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Gaza crisis: Tricycle Theatre will not host UK Jewish Film Festival while it receives Israeli embassy funding

The festival said the demands were "unacceptable"

A theatre has refused to host the Israeli Embassy-backed UK Jewish Film Festival (UKJFF), in a protest against the ongoing crisis in Gaza.

The Tricycle Theatre in London has hosted the festival for eight years, and was due to screen at least 26 films as part of the event which runs from 6 to 23 November.

But Indhu Rubasingham, the theatre’s artistic director, said the festival should not accept funding from “any party to the current conflict” between Israel and Hamas.

She added the Tricycle had offered to fund the festival itself, in order to replace sponsorship from the Israeli Embassy in London.

But the UKJFF called the Tricycle's demands “entirely unacceptable” and said it was taking its screenings elsewhere.

Stephen Margolis, chairman of the UKJFF, said: “The Jewish community as a whole has enjoyed a successful relationship with the Tricycle and it is extremely saddening that they should look to politicise this festival by making demands that the UKJFF could never accept.”

Meanwhile, British actress Maureen Lipman, who backed the festival, launched a more strongly-worded attack against the theatre, by accusing,  it of “punish[ing] Jewish people” 

"The Tricycle have decided to punish Jewish people in the diaspora for one view of what is taking place in the Middle East and that is quite unacceptable," she said.

In a statement on the Tricycle's website, Ms Rubasingham defended the decision. “The Tricycle has always welcomed the festival and wants it to go ahead. We have proudly hosted the UK Jewish Film Festival for many years.

"However, given the situation in Israel and Gaza, we do not believe that the festival should accept funding from any party to the current conflict. For that reason, we asked the UK Jewish Film Festival to reconsider its sponsorship by the Israeli Embassy.

"We regret that, following discussions, the chair of the UKJFF told us that he wished to withdraw the festival from the Tricycle.

"To be clear, at this moment, the Tricycle would not accept sponsorship from any government agency involved in the conflict.

"We hope to find a way to work with the UK Jewish Film Festival to allow the festival to go ahead at the Tricycle as it has done so successfully for the past eight years."

Indhu Rubasingham, artistic director of the Tricycle Theatre

National Theatre director Nicholas Hytner supported the Tricycle's stance.

He said: "I greatly regret the UKJFF's decision to leave the Tricycle cinema. Indhu Rubasingham and the Tricycle board could not have made clearer their commitment to Jewish culture or their desire to host a festival that would have included films from all over the world, including Israel.

"It is entirely understandable that they felt obliged to insist that no government agency should sponsor the festival.

"The Tricycle serves a diverse community with a notably diverse repertoire and it has a clear responsibility to make no statement about the dispute that is behind the current conflict.

"It greatly saddens me that the UKJFF have unwisely politicised a celebration of Jewish culture and I deplore any misrepresentation of the Tricycle's position. I support Indhu Rubasingham and the Tricycle without reservation."

Additional reporting by PA