The latest issue to rock Scotland is not independence, nor indeed Brexit. It is the International Shalom Festival, which was held on 17 August to coincide with the Edinburgh Fringe Theatre festival!
To refresh memories — Israeli ballet and music performances were disrupted at past Fringe festivals; critics objected to Israel government funding for these performers. The Shalom Festival’s main organiser, Nigel Goodrich, a pro-Israel Christian, had taken special care not to ask for Israel government funding.
That is still not good enough for Gary Spedding whose letter was published on 26 August in The Herald. Spedding claimed that the event was political not cultural, and that ‘nice-sounding concepts’ like ‘peace’ and ‘cultural bridges’ were used to silence anyone who dared criticise Israel.
If you were actually there — as we were — the impression was quite different.
My organisation Harif — a UK Association of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa — was invited to the Shalom Festival to present the film, the Forgotten Refugees.
As we entered the Shalom Festival venue, we ran the gamut of Palestinian flags and verbal threats. More political, you could not get. This was obviously a well-funded and well-run campaign. The presence of familiar faces suggested that some demonstrators had been flown in from London.
The noisy protesters chanted hateful and defamatory slogans and libels about Israel. The air was bristling with hatred and intimidation.
We presented our film, which deals with the plight of 850,000 Jews driven from Arab lands. These Jews and their descendants now comprise over 50 percent of Israel’s Jews.
As we strained to be heard over the racket on the street below, the slogan rang out over the megaphone: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!”
In no uncertain terms, the protesters had revealed their true intentions: Free Palestine of Jews. Irony of ironies: here we were — describing the ethnic cleansing of Jews from the region, and the protesters were advocating finishing the job — by ethnically cleansing the Jews of Israel.
I’d rather have ‘nice-sounding concepts’ like ‘peace’ and ‘cultural bridges.’ Wouldn’t you?