Two more responses to Nick Cohen over Tricycle theatre

3:25 pm - August 10th 2014

by Sunny Hundal    

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In the Observer today, I debate Nick Cohen on whether the Tricycle Theatre in London was right to ask the UK Jewish film festival to ‘reconsider’ its funding from the Israeli government.

There are two additional points I want to make that I didn’t have the space for.

The slippery slope
Nick Cohen ends by writing:

From George Galloway declaring Bradford an “Israel-free zone” to Islamists in the East End of London raising jihadist flags, a dangerous antisemitic mood is growing. By defending worthless bureaucrats who intimidate a Jewish – not an Israeli but a Jewish – festival because it won’t accept their double standards, you are adding to it – thoughtlessly, I am sure.

My response to him is this:

I think the slippery slope argument is worth keeping in mind, but I don’t think we are there yet. You have been criticised plenty of times for demonising Muslims and contributing towards an Islamophobic atmosphere too, and I’m sure you’ll appreciate the irony.

We can all stand up against racism while rejecting tainted money. I fully condemn Galloway and his ilk, and I believe my voice carries more weight because I also condemn the attacks in Gaza. If the slippery slope argument was carried towards its full logical conclusion every time, then you (Nick Cohen) and others (including myself), would not be allowed to criticise Islamists for fear it would further inflame Islamophobia.

Nick Cohen applies this standard to Jews but not Muslims

‘Asking Jews to take a stance on Israel’
The other key point made by critics of Tricycle is that by asking the UKJFF to reject Israeli funding, Jews as a whole are being take a stance on Israel.

But let’s flip this around. That stance implies we can’t ask Muslim groups to reject Saudi money because that’s asking them all to state their allegiance regarding the Saudis.

It would also mean no Hindu or Indian group could be criticised for taking Indian government money, even though there may be several good reasons in certain circumstances for doing so. Persian groups wouldn’t have to account for Iranian money… and so on.

That would make it near impossible to debate the influence of foreign money because this charge could be raised by almost any ethnic group at any time.

I don’t think Tricycle raised the issue because they wanted all Jews to take a side. It was a legitimate response to the pressure they had given the ongoing conflict.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Story Filed Under: Arts ,Blog ,Our democracy ,Race relations

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Reader comments

I congratulate you on a very clever, nuanced defence of liberal anti-semetism. Are you convinced?

2. kate marlow

Phillippe Sands QC and Tricycle board representative spoke on Newsnight about this, it’s not just the money, it would mean the Israel govt logo would be on all the publicity material, inextricably Tricycle would, by association, be seen as endorsing the Israeli govt. This is the problem for Tricycle, a theatre in a diverse community, when the world is appalled by what is occuring in Palestine. A problem, that at this moment in time Tricycle could not reconcile. UKJFF stood their ground, refused to accept a common sense solution to a very sensitive issue and in doing so politicised their film festival, in the same breath holding the line that it’s not an Israeli Film Festival but a Jewish one I like to look at both sides of an argument, put the shoe on the other foot. If Tricycle was hosting a Muslim Film Festival with funding from Hamas would Nick Cohen and the critics of Tricycle be ok with it? Before the “BUT Hamas are terrorists” responses, I offer ‘One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter’, I do not condone the actions of Hamas or Israel, fact is there is a humanitarian disaster taking place and the Tricycle are absolutely at liberty and in my opinion absolutely right to have no links with either side.

Nick Cohen applies this standard to Jews but not Muslims.

That’s clearly not what he said in your exchange, he made a very clear point arguing that there would be a different between a proselytising or political event funded by an organisation like Hamas, or an arts event funded by a Muslim group.

In all likelihood, Nick would probably want to support free speech in the first instance, but drawing equivalence to the two is just wrong.

I note Kate’s point that there would be a load of branding etc, but I think the point holds. We shouldn’t be banning arts festivals, and why on earth are we even proposing this.

Your slippery slope only works if you claim Israels actions are Judeoist. Islamists claim their actions are for the advancement of Islamic supremacy, Israel do not claim their actions are for the advancement of Judaism

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