A group of young Israeli entertainers are at the centre of an argument which has forced the relocation of an annual Yom Ha’atzmaut show.
The Zionist Federation planned to hold its annual family entertainment night at the Bloomsbury Theatre in central London next Tuesday (April 28), but was forced to move it after the venue refused to host members of the IDF dance troupe.
The decision followed complaints from anti-Israel groups about the performance, which was due to be part of the Israel 61 Family Show.
It will now take place at a secret location in north London.
A promotional poster for the event showed the entertainers in army uniform. It was later redesigned to advertise “young musical talent from Israel”, with pictures of the performers in civilian clothes.
But Bloomsbury Theatre, owned by University College London, claimed the use of the original picture constituted a breach of contract.
ZF chairman Andrew Balcombe said UCL’s decision was influenced by the complaints and protest threats.
“It is a sad day for Britain when ill-informed minority lobbies attempt to limit freedom of expression in a family cultural programme,” he said. Senior ZF figures are furious over the cancellation.
However, a second Independence Day celebration, featuring Israeli singer-songwriter Idan Raichel, will still go ahead at the Bloomsbury venue the following day. The ZF say they had no option but to allow it to go on at the theatre as it was too late to cancel it.
Jews for Justice for Palestinians was among those lobbying the theatre to cancel the show, saying the inclusion of performances by army members was “massively insensitive”.
The Council for Arab-British Understanding called the troupe “sick” and said its performance would be “akin to singing and dancing on the graves of the 400 Palestinian children that the IDF was responsible for killing in January”.
A spokesman for UCL said: “Before the booking was confirmed, the Zionist Federation stated that the event would be of a cultural nature, without any political agenda. UCL signed the contract on that basis.
“The pictures of performers in military uniform were deemed to be outside the scope of what had been agreed and on that basis the event was cancelled.”