The Siege not anti-Israel, says communal leader


A Jewish communal leader has dampened down concerns over a Palestinian play feared to be anti-Israel .

Sharon Bannister, president of the Manchester Jewish Representative Council, was present as The Siege began its UK tour this week.

The play focuses on an episode during the Second Intifada and has led one Jewish group to claim that it glorifies violence against Israel .

But Ms Bannister said the work, produced by the West Bank-based Freedom Theatre, was “not as controversial as I was expecting”.

She added that for people without a fixed view on the Middle East conflict, “I don’t think it would sway them one way or another”.

Ms Bannister said the play, which is set in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, appeared to be more sympathetic to the Christian clergy caught up in the conflict than the Palestinian cause.

But she complained that the panel discussion that followed the performance at the Lowry theatre, which was billed as a debate about artistic issues, strayed into political territory.

The Siege is due to be performed in cities around the country, including London, Birmingham and Glasgow.

The Zionist Federation has organised a leafleting campaign at theatres where it is being staged to offer a “counterbalancing” view.

Representatives from the ZF, North-West Friends of Israel, the Zionist Central Council and the Manchester Jewish Representative Council handed out leaflets to theatre-goers at the Lowry. Manchester Jews for Justice for Palestinians and the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign distributed their own information in support of the play.

Israeli sources pointed out that while the play's publicity refered to the Palestinian characters as "fighters", they were members of terrorist groups Hamas and Al Aqsa Brigade, and all 13 had killed innocent civilians. Two of them even boasted of their murders in an interview with the New York Times.

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