War on Gaza: Campaigners shut down fundraiser for Israeli soldiers at London theatre
The fundraiser, which was billed as an “audience with Douglas Murray", was set to be chaired by Paul Charney, who had recently returned from volunteering with the Israeli military.
According to the event’s publicity material, it was intended to fundraise for “scholarships and other financial support for thousands of student reservists who are now returning to study".
The Culture Workers Against Genocide (CWAG), a network of culture workers and trade unionists organising in solidarity with Palestine, called for a protest outside the venue on Sunday.
Despite being shrouded in mystery, activists were alerted by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign that the event would take place at an unspecified West End theatre on Friday.
“We had to do some digging around, and scan the theatre shows on that night,” a CWAG activist told MEE.
They managed to speak to a staff member at the Apollo, via a WhatsApp group for theatre workers, who reported that the theatre’s staff had been asked to work a charity event.
According to the staff member, workers found out that the event was a fundraiser for the Israeli military and refused to work that evening.
They were reportedly pulled into meetings with management and offered triple pay to work at the event, which they turned down.
'The theatre should not be giving space to people who are complicit in genocide'
Ben Jamal, director PSC
The staff were in contact with Bectu union representatives, who advised that the theatre’s decision to host the event contravened its diversity agreement with the union.
“There was also a potential wellbeing issue for the staff,” a Bectu representative told MEE. “Because staff are not trained to deal with protests, so they could potentially be putting them in positions that they were not comfortable with… and that would be a union issue.”
The theatre management, Nimax, did not respond to repeated calls from activists asking about the event’s cancellation.
According to CWAG and Bectu members, theatre staff reported that their shifts were eventually cancelled.
“The theatre should not be giving space to people who are complicit in genocide,” Ben Jamal, the director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), told MEE.
“Ordinary workers do not want to be in a position where they become complicit by participating," he said.
Responding to the cancellation in an interview with TalkTV, Douglas Murray, a British pro-Israel and anti-Islam polemicist, said that, “If you’re an usher, do your darn job."
Also on Sunday, the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP), an independent organisation of lawyers, politicians and academics, sent a legal notice to Nimax warning that they could be held “personally criminally liable” for the promotion of genocide.
The organisation cited the International Court of Justice's (ICJ) ruling on the case brought by South Africa against Israel in January, which ruled that South Africa had made a plausible case that Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinians of Gaza.
Judges at the ICJ ruled that in the interim period before a decision on the allegations is made, Israel must obey the genocide convention.
The ICJP added that theatre’s role in supporting the event can be investigated and prosecuted under UK law.
Despite the cancellation, the event reportedly went ahead at another unidentified venue, with Douglas Murray reporting on X: “Wonderful event to a capacity audience in London. Shame on the Apollo Theatre for bowing to the mob. But London’s Jews will not be intimidated and neither will I.”
Jamal said: “All institutions have [a] responsibility for making sure that they're not involved in processes that are supporting violations of human rights that are discriminatory.
“There are very specific responsibilities with important cultural institutions like the Apollo,” he added.
“When a significant cultural space [becomes] a space for people to propagandise in support of genocidal acts that's deeply problematic.”