Indhu Rubasingham, artistic director of the Tricycle, told the Guardian the theatre's board had taken the decision not to host the festival under its current sponsorship arrangement due to the sensitivity of the ongoing Israeli-Palestine conflict. The November event would have featured 26 film screenings.
"The festival receives funding from the Israeli embassy and, given the current conflict in Israel and Gaza, we feel it is inappropriate to accept financial support from any government agency involved," Rubasingham told the Guardian. "We offered to provide alternative funding to cover the loss of the contribution from the Israeli embassy. We want the festival. However, the UKJFF decided it was not willing to decline sponsorship from the Israeli embassy and, to our regret, withdrew the festival from the Tricycle... To be clear, at this moment, the Tricycle would not accept sponsorship from any government agency involved in the conflict. We hope to find a way to work with the UK Jewish Film Festival to allow the festival to go ahead at the Tricycle as it has done so successfully for the past eight years."
The festival's mission statement reads: "We aim to develop a culture where Jewish and Israeli film is recognized and enjoyed by the widest possible audience, and position Jewish-related film at the heart of British culture. Our work encourages pride of, and knowledge in, our Jewish culture amongst our younger generations and promotes understanding and awareness towards Jewish and Israeli people and culture."
The decision has sparked criticism from the community, including Judy Ironside, founder and executive director of the UK Jewish Film Festival, who told the Guardian that "the Tricycle theatre have shown themselves unwilling to work with what is clearly an apolitical cultural festival is tremendously disappointing. They have chosen a boycott over meaningful engagement – to the great detriment of this celebration of Jewish culture, which is of course intrinsically connected to the state of Israel."
"The Tricycle theatre under Nick Kent had a stunning history of truthful story telling. A great part of its support and its audiences came from the Jewish sector," Maureen Lipman said in a statement. "We always knew that even if we disagreed with the message, we accepted that it came from a reasoned and balanced argument. Today that ceased. The Tricycle have decided to punish Jewish people in the Diaspora for one view of what is taking place in the Middle East and that is quite unacceptable." "Be clear on this. @tricycletheatre is now officially antisemitic. It is singling out the Jewish state for boycott," Stephen Pollard, editor of the Jewish Chronicle, wrote on Twitter.
Nicholas Hytner, director of the National Theatre, told the Guardian he supported the Tricycle's decision, saying, "I greatly regret the UKJFF's decision to leave the Tricycle cinema. Indhu Rubasingham and the Tricycle board could not have made clearer their commitment to Jewish culture or their desire to host a festival that would have included films from all over the world, including Israel. It is entirely understandable that they felt obliged to insist that no government agency should sponsor the festival.
"The Tricycle serves a diverse community with a notably diverse repertoire and it has a clear responsibility to make no statement about the dispute that is behind the current conflict. It greatly saddens me that the UKJFF have unwisely politicised a celebration of Jewish culture and I deplore any misrepresentation of the Tricycle's position. I support Indhu Rubasingham and the Tricycle without reservation."
Visit tricycle.co.uk for more information.