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