'Appalling' for Jewish music festival to reject Israeli funding

By Jessica Elgot, March 25, 2011
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Geraldine Auerbach

Geraldine Auerbach

A trustee of the Jewish Music Institute has expressed his anger and frustration that the organisation turned down Israeli funding for a conference under pressure from boycotters.

David Mencer, a former director of the Labour Friends of Israel, attacked the “appalling lack of judgment and moral character in [the JMI's] distancing itself from Israel."

He said the trustees had not been consulted by JMI director Geraldine Auerbach over the decision. Mr Mencer said he believed the organization had "submitted to blackmail and given the Israel boycotters and Israel haters an unnecessary victory.

"JMI have refused to accept a donation from the representatives of the democratically elected government of the State of Israel for an event about the music of Israel.

"We have made it even more difficult for other organisations trying hard to promote UK - Israel ties by setting this precedent.

"I am sure that I am not alone in wanting to distance myself from this decision. Perhaps most importantly of all, this decision will also have mortally damaged any future attempt to fundraise from the Jewish community, thus jeopardising the future of the organisation."

Ms Auerbach said: "This was a decision we reached independently and has no bearing on any future decision we might take over funding from Israel. That will be decided depending on the circumstances."

An Israeli embassy spokesman said: "It is disturbing to see that the certain bodies have succumbed to pressures from external organisations whose sole purpose is to prevent dialogue. Not only that, but to co-operate with them and to brusquely attach a much - needed financial support for artists to a political agenda is unhelpful."

Campaigners say they still plan to hand out leaflets outside the conference, claiming it would be “impossible” to hold a conference on Palestinian music.

Last updated: 3:00pm, March 25 2011