Racism in Kilburn

August 7, 2014

These are dark days. There have been more than 240 antisemitic incidents since the start of Operation Protective Edge and an outpouring of antisemitism on social media the like of which has never been seen before. But the decision of the Tricycle Theatre to bar the UK Jewish Festival from its doors unless it disowned Israel is the most worrying incident for many years. It is open racism — singling out an apolitical Jewish cultural festival for special treatment and demanding that its organisers conform to a political view spelt out by the theatre. It is bullying of a minority, separating out ‘good’ Jews who disown Israel from ‘bad’ Jews who don’t. And it is, for all the denials, a form of antisemitism — making a demand of a Jewish charity that it makes of no other organisation. The Tricycle happily shows films funded by the Chinese government or the Russians. It takes sponsorship from the Indian government (which has a deeply controversial record in Kashmir) for its Asian Film Festival. But when it comes to a Jewish charity, different rules apply. The Tricycle trumpets its supposed commitment to ‘social inclusion’, which it has redefined to exclude Jews.

Gratifyingly, many people of all political shades have expressed their anger at the Tricycle’s racism, especially non-Jews who can spot antisemitism when they see it. More so, it has to be said, than some of those involved with the Tricycle. It is beyond belief that leading community figures such as Sir Trevor Chinn, a member of the JLC and the theatre’s ‘Director’s Circle’ and Gail Sandler, the chair of Jewish Book Week and a ‘Pioneer’ of the Tricycle, have refused to utter a word in public against the decision. There are times when the only appropriate behaviour is to speak out. The chief executives of the Board of Deputies and the JLC have done just that and rightly called the Tricycle’s behaviour “shameful”. It is, to put it mildly, disappointing that other leading communal figures are not prepared to show similar leadership. One might even call it shameful.

Last updated: 10:36am, August 7 2014