* Haroon Siddique
* guardian.co.uk, Monday 20 April 2009 09.40 BST
An Israeli Defence Force song-and-dance troupe is to perform in London at a show to commemorate the founding of Israel, provoking anger among groups that campaign for the rights of Palestinians.
The IDF group was likened by the event organisers, the Zionist Federation, to the troupe portrayed in the 1970s BBC comedy It Ain’t Half Hot Mum – but not everyone sees the funny side.
Human rights groups accused the IDF of committing war crimes during the three-week invasion of the Gaza Strip, which began in December – allegations denied by the Israeli government – and the army is the subject of a UN investigation.
“This is akin to singing and dancing on the graves of the 400 Palestinian children that the IDF was responsible for killing in January,” said Chris Doyle, the director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding.
“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.”
The family show, an annual event run by ZF, was due to be held at the Bloomsbury theatre in central London but was moved to a new venue, which is being kept under wraps, after the Bloomsbury pulled out last week on discovering that the IDF troupe was on the bill.
“Obviously we couldn’t have them perform here,” said a theatre spokeswoman. A number of groups had contacted the Bloomsbury theatre to protest about the show.
Dan Judelson, from 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,” he said.
Yael Khan, from Islington Friends of Yibna (a Gaza refugee camp), said: “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.
A new poster on the ZF website for the event makes no mention of the IDF troupe but a ZF spokesman confirmed it would be performing. He refused to reveal the new location for the event – advertised on the poster as in north London.
“We don’t want it spoilt by a group of people who transfer from a climate camp celebration to an animal rights protest to a dance troupe protest,” he said.
“How sad that once again a small group of people have politicised an arts and culture event. Freedom of expression has become selective in this country.”