Venue won’t host rally af­ter ‘gross in­tim­i­da­tion’ from pro-Pales­tini­ans

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY JOSH JACK­MAN AD­DI­TIONAL RE­PORT­ING BY MAR­CUS DYSCH

SE­CU­RITY FEARS fol­low­ing ap­par­ent “gross in­tim­i­da­tion” from ac­tivists have been blamed for a venue’s de­ci­sion to can­cel a ma­jor pro-Is­rael rally.

The ‘Say no to ter­ror: Stand with Is­rael’ event was due to take place next week, with around 2,000 peo­ple ex­pected to hear multi-faith speak­ers and in­ter­na­tional com­men­ta­tors dis­cuss the threat fac­ing Is­rael and the West.

But the rally has been post­poned af­ter the Sheri­dan Suite, in Manch­ester city cen­tre, con­tacted or­gan­is­ers from the North West Friends of Is­rael (NWFOI) group to with­draw the group’s book­ing.

NWFOI said the venue own­ers had ini­tially raised its “ur­gent” con­cerns late last week.

A protest by anti-Is­rael ac­tivists was be­ing or­gan­ised to take place out­side the Sheri­dan Suite on the day of the event, it is un­der­stood.

NWFOI said the venue had “fallen vic­tim to an or­ches­trated cam­paign by spe­cific pres­sure groups whose sole aim is to dele­git­imise the ex­is­tence of the state of Is­rael.

“Sadly, by cav­ing in to this ex­ter­nal pres­sure, the Sheri­dan Suite has suc­cumbed to gross in­tim­i­da­tion and al­lowed it­self to be­come a tar­get of the an­ti­semitic boy­cott, di­vest­ment and sanc­tions (BDS) move­ment.”

It is un­der­stood the Sheri­dan Suite man­age­ment had told the rally or­gan­is­ers they did not want “all this ag­gro” be­fore can­celling the book­ing.

The JC has seen emails which show they had been deeply con­cerned about the prospect of a ma­jor dis­tur­bance at the venue if the event went ahead.

The rally had been backed by Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, the Board of Deputies, the Jewish Lead­er­ship Coun­cil, the Zion­ist Fed­er­a­tion and the Is­raeli em­bassy in Bri­tain, as well as grass­roots groups.

Board­pres­i­den­tJonathanArkush­said: “I ut­terly con­demn the de­ci­sion of this venue to cave in to a few ran­dom voices call­ing for the event to be can­celled.”

The event is ex­pected to be re­ar­ranged to take place at a new venue in the city in March. NWFOI said it would be “even big­ger and bet­ter at a se­cure lo­ca­tion and free from those wish­ing to de­tract from Is­rael”.

It is con­sult­ing lawyers to see whether the costs of the can­celled event can be re­claimed.

In the past week, anti-Is­rael ac­tivists had lob­bied the venue’s own­ers, with one per­son writ­ing on its Face­book page: “Do you re­ally want the Sheri­dan Suite as­so­ci­ated with apartheid, with the killing and maim­ing of thou­sands, many of them chil­dren?”

Fol­low­ing the can­cel­la­tion, the Manch­ester Pales­tine Ac­tion group wrote that the “ac­tions of many ac­tivists who let the Sheri­dan Suite know about Is­rael’s ap­palling hu­man rights record” had been ef­fec­tive.

The group added: “We’re get­ting more con­fir­ma­tion that the own­ers of the Sheri­dan have seen sense af­ter be­ing con­tacted by many con­sci­en­tious folk in Manch­ester and the rest of the north, who care for in­jus­tice against Pales­tini­ans.”

The Sheri­dan Suite ad­ver­tises its ban­quet­ing fa­cil­i­ties for Jewish wed­dings and has in the past hosted a num­ber of Jewish char­ity events.

Its owner, An­jum Ma­jid, did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment, but in an ap­par­ent re­sponse to re­ports of the can­cel­la­tion, the venue’s Twit­ter ac­count posted a mes­sage on Tues­day.

Quot­ing the Amer­i­can writer Mark Twain, it said: “Get your facts first, then you can dis­tort them as you please”.

Greater Manch­ester Po­lice said it was aware of the planned rally, but no threats had been re­ceived. Of­fi­cers had not warned the venue about any con­cerns, a spokesman said.

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