London university apologizes for canceling Israel event

Bloomsbury Theater offers to pay compensation for canceling Independence Day celebrations after pressure from anti-Israel activists.

London great 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
London great 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Owners of the London theater that canceled an Israel Independence Day celebration in April following pressure from activists have apologized and offered to pay compensation. The Bloomsbury Theater, owned by University College London in central London, was scheduled to host the UK Jewish community's annual Independence Day event organized by the Zionist Federation of the UK (ZF) on April 28. The theater had received complaints from anti-Israel activists, because the publicity material for the event included pictures of the IDF entertainment troupe in uniform. The ZF agreed to exclude the pictures, but following further protests, the theater canceled the event completely. The theater claimed the use of the picture constituted a breach of contract, which specified the event was cultural, not political. However in April 2006, the theater hosted an event to commemorate the 1948 killings at Deir Yassin, a village outside Jerusalem, by the Lehi and Irgun paramilitary groups. Titled "How Palestine became Israel," it was organized by a radical fringe group called Deir Yassin Remembered. The event was eventually moved to the Arts Depot in Finchley, north London, where the IDF entertainment troupe performed. On Tuesday, University College London accepted that the Bloomsbury Theater was "not contractually" entitled to cancel the event and announced it had apologized to the Jewish organization. Accordingly UCL has agreed to pay the ZF compensation and has posted an apology on the university's Web site. The ZF thanked UCL for its preparedness to settle the case and said it would always be robust in opposing attempts at censorship. "The program this year was no different from any other year; the cancellation resulted from pressure from a small hard core of anti-Zionist activists," said ZF chairman Andrew Balcombe. "Unlike London's Science Museum, which resisted similar pressure to cancel Israel Science Day earlier in March, the Bloomsbury Theater capitulated. This was completely unacceptable, as UCL's apology shows. "The ZF will always be robust in opposing attempts by a tiny unrepresentative minority to curtail its lawful activities in the UK," Balcombe added.