by the country's parliament, would require non-Jewish immigrants to pledge loyalty to a "Jewish and democratic" state. It has been criticised as discriminatory towards Israel's Arab minority.

Mr Leigh, 67, the award-winning director of Naked and Secrets & Lies who is himself Jewish, was due to participate in a film festival next month.

But in a letter to the school sponsoring the event, he said he already opposed Israel's policies on Gaza and called the loyalty oath the "last straw".

"I have become ever-increasingly uncomfortable about what would unquestionably appear as my implicit support for Israel were I to fulfil my promise and come," he wrote to Renen Schorr, director of the Sam Spiegel Film and Television School in Jerusalem.

"I have absolutely no choice. I cannot come, I do not want to come, and I am not coming."

In his reply, which was published on the school's website, Mr Schorr said the "academic-cultural boycott of Israel" weakened rather than strengthened concern about humantarian issues among Israelis. "Boycotts and ostracism are the antithesis of dialogue," he wrote.