Politicians and campaigners have accused actors’ union Equity of ‘turning a blind eye to anti-Jewish hate’ after the body openly backed a pro-Palestine rally in London marred by allegations of anti-Semitism.
Union chiefs Paul Fleming and Maureen Beattie urged Equity members to join Saturday’s march, in which Stop The War and Palestine Solidarity Campaign demonstrated against Israeli actions in the Middle East.
But actors Tracy-Ann Oberman, Sanjeev Bhaskar and Dom Joly slammed the union’s association with the demo after photos emerged on social media of anti-Israel protesters brandishing ‘appalling’ anti-Semitic placards which they said were ‘designed to stoke up religious hate’.
In one image, a pro-Palestine protester appeared to be holding a poster which depicted Jesus of Nazareth carrying his cross. A slogan under the illustration said: ‘Do not let them do the same thing today again’.
Other placards seen at the Trafalgar Square rally included comparisons between the Israeli government, which made efforts to minimise civilian casualties during its 11-day war with Hamas terrorists in Gaza, and the Nazi regime which murdered six million European Jews during World War Two.
Speaking to MailOnline, Lord Mann, the Independent Adviser to the UK Government on anti-Semitism, called Equity’s ‘failure to support’ Jewish members ‘a fundamental breach of the principles contained within its rule book’.
The Campaign Against Antisemitism echoed Lord Mann’s criticisms, telling MailOnline that Equity ‘should take a long hard look at themselves after associating with a march infested with anti-Semitic banners’.
Lord Mann, advisor to the Government on anti-Semitism
Protesters walk along Piccadily in central London, during a march on Saturday, May 22, 2021
Equity’s General Secretary Paul Fleming and President Maureen Beattie condemned the Israeli actions in the Middle East and called on union members to support ‘Palestinian comrades’ and join the Saturday march
Lord Mann said: ‘Equity has a duty of care to all its members including all of its Jewish members. The failure to support them is in my opinion a fundamental breach of the principles contained within its rule book and I anticipate a formal complaint.’
A spokesperson for the Campaign Against Antisemitism said: ‘Equity should take a long hard look at themselves after associating with a march infested with anti-Semitic banners and other signs appearing to condone violence and where a speaker blamed Israel for racism against Jews.
‘It is difficult to see how Equity can possibly pretend to represent their Jewish members when they turn a blind eye to anti-Jewish hate.’
Oberman, now a political activist, tweeted: ‘If you went on a DEMO that held these banners then you have to ask what you’re standing for. @MaureenBeattie2 @EquityUK your president proudly stood encouraged endorsed this march. How are UK Jewish performers & friends meant to feel safe?’
Bhaskar, star of the BBC sitcom The Kumars at No42, said: ‘Appalling banner solely designed to stoke up religious hate. It’s ironic that Ms Beattie’s twitter banner suggests ‘creating safe spaces”.
Joly simply responded: ‘This is truly disgusting. @EquityUK what the f**k is going on?’ while mortified Twitter users asked: ‘Is this our city of London or Gaza?’
Equity was taken to task by EastEnders actor Tracy-Ann Oberman after one photo emerged on social media showing a pro-Palestine campaigner holding a white poster depicting Jesus of Nazareth carrying his cross above the slogan: ‘Do not let them do the same thing today again’
She was joined by Sanjeev Bhaskar, star of the sitcom The Kumars at No42, who said: ‘Appalling banner solely designed to stoke up religious hate. It’s ironic that Ms Beattie’s twitter banner suggests ‘creating safe spaces”
Comic Dom Joly responded: ‘This is truly disgusting. @EquityUK what the f**k is going on?’
A protester sets off a smoke flare as tens of thousands march in central London during a demonstration in support of Palestine
Equity was also slammed by Dame Maureen Lipman, who yesterday revealed she has quit the union after 54 years over its stance on Israel.
The actress, 75, called on other Jewish performers to ‘get the hell out’ of the union and said the issue of Israel had become an ‘obsession’ for Equity – which she claimed is now ‘stacked full of Corbynistas’.
The West End star condemned the union’s president, Maureen Beattie, for sharing an online petition calling for sanctions against Israel in a personal capacity.
She told The Daily Telegraph: ‘I’m going to resign and I’m also going to ask for my £1000 a year membership fees to be given back to me, and I’m going to send it a charity for the victims on both sides.
‘I didn’t join a political union. I joined a union to protect its members. You don’t dictate to artists what they believe in, and don’t incite them to join a mob.
‘How dare they demand sanctions? Where is Maureen Beattie on the Uyghurs, Rohingyas, the Sudanese, the Yemenites?’
In a statement to Metro, Equity said it was ‘saddened’ to hear the dame had resigned her membership of the union.
Dame Maureen Lipman has quit actors’ union Equity after 54 years over its stance on Israel. The West End star condemned the union’s president, Maureen Beattie, for sharing an online petition calling for sanctions against Israel in a personal capacity
The large group, situated close to Victoria Embankment, stretched across the surrounding roads, with traffic blocked off from several directions as dozens of police officers watched on
Why is Gaza so often mired in conflict?
The Gaza Strip was pounded this week by hundreds of Israeli strikes from sea, land and air, while the enclave’s militant Hamas rulers fired hundreds of rockets into Israel.
It is the fourth round of major conflict between Israel and Hamas since 2008, with the tiny enclave’s more than two million Palestinian residents bearing the brunt of the deaths and the destruction.
Here is a look at the Gaza Strip and its place in the Middle East conflict.
A narrow coastal strip
Gaza, sandwiched between Israel and Egypt, is just 25 miles long and six miles wide. It was part of the British-ruled Palestine Mandate before the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation, when it came under Egypt’s control.
Large numbers of Palestinians who fled or were driven from what is now Israel ended up in Gaza, and the refugees and their descendants now number 1.4 million, accounting for more than half of Gaza’s population.
Israel captured Gaza, along with the West Bank and east Jerusalem, in the 1967 Middle East war. The Palestinians want all three territories to form their future state.
The first Palestinian intifada, or uprising, erupted in Gaza in 1987 – the same year Hamas was founded – and later spread to the other occupied territories. The Oslo peace process in the 1990s established the Palestinian Authority and gave it limited autonomy in Gaza and parts of the occupied West Bank.
The Hamas takeover
Israel withdrew its troops and Jewish settlements from Gaza in 2005, after a second and far more violent intifada.
The following year, Hamas won a landslide victory in Palestinian elections. That triggered a power struggle with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party, culminating in a week of clashes in 2007 that left Hamas in control of Gaza.
Hamas has done little in the way of imposing Islamic law on Gaza, which was already very conservative. But it has shown no tolerance for dissent, arresting political opponents and violently suppressing rare protests against its rule.
The militant group has remained firmly in power through three wars and a 14-year blockade.
Israel and Egypt imposed the crippling blockade after the Hamas takeover. Israel says it is needed to keep Hamas and other militant groups from importing arms. Rights groups say the blockade is a form of collective punishment.
The closures, along with years of misrule and Hamas’s long-running feud with the Palestinian Authority, have devastated Gaza’s economy. Unemployment hovers at around 50%, power outages are frequent and the tap water is badly polluted.
Palestinians face heavy movement restrictions that make it difficult to travel abroad for work, study or to visit family, and often refer to Gaza as the world’s largest open-air prison.
Hamas and Israel have fought three wars and several smaller battles. The worst so far was the 2014 war, which lasted for 50 days and killed some 2,200 Palestinians, more than half of them civilians. Seventy-three people were killed on the Israeli side.
Israel’s air strikes and incursions into Gaza have left vast swathes of destruction, with entire neighbourhoods reduced to rubble and thousands forced to shelter in UN schools and other facilities. Israel says it makes every effort to avoid civilian casualties and accuses Hamas of using Gazans as human shields.
Palestinian militants have fired thousands of rockets into Israel. The vast majority are intercepted by Israeli missile defences or land in open areas, but they sow widespread fear and can bring life to a standstill. Their range has steadily increased in recent years, with some striking as far as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, major metropolitan areas.
Earlier this year, the International Criminal Court (ICC) launched an investigation into possible war crimes in the Palestinian territories. It is expected to scrutinise the actions of both Israel and Palestinian militants in the 2014 war.
A spokesman added: ‘Any instance of antisemitism must be rooted out and condemned, including the abhorrent abuse that has been directed towards members of the Jewish community in the past couple of weeks, as well as the small minority of hateful banners and rhetoric present on recent and otherwise peaceful Palestinian solidarity marches.
‘Equity stands in solidarity with the Jewish community and the fight against antisemitism, and is having ongoing conversations with our Jewish members and their allies on how we can continue to do so. The union has a long and proud history of standing up for peace and justice around the world.’
When originally approached by MailOnline for comment, a spokesman for Equity directed this publication to an FAQs section added to its webpage after Saturday’s demo – just beneath its call for protest on Thursday, May 20.
In a key passage, Equity appeared to draw equivalence between the ‘terrorist activity of Hamas’, an anti-Semitic militia backed by Iran which runs the Gaza Strip and fired rockets into Israel from civilian populations during the recent conflict, and the ‘disproportionate responses of the Israeli government’.
In their Thursday statement, Mr Fleming and Ms Beattie had said: ‘Equity has a long, and proud history of standing up for peace and justice around the world – including in Palestine.
‘Violence directed against ordinary working people in both Israel and Palestine is appalling, and it is to be condemned by our movement.
‘The disproportionate actions of the current Israeli government over the past few weeks, both in the policing of Jerusalem and toward Gaza, are particularly horrifying.
‘We stand in solidarity with Palestinians taking industrial action, and workers around the world taking action in support of them.
‘We are directly in touch to offer support and solidarity to our progressive Israeli sister union, Shamam, and through the International Federation of Actors (FIA).
‘Through the International Committee for Artists Freedom we are in close contact with artists and organisations across Gaza and the West Bank and stand ready to offer support and solidarity as the situation develops.
‘Right now, Equity and ICAF are asking all our members to consider offering financial support to the Alrowwad Arts Centre who advocate for the rights of Palestinian performing artists and entertainers, as well as progressing efforts for peace through art and understanding across communities.
‘We are doing all we can to continue our long, strong relationship with them at a time of unprecedented difficulty.
‘Members are also encouraged to join the COVID-safe protest organised by Trade Unions for Palestine this Saturday, which Council affiliated to this week.
‘As part of the global trade union movement, and the art and entertainment our members create, Equity will do all we can to support the voices of working people in Palestine and Israel who want a just and lasting peace.’
But the London demo was condemned by Lord Mann for its open displays of ‘racist abuse’. He told the Sunday Times: ‘The disgusting racist abuse against Jewish people on the streets of London requires an effective and strong response by all politicians and will be treated with contempt by all decent citizens.’
The Campaign Against Antisemitism spoke of ‘yet another antisemitism-infested rally’ and warned that Jews had been threatened with ‘rape and murder’ in recent weeks.
It came as pro-Palestine activists burned Israeli flags outside the nation’s embassy in the capital, as London saw a consecutive weekends of anti-Israel protests.
Cars were smashed up by protesters, with pictures showing a traffic cone shoved through the rear window of one parked vehicle surrounded by activists waving Palestinian flags.
Loud chants of ‘Israel is a terrorist state’ could be heard as the activists weaved their way through the capital, setting off flares and blocking traffic in the process.
The large group, situated close to Victoria Embankment, stretched across the surrounding roads as dozens of police officers watched on.
Demonstrators could be seen wearing costumes, masks and face paint, while others were draped in the Palestinian flag. Some protesters used nearby Whitehall Gardens as an area to pray, as the crowd continued to chant and let off green flares.
The talks after a 130-truck convoy carrying urgently needed aid headed to Gaza. Saturday marked the first full day of a truce that ended the fourth Israel-Hamas war in just over a decade.
In London people waved Palestinian flags, held banners and chanted as they began their march towards Hyde Park. Protesters held banners and placards bearing messages reading ‘Free Palestine’ and ‘Stop the war’.
They could be heard loudly chanting ‘Free free Palestine’ and ‘Israel is a terrorist state’. The National Education Union, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Stop The War Coalition were all present.
A small group of unmasked protestors set an Israeli flag alight at the country’s embassy, while others tried smashing up cars as police officers chased them off in High Street Kensington.
Israeli PM Netanyahu warns of a ‘very powerful’ response if Hamas violates truce that ended 11 days of bloodshed
‘If Hamas breaks the calm and attacks Israel, our response will be very powerful,’ Netanyahu said on Tuesday.
He was speaking following talks with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken who is in Jerusalem for discussions on firming up the days-old truce.
Blinken stressed that international aid to rebuild Gaza, in which experts say some 300 buildings were destroyed, should not benefit Hamas, the militant and political group that rules the area.
‘We’ll work with our partners closely, with all, to ensure that Hamas does not benefit from the reconstruction assistance,’ Blinken said.
The US’ top diplomat was scheduled to meet Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas later on Tuesday but will not meet with representatives of Hamas, which is blacklisted by Washington as a terror group.
He will then travel on to neighbouring Egypt and Jordan. Egypt, along with Israel is engaged in a blockade of Gaza that began in 2007, and Jordan administers Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa compound.
US President Joe Biden said Blinken would meet ‘with Israeli leaders about our ironclad commitment to Israel’s security,’ as well as seeking to rebuild ties with the Palestinians.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned of a ‘very powerful’ response if Hamas violates the truce on Friday that ended 11 days of bloodshed
‘If Hamas breaks the calm and attacks Israel, our response will be very powerful,’ Netanyahu said on Tuesday. He was speaking following talks with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken (left) who is in Jerusalem for discussions on firming up the days-old truce
Blinken on Sunday reaffirmed US support for a two-state solution as the only way to provide hope to Israelis and Palestinians that they can live ‘with equal measures of security, of peace and dignity.’
His remarks about ‘equal measures’ for Israelis and Palestinians seemed to shift the tone from former president Donald Trump’s administration, which cut aid to the Palestinian Authority and unveiled a Middle East peace plan with strong Israeli backing but no support from Palestinians.
In Jerusalem on Tuesday, Blinken said Israelis and Palestinians faced an uphill struggle to restore trust, after conflict in Gaza and unrest in the West Bank.
‘There’s lots of hard work ahead to restore hope, respect and some trust across the communities,’ the US top diplomat said.
‘But we’ve seen the alternative and I think that should cause all of us to redouble our efforts to preserve the peace and improve the lives of Israelis and Palestinians alike.’
Israeli air strikes and artillery fire on Gaza killed 253 Palestinians in the densely populated area, including 66 children, and wounded over 1,900 people in 11 days of conflict that began on May 10, the health ministry in Gaza says.
Rocket and other fire from Gaza claimed 12 lives in Israel, including one child and an Arab-Israeli teenager, an Israeli soldier, one Indian and two Thais, medics say. Some 357 people in Israel were wounded.
Blinken stressed that international aid to rebuild Gaza, in which experts say some 300 buildings were destroyed, should not benefit Hamas, the militant and political group that rules the area
Blinken’s visit comes as the ceasefire holds, but tensions simmer in Israel and the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories. Pictured: Volunteers and workers clear the rubble of destroyed buildings in Gaza City
Blinken’s visit comes as the ceasefire holds, but tensions simmer in Israel and the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories.
Hours before Blinken’s arrival, Israeli forces killed a Palestinian in the occupied West Bank, Palestinian and Israeli security sources said.
The man was killed during an Israeli arrest raid on Al-Amara refugee camp near Ramallah, the sources said.
In occupied east Jerusalem, Israeli police said an attacker stabbed two young Israeli men on Monday before police shot him dead. The army said one of those wounded was a soldier.
Palestinian news agency WAFA identified the casualty as a 17-year-old Palestinian high school student.
In the night of Sunday to Monday, Israeli forces rounded up 43 Palestinians in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, the Palestinian Prisoners Club said.
Israeli police, who operate in east Jerusalem, said late on Sunday that they had arrested 1,550 suspects and had charged 150 over the past two weeks in connection with the ‘violent events’.
Peace talks have stalled since 2014, including over the status of east Jerusalem and Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.
The latest military escalation started after Israeli forces had moved in on Palestinian worshippers in Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound, toward the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
The compound includes Islam’s third holiest site and is also revered by Jews as the Temple Mount.
Israeli forces had also sought to quell protests against the threatened eviction of Palestinian families from homes in the east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah to make way for Jewish settlers.