Lead­ers back Is­raeli cul­ture at Ed­in­burgh

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY LEE HARPIN

THE FOUNDER of a se­ries of events cel­e­brat­ing Jewish and Is­raeli cul­ture at the Ed­in­burgh Fringe Fes­ti­val has said he is “hum­bled” by the back­ing of Scot­land’s po­lit­i­cal lead­ers.

Nicola Stur­geon, Ruth David­son and Kezia Dug­dale all pledged to sup­port the In­ter­na­tional Shalom Fes­ti­val, ahead of the start of the three-day cel­e­bra­tion next week.

The fes­ti­val, which aims to build cul­tural bridges and cel­e­brate co­ex­is­tence and peace be­tween Is­raelis and Pales­tini­ans, will fea­ture an in­ter­ac­tive ex­hi­bi­tion — in­clud­ing cook­ing — film screen­ings and the re­turn of Jerusalem’s In­cu­ba­tor The­atre group.

Ms Stur­geon, Scot­land’s First Min­is­ter, said: “We recog­nise the im­por­tance of the In­ter­na­tional Shalom Fes­ti­val in pro­mot­ing peace­ful co­ex­is­tence and I wish you all the very best for a suc­cess­ful event.”

Ms David­son, the Scot­tish Con­ser­va­tive leader, added: “I am sure it will be a joy­ful cel­e­bra­tion of Is­rael’s rich cul­tural di­ver­sity and I’m cer­tain Ed­in­burgh will give a warm Scot­tish wel­come to the Jewish, Mus­lim, Arab, Is­raeli and Pales­tinian per­form­ers and artists.”

Ms Dug­dale, Labour’s Scot­tish leader, said: “Scot­land needs cul­tural bridges not boy­cotts, bring­ing peo­ple of dif­fer­ent tra­di­tions and back­grounds to­gether. I hope the fes­ti­val is a great suc­cess.”

But pro-Palesti­nan cam­paign­ers in­clud­ing Yvonne Ri­d­ley have at­tacked the stag­ing of the event, which runs from Tues­day, claim­ing it is an ex­am­ple of what she called “Is­rael’s dark arts at play”.

Ac­tivists from the Scot­tish Pales­tinian Sol­i­dar­ity Cam­paign are ex­pected to protest. Mick Napier, the

SPSC chair, claimed the or­gan­is­ers of the Shalom Fes­ti­val “de­fend ev­ery Is­raeli mas­sacre, bull­doz­ing of homes and the bru­tal siege of Gaza that con­sti­tutes col­lec­tive pun­ish­ment and causes such suf­fer­ing”.

A let­ter pub­lished in the Sun­day Her­ald called for a boy­cott of the event, which it said “claims The In­ter­na­tional Shalom Fes­ti­val will fea­ture art by women from Afula and Yarom Bob’s sculp­tures made of rock­ets fired at Sderot (below)

to sup­port peace­ful co­ex­is­tence in Is­rael/ Pales­tine, while white­wash­ing Is­rael’s vi­o­la­tions of Pales­tinian rights”. It was signed by screen­writer Paul Laverty, di­rec­tor Ken Loach and Mark Brown, the Her­ald’s the­atre critic.

But Nigel Goodrich, the fes­ti­val founder, said: “We are hum­bled and hon­oured by the breadth and depth of sup­port for the In­ter­na­tional Shalom Fes­ti­val. It of­fers Scot­land an ex­cep­tional op­por­tu­nity to foster peace­ful co­ex­is­tence and I am de­lighted our po­lit­i­cal lead­ers en­dorse our mes­sage of en­gage­ment and friend­ship.”

The fes­ti­val sched­ule in­cludes a se­ries of dis­cus­sions with Jewish, Mus­lim and Be­douin ac­tivists as well as a gala con­cert fea­tur­ing Is­raeli-Ethiopian singer Meski Shi­bru and the band Ja­maya.

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