Theatre stars condemn 'vociferous pro-Israel lobby’ over opposition to Palestinian play The Siege


A collection of British theatre performers, writers and directors have attacked the "pro-Israel lobby" after Jewish groups voiced their opposition to a Palestinian play due to tour the UK.

The Zionist Federation said The Siege amounted to a "white-washing of the Second Intifada" while 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."

The play tells the stand-off that took place when Israeli troops cornered gunmen in Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem.

The play's publicity refers to the men as "fighters", although 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.

The group Artists for Palestine published a letter in the Daily Mail on Friday saying: “People who haven’t seen Freedom Theatre’s play The Siege can’t claim that it ‘promotes terrorism’.

“Not for the first time, Palestinian voices are in danger of being drowned out by a vociferous pro-Israel lobby that smears all Palestinians as terrorists and antisemites.”

The letter described the Board of Deputies as “an organisation with a shocking record of acting to suppress cultural and academic events”, citing the recent cancellation of an anti-Israel academic conference at Southampton University as an example.

It was signed by playwrights Caryl Churchill, Dominic Cooke and April de Angelis, as well as actors Mark Rylance, Maxine Peake and Samuel West.

Earlier this week, Grassroots group Sussex Friends of Israel tweeted that The Siege "glorifies and justifies murderers and terrorists".

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

The Siege, produced by the Freedom Theatre company based on the West Bank, will get its UK premiere at The Lowry in Manchester on May 13 before coming to London.

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