(JTA) – Organizers of a trade union festival in Britain asked pro-Israel activists to leave and pack up their stand following harassment by supporters of the Palestinian cause.
Members of the Bournemouth Action for Israel (BAFI) grassroots group claimed that their kiosk was defaced and they were verbally abused by Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) supporters at the Tolpuddle Martyrs’ festival last weekend in Bournemouth, The Jewish Chronicle of London reported Tuesday.
Owen Tudor, head of European Union and international relations at Britain’s Trades Union Congress (TUC), confirmed that festival organizers asked the pro-Israel stallholders “not to return for a second day” after “careful consultation and with due consideration given to our duty of care.”
PSC has been represented at the annual festival for years, but last week was the first time BAFI attended.
Tudor was responding to a letter sent by Shimon Samuels, director of international relations at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, to Frances O’Grady, general secretary of TUC, which is responsible for the festival. Samuels complained that festival organizers failed to call police. But Owen wrote that BAFI staff “asked the police to attend, but they declined.”
Holocaust survivor Henry Schachter, a co-founder of BAFI, recalled: “We knew that it was likely to be an unwelcoming event,” adding, “They moved towards us from the PSC stand shouting and screaming. It was very intimidating,” in reference to the PSC activists. The group’s pro-Israel leaflets were thrown from the table, according to the report.
Samuels of the Simon Wiesenthal Center wrote in his letter to O’Grady that this incident stained the festival’s reputation.
O’Grady did not reply but appeared dismissive of the letter.
“Here we go. I suggest Owen drafts a response in his name, given his experience of handling such campaigns, in line with the prepared media lines. My advice is ‘less is more’,” she wrote in internal correspondence that was later sent, apparently inadvertently, attached to Tudor’s reaction.
Last year, a majority of TUC delegates passed a non-binding resolution supporting a boycott of Israel.