Zionists ordered out of pro-Palestinian event

Senior Jewish figures were told to leave a pro-Palestinian event where controversial Israeli journalist Gideon Levy was speaking.

Manchester Jewish Representative Council vice-president Michael Samuels and ZCC director Karen Solomon were told to "get out" because they were Zionists, by the chair of a public meeting at the Quaker Friends Meeting House in the city on Thursday.

The meeting, attended by around 120 people, was organised by the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign and the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine, and promoted by Jews for Justice For Palestinians. It was part of a UK speaker tour by the Ha'aretz newspaper columnist who is promoting his book, The Punishment of Gaza, alleging Israeli brutality in Operation Cast Lead.

Mr Samuels said his early arrival at the event prompted questions from the event's chair prior to the meeting.

"She said 'get out, you're a Zionist, you are here to cause trouble, we knew you were coming here to cause trouble. She wasn't going to let us in and as we were leaving the speaker came in."

The pair were eventually admitted after Karen Solomon, who was with Mr Samuels, spoke to Gideon Levy in Hebrew.

Mr Levy said: "People came over to me and told me that the organisers would not let them in. I said it's out of the question that people will not be allowed in because they think differently.

"I wouldn't have done the talk if they had not been let in. If I had been invited by the Jewish community here I would have loved to go. Pro-Palestinian activists invited me and I came with pleasure - but I say the same things wherever I go."

However, Mr Samuels said he was appalled by Mr Levy's speech in which he claimed that Israeli newspapers reported the death of dogs more prominently than Palestinians who were killed.

"He castigated Israelis, saying that at Friday-night dinner they would not discuss Palestine but only where they would go for holidays. It was all very emotive; babies dying, pregnant women declined admission to Israel, his anecdotes couldn't be contested because you didn't know if they were true."

Mr Levy has promoted his book at a series of events in Scotland, Manchester and London.

On Tuesday he was interviewed by Channel 4 newsreader Jon Snow at the Amnesty International Human Rights Action Centre, organised by the PSC and Jews for Justice for Palestinians.

The next day he was interviewed by BBC Middle East correspondent Jeremy Bowen at the Frontline Club.

Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies, said: "If you are judged by the company you keep, Gideon Levy has aligned himself with some rather unsavoury fellow travellers. He should understand that his enemy's enemy may not be his friend."

The Israeli Embassy in London came under fire for supposedly promoting the talks by Mr Levy, but the embassy's spokesman said that their email bulletin had been intended as a red flag to pro-Israel activists.

Last updated: 2:43pm, August 26 2010