- Arts Council England is funding a UK tour of their play, called 'The Siege'
- Tells of 2002 stand-off when Israeli troops cornered gunmen in Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem
- Play is based on accounts of Hamas and Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade militants
- Jewish leaders fear taxpayers might be funding play promoting ‘terrorism as legitimate’
British taxpayers are to fund a play sympathising with Palestinian terrorist groups who have murdered civilians and carried out suicide bombings on crowded commuter buses.
Arts Council England is handing over £15,000 to producers of a unashamedly one-sided drama based on accounts from the gunmen and bombers of Hamas and the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade.
The money will fund a UK tour of their play The Siege, telling of a 2002 stand-off when Israeli troops cornered militants in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, worshipped as Christ’s birthplace.
The production has already received cash from the British Council and the EU for performances in the Palestinian territories, and the new handout will fund a ten-city UK tour starting in Manchester on May 13.
Jewish leaders last night raised ‘extreme concern’ that the British taxpayer might be funding a play promoting ‘terrorism as legitimate’.
In publicity for the play, Hamas and Al Aqsa Brigade terrorists are merely referred to as ‘fighters’ with no acknowledgement of their cold-blooded murder of civilians.
The siege lasted 39 days and only ended when 13 of the ring-leaders were allowed safe passage and deported to various European countries. It is from these men’s accounts that the play’s script has been woven together.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry insists that all the men have blood on their hands, but two in particular have admitted as much.
Their leader, Ibrahim Abayat, exiled to Zaragoza in Spain, told the New York Times that he and his men shot and killed a female Israeli settler near Jerusalem in 2002. The Israelis say he was also involved in countless other atrocities.
Another of the exiles, Jihad Jaara – who went to Ireland – also told journalists that he kidnapped and murdered 71-year-old Avi Boaz, a Jewish US citizen living in Israel.
Among the other atrocities linked to some of the 13 is a suicide bombing in a Jerusalem suburb in March 2002 which killed 11 Israelis.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews said: ‘We would be extremely concerned if British taxpayers were funding a play that promoted terrorism as positive and legitimate.’
The play’s British co-director, Zoe Lafferty, left no doubt where her sympathies lay, saying Palestinians pick up arms ‘not because they’re crazy religious fanatics [but] to defend their families’.
She said last night: ‘This production is pro-human rights, pro-justice and pro-equality. Our work is trying to talk about the truth of what’s happening on the ground and counter the propaganda that’s constantly being directed at the Palestinians.’
Asked if the play was pro-terrorists, she said: ‘That’s just insulting and comes from a very biased misunderstanding of what we’re doing. To have to engage in whether Hamas and the Al Aqsa Brigade are terrorists is the wrong question to ask.’
Arts Council England confirmed the grant but said it was ‘not our role to censor the artists’ message.’
The British Council confirmed they had given £14,000 for the West Bank tour, adding: ‘We also support projects in Israel.’ The EU did not reply to a request for comment.