Israel groups angry over intifada play


The UK tour of a play about Palestinians hiding in a Bethlehem church during the second intifada has sparked criticism among pro-Israel organisations even before the curtain rises on the first performance.

The Siege, produced by the Freedom Theatre company based on the West Bank, is due to be staged at The Lowry in Manchester on May 13 before coming to London the week after.

Israel supporters have claimed the work glorifies terrorism, and have criticised Arts Council England for providing £14,000 towards the tour.

The Zionist Federation said the work amounted to a "white-washing of the second intifada".

In a statement, the organisation said: "All the information about the play suggests that it will give a highly politicised and one-sided account of the men at the heart of the siege.

"The assumption is that Palestinians were right to resort to violence, with the only moral dilemma apparently being whether it was acceptable for them to eventually lay down their arms."

A spokesperson said ZF members would hand out leaflets outside performances to provide a "counter-balance". He acknowledged that no one from the ZF had seen the play.

Grassroots group Sussex Friends of Israel tweeted that the play "glorifies and justifies murderers and terrorists".

The Board of Deputies said that it "would be extremely concerned if it turned out to be the case that British taxpayers were funding a play that
promoted terrorism as positive and legitimate."

But David Jubb, artistic director of Battersea Arts Centre, the London theatre staging the play, rejected claims that The Siege glorified terrorism. He said: "Battersea Arts Centre would not present any show that is pro-terrorist propaganda. The Siege does not present or identify any specific characters - it draws on a wide range of source material from people of different backgrounds and faiths."

No one from Freedom Theatre was available for comment.

A discussion chaired by Channel 4 news anchor Jon Snow will take place after the May 20 performance at BAC.

Controversy surrounds the siege, which ended after 39 days with the 13 suspects exiled to Gaza and Egypt. While to many Palestinians those involved are celebrated as freedom fighters, the Israel Foreign Ministry names them as members of Palestinian terror factions who had targeted civilians in attacks.

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