A row has erupted after north London’s Tricycle theater refused to host the UK Jewish Film Festival because it is sponsored by the Israeli Embassy.

The theater has hosted the awards for the last eight years, but this year told executive director Judy Ironside that due to the situation in Gaza, hosting an event funded by the Israeli government would be unacceptable.

Ironside said: “We have always sought to convey a wide perspective on the conflicts in the Middle East and initiate open dialogue with our audiences and guest speakers, and the Israeli Embassy have always supported us in this. The Tricycle have refused to take this into account in their decision.”

The UKJFF added that the embassy had funded the event for 17 years and that the festival was apolitical, but the Tricycle’s artistic director Indhu Rubasingham explained the theater still wishes to host the UKJFF if no funding comes from the Israel government – or any other governmental agency in the region.

“The festival receives funding from the Israeli embassy,” said Rubasingham, “and given the current conflict in Israel and Gaza, we feel it is inappropriate to accept financial support from any government agency involved.

“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.”

Actress Maureen Lipman said in a statement that it was a “punishment” of Jewish people.

“The Tricycle Theater under Nick Kent had a stunning history of truthful story telling,” she said. “A great part of its support and its audiences came from the Jewish sector. 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.”

Stephen Pollard, editor of the Jewish Chronicle, stated on Twitter: “Be clear on this. @tricycletheatre is now officially antisemitic.

It is singling out the Jewish state for boycott.”

In 2012, the theater hosted comedian and activity Mark Thomas’s show, Extreme Rambling (Walking The Wall), a one-man gig about his efforts to walk the length of the Israeli West Bank barrier.

And last year it showed the film A Bottle in the Gaza Sea, which told the story of a Palestinian and an Israeli becoming close friends, and working to change the conflict that has separated their cultures.

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