The founder of a series of events celebrating Jewish and Israeli culture at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival has said he is “humbled” by the backing of Scotland’s political leaders.
Nicola Sturgeon, Ruth Davidson and Kezia Dugdale all pledged to support the International Shalom Festival, ahead of the start of the three-day celebration this week.
The festival, which aims to build cultural bridges and celebrate coexistence and peace between Israelis and Palestinians, will feature an interactive exhibition — including cooking — film screenings and the return of Jerusalem’s Incubator Theatre group.
Ms Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, said: “We recognise the importance of the International Shalom Festival in promoting peaceful coexistence and I wish you all the very best for a successful event.”
Ms Davidson, the Scottish Conservative leader, added: “I am sure it will be a joyful celebration of Israel’s rich cultural diversity and I’m certain Edinburgh will give a warm Scottish welcome to the Jewish, Muslim, Arab, Israeli and Palestinian performers and artists.”
Ms Dugdale, Labour’s Scottish leader, said: “Scotland needs cultural bridges not boycotts, bringing people of different traditions and backgrounds together. I hope the festival is a great success.”
But pro-Palestinan campaigners including Yvonne Ridley have attacked the staging of the event, which runs from Tuesday, claiming it is an example of what she called “Israel’s dark arts at play”.
Activists from the Scottish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign are expected to protest. Mick Napier, the SPSC chair, claimed the organisers of the Shalom Festival “defend every Israeli massacre, bulldozing of homes and the brutal siege of Gaza that constitutes collective punishment and causes such suffering”.
A letter published in the Sunday Herald called for a boycott of the event, which it said “claims to support peaceful coexistence in Israel/ Palestine, while whitewashing Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights”. It was signed by screenwriter Paul Laverty, director Ken Loach and Mark Brown, the Herald’s theatre critic.
But Nigel Goodrich, the festival founder, said: “We are humbled and honoured by the breadth and depth of support for the International Shalom Festival. It offers Scotland an exceptional opportunity to foster peaceful coexistence and I am delighted our political leaders endorse our message of engagement and friendship.”
The festival schedule includes a series of discussions with Jewish, Muslim and Bedouin activists as well as a gala concert featuring Israeli-Ethiopian singer Meski Shibru and the band Jamaya.