Nick Cohen Nick Cohen

Anti-Semitic double standards: the arts and the Jews

‘Would you force anyone else to behave like this?’ the promoters of the UK Jewish Film Festival asked the artistic director of London’s Tricycle Theatre.

Indhu Rubasingham and her colleagues dodged and hummed. They didn’t like the question and did not want to reply to it. The silence was an answer in itself. Of course the theatre would not hold others to the same standard: just Jews.

Accusations of racism are made so often it is hard to see the real thing when it looks you in the eye. Let me spell it out for you. Racism consists of demanding behaviour from a minority you would never dream of demanding from your friends; forcing them to accept standards or privations because of their race.

The Tricycle banned London’s annual Jewish Film Festival yesterday – cancelling 26 showings and six gala performances – after Rubasingham demanded that the festival organisers return a small sum – about £1,400 – they had received from the Israeli embassy. The grant did not come with political conditions attached, any more than an Arts Council grant from the British state comes with insistence that artists promote the policies of the British government. The organisers were not desperate for the money, particularly after the Tricycle offered to cover the loss. (Or rather  offered to cover it with taxpayers’ money from its £725,000 Arts Council grant.) The organisers refused to comply nevertheless. The Tricycle administrators, who included the inevitable progressive Jew, were trying to force them into a political gesture; to make them prove that they accepted its politics before it would let them exhibit their work.

The Tricycle has not gone through the minutiae of the funding for any other group that has visited its premises. It does not demand that comedians and actors issue manifestos that meet with its approval before allowing them to appear.

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