Maureen Lipman joins protest outside theatre staging The Siege


Maureen Lipman joined pro-Israel groups in a protest outside the London premiere of a Palestinian play about the second intifada last night.

West Bank’s Freedom Theatre production, The Siege, focuses on the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, where dozens of suspected Palestinian terrorists hid during the Second Intifada in 2002.

Over 40 pro-Israel activists from Sussex Friends of Israel and the Zionist Federation handed out leaflets outside Battersea Arts Centre and held up signs with the names of Israeli victims of terrorist attacks linked to the Palestinian fighters who hid in the church.

The move was part of the Zionist Federation “counterbalance” leafleting campaign being outside theatres across the country where the play is being staged on its UK tour.

Ms Lipman: “I felt the Jewish voice should be heard. All I wanted to do was say there is another angle to this.

"The main point of the demo was to present an alternative version of the narrative of The Seige and to do it in a civilised manner.

"After the appalling disruption of the Jerusalem Quartet last month by pro Palestinian activists I felt it was important to show my support both for the freedom to present and the freedom to dissent in a manner which doesn't punish the artists."

SFI member Fiona Sharpe said: “It was a respectful protest. The point of being there was to inform people more of what exactly had happened. The plan wasn’t to prevent the production taking place, it was just to make sure that people were aware of both sides of the story and that there was some sort of parity.”

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

The UK tour began last week at the Lowry in Manchester .

ZF Chairman Paul Charney said: “The actions of grassroots Israel supporters are in stark contrast to that of our opposition. Despite the extremely provocative nature of this play, our supporters have focused on providing audiences with context and information, as well as commemorating the victims of terror in a dignified fashion. Compare this with BDS activists, who are determined to harass any and all Israeli artists to stop them performing.”

Wednesday’s performance will be followed by a panel discussion chaired by Channel 4 journalist Jon Snow.

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