London hall cancels Independence Day show over Gaza op

Reputable theater in UK refuses to host Israeli show celebrating nation’s 61st birthday due to pressure by rights groups following Israeli offensive in Strip

London’s Bloomsbury Theatre decided Tuesday to cancel a planned Independence Day show organized by the Zionist Federation of Britain and Ireland.

The Bloomsbury was set to host a show celebrating Israel’s 61st Independence Day, including a set preformed by a military choir, but announced it would be cancelling it as a result of appeals by various groups campaigning for the rights of Palestinians filed following the Israeli offensive in Gaza.

According to a report by the Guardian, the event has been moved to a new, undisclosed venue. “A number of groups had contacted the Bloomsbury to protest the show,” said a theatre spokeswoman. “Obviously, we couldn’t have them perform here.”

Holding the show, said Chris Doyle, the director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, “Is akin to singing and dancing on the graves of the 400 Palestinian children that the IDF was responsible for killing in January. We should not be permitting a dance troupe from an army currently under a UN investigation for possible war crimes to be coming to the United Kingdom. It is sick.”

Yael Khan, of the Islington Friends of Yibna (a Gaza refugee camp), added: “It’s grotesque to think that they would invite the Israeli army to perform in London after the massacre in Gaza.” She said protests would be directed to the new venue once it was identified.

Dan Judelson, of Jews for Justice for Palestinians, which claims to be the UK’s largest Jewish peace group, described the event as “ghoulish and retrograde”: “The Zionist Federation, with their support for the occupation of Palestinian land, seem massively insensitive to the reactions of most people, who want an equitable settlement for Israelis and Palestinians alike and who will be appalled by the involvement of the IDF in such an event.”

Andrew Balcombe, chairman of the Zionist Federation of Britain and Ireland offered the following comment: “How sad that once again a small group of people have politicized an arts and culture event. Freedom of expression has become selective in this country.”

Balcombe added that the publicity given to the event has resulted in massive support and generated ticket sales. “The public will unite to celebrate Israel’s 61st birthday and will be able to take in the vast cultural richness the Middle East’s only democracy has to offer.”

Hagit Klaiman, in London, contributed to this report

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