Thousands of Israel supporters outnumber protesters at Nova film screening in Finchley

There was a small anti-Israel protest at the Phoenix cinema in East Finchley


Thousands of pro-Israel supporters stood outside the Phoenix Cinema in East Finchley, north London, in support of the cinema screening "Supernova", an Israeli documentary about the massacre of 360 people at the Supernova music festival (Photo: Gaby Wine)

The Jewish community “reclaimed the streets” this evening as over 2,000 people demonstrated outside the Phoenix Cinema in East Finchley, north-west London, to show solidarity with its decision to screen an Israeli documentary about the October 7 terrorist attacks.

The pro-Israel crowd, which stretched down East Finchley High Rd, had anticipated a much larger protest from anti-Israel activists. But, in the event, the anti-Israel group, which numbered around 50 people, was dwarfed by the Israel supporters, who waved huge Israeli flags, held posters calling for the return of the hostages and started Israeli dancing in the street as traffic came to a stand-still.

In the past week, a protest against the screening of Supernova – a documentary about the Hamas massacre of 360 people at the Supernova music festival – had been widely publicised.

Last night, protesters graffitied “Say no to artwashing” in large red lettering on the front of the iconic cinemam and this afternoon, film-makers Ken Loach and Mike Leigh stepped down from their roles as patrons of the Phoenix in protest against the cinema showing films from Seret, the festival of Israeli cinema, which, together with UJIA, was hosting tonight’s screening.

A fundraiser has been launched to repair the damage and to support the cinema, which has been struggling financially since Covid.

In an atmosphere, which, at times, felt more like a party than a protest, one pro-Israel supporter told the JC: “This is an amazing turnout for something totally spontaneous and not organised by any of the mainstream organisations. People just took it upon themselves to come out.”

“It’s because it’s on our doorstep and it’s about [a documentary] on the slaughter at the Nova music festival. They have the audacity to turn up in our neighbourhood, and, of course, we’re not going to take it.”

Another rally-goer said she was there “because as a daughter of a refugee, I am in disbelief that [the protest against the screening] is taking place. Everybody should be able to see that what happened on October 7 was the most terrible massacre, rape and kidnap. What’s in their mind to be protesting this? It’s just hatred.”

An Israeli demonstrator said she had decided to come “to stand for Israel and to stamp out this horrible situation that will not allow us to say our thoughts and feelings without people protesting or damaging a cinema because it wants to show the truth.”

“Those people don’t know what it’s like to live in the middle of Israel, to try to live with the conflict, to have to run with your kids to the shelter.The first thing my son asked when we moved to London two years ago was: ‘Mum, where can we find the shelter?’”

While most of the protesters on both sides of East Finchley High Road were loud but peaceful, a small minority from the pro-Israel crowd crossed over the street to confront the other group, before the police issued an order for the groups to remain on different sides.

The anti-Israel protesters were later escorted away from the scene by the police to chants of “Terrorist supporters off our streets.”

During the protests, Barnet Police, who, along with CST, were out in force, tweeted: “We are aware that additional Pro Israeli and Pro Palestinian demonstrators have attended an event outside the Phoenix cinema in Barnet.

“Section 14 conditions were put in place. This means that demonstrators could continue to protest, but had to move into designated areas. This was to keep all those involved safe.

“Pro-Palestinian protestors have now left the area and officers remain on scene to help minimise congestion and keep roads open’’

Israel supporters, some of whom admitted to having felt apprehensive about attending the rally, said they left feeling jubilant. One lady said: “I feel an immense sense of connection and pride. I can’t believe the feeling of unity. I’ve been to a few protests, but this one tops them all.”

Another told the JC: “I never imagined I would be dancing to Moshiach in the middle of East Finchley High Road, waving an Israeli flag. It’s unprecedented.”

One of the organisers, Orit Eyal-Fibeesh, said afterwards: “We wanted to show that Israeli art, pride and spirit cannot be stopped.”

“We think that the world needs to know and needs to see [what happened on October 7]. They can’t hide any longer behind the atrocities they’ve committed. For the few of the hostages that are still alive, we owe it to them to continue to fight and to continue to show that Israel is not the evil in all of this.”

Asked how many people she had expected to come to support the film screening, Eyal-Fibeesh said: “We realised that people were eager to show up, but we didn’t realise how many people would come. There are people from across the community - left-wing right-wing, religious, non-religious. There is a wide consensus that Israel is alive and Israel is here to stay.

“We have our place - even in this country. We don’t want to hide. We will never hide. We will hold our heads high.”

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