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Cinema chain pulls out of Israeli film festival amid safety fears after Brighton protest

A screening of An Israeli Love Story in Brighton was picketed by pro-Palestinian activists on Sunday evening

    Pro-Palestinian protesters picketed the Duke's at Komedia cinema on Sunday (Photo: Google)
    Pro-Palestinian protesters picketed the Duke's at Komedia cinema on Sunday (Photo: Google)

    A leading cinema chain has dropped all films due to be shown as part of an Israeli film festival after pro-Palestinian activists interrupted a screening.

    Five women waving Palestinian flags reportedly held a demonstration outside the Duke’s at Komedia cinema in Brighton on Sunday evening, later interrupting Dan Wolman’s An Israeli Love Story, which was being screened as part of the Seret International Film Festival.

    They were escorted from the screening, although no arrests were made.

    A number of members of the Brighton and Hove Jewish community, many of whom are elderly, were in attendance.

    Anat Koren, one of the founders of the film festival, was in attendance and told the JC: “As we were on stage introducing the film, two women got up and read a statement about Israel and Gaza.

    “They were then asked to leave, and she was taken out by police. They were very loud but no-one left. It was a packed theatre and everyone was very good and patient.”

    The Sussex Friends of Israel group added that protesters shouted anti-Israel slogans including “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” as well as accusing filmgoers of being “child killers”.

    The group added: “We understand that the situation in the Middle East is complex for many to understand. But that should not affect the community safety of a minority group here in our city.”

    Picturehouse Cinemas, which operates the Duke’s at Komedia cinema, said today it had dropped the remaining four screenings which were scheduled to be part of the Seret International Film Festival.

    The firm said: “Picturehouse Cinemas will no longer be screening films within the Seret Film Festival amid safety concerns for our staff and customers.”

    Refunds have been offered to those who have already purchased tickets.

    The Duke’s at Komedia was due to screen another film on Thursday. Another two films were due to be shown at the Picturehouse Central, in Central London, and one at the Crouch End Picturehouse in North London.

    All other Seret screenings, including those at JW3 and Finchley's Phoenix Cinema, both in North London, will go ahead.

    The Seret International Film Festival said: "Having bowed to the security threats from BDS supporters, the decision of Picturehouse Cinemas to pull screenings of films included in the Seret programme is a major blow to the ideals and mission of the Israeli film and TV festival.

    "As an inclusive, non-political showcase for every community in Israel, Seret remains committed to showing great films and documentaries from Jews, Druze, Arabs, religious and secular groups. 

    "We are not submitting to this pressure and we will not give up. The Festival will continue this year, at the JW3 and Phoenix – please don’t give up on your support, and come along to make sure every screening is full.

    "The Seret Festival will be back on a larger scale next year in London and many other locations."

    The local Jewish community said it would ensure Thursday’s cancelled screening of comedy film Maktub would go ahead at a new, undisclosed venue, with members insisting they “will not be silenced or pushed out of the life of the city”.

    The Sussex Jewish Representative Council, the Sussex Friends of Israel and the Brighton Jewish Community said they were “very disappointed” by Picturehouse’s decision, saying threats to security “do not come from the Jewish community”.

    They added: “We are also minded that the intimidating actions employed by those groups on Sunday night directly impacted the Jewish community in our liberal, tolerant city.

    “We will not be bullied in to denouncing our attachment to Israel and our steadfast support for its continued existence.”

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