People of Edinburgh, these days are days of festivals, of happiness and joy in our beautiful city. However, one place in the Fringe Festival is not sharing this beautiful atmosphere – one show, a hip-hop opera whose big crime is coming from Israel.
Yes, this theatre group accepted Israeli government funds, much like our Arts Council sponsors talent. Now it is outcast for supposedly representing the Israeli government and military.
On the first day of the show there was a loud, aggressive demonstration outside the venue which resulted in the removal of this theatre group from that venue.
Please don’t be indifferent to this. It might not concern you directly, but this act stands against everything this Festival is about – first and foremost, freedom of speech. I’m not calling for a counter-protest or a political debate. But people should care. Don’t stand idly by while an amazing, unpolitical arts group is shut down at the home of free speech and expression.
I’m calling on you to show your support, not of Israel or Palestine, but of the free spirit of this Festival that welcomes anyone who can carry a tune or crack a joke, no matter where they come from or which grants they managed to get while struggling to survive as artists.
It is distasteful, if not intolerable, that any group of protesters should try to block public access to a theatre performance. It makes no sense to try to discredit any artistic endeavour simply because it has a small amount of financial support from a government whose actions many find unacceptable.
I was disturbed to read of Christine Muir’s experiences (Letters, 1 August) and concerned that Joyce McMillan could not have been more forthright in defence of freedom at Edinburgh Festival Fringe events (Perspective, same day).
The most effective place to show concern about Israel’s attacks on the Gaza Strip is surely outside our own parliaments in Holyrood and Westminster and peacefully outside its embassy and whatever consuls exist throughout the United Kingdom.
The way to help establish rights and freedoms for Palestinians is surely not to attack basic freedoms here in Scotland, and certainly not at an internationally renowned and respected arts festival.
That is not to disrespect the right to peaceful protest. But a serious situation exists when ordinary people are inhibited from attending shows because those protests get out of hand.
Freedom itself can suffer if people are just too vigilant in pursuing their own case to protect the freedom of others.
An Israeli state apparatus that frequently hears calls for its complete elimination is unlikely to be thrown off course by the cancellation of one show in one festival in one city.
We should still be concerned that the freedom to show The City may become a victim of a Middle East dispute that was none of the artists’ making.
I thought – am I wrong? –that the UK government had passed legislation against hate crime. Wasn’t the Edinburgh mob that shouted obscenities leading to the closure of the Israeli theatre performance guilty of hatred?
Or is there today a distinction made between hatred of Jews (permissible) and hatred of Muslims (not permissible)?
Isn’t it time for some soul-searching in our communities?
North Castle Street