On Tuesday, demonstrators campaigned outside of the headquarters of the actors’ union, Equity, alleging that the union helped to escalate the “upsurge in antisemitism in the UK”.
The protesters, wearing sashes that read “Equity’s Inequity”, said that they represent 300 “usually anonymous theatre-goers, who sit in the dark and applaud” and delivered an open letter to the union condemning its reported association with London’s anti-Israel rallies in May, which were revealed to have been infested with antisemitic chants and signs.
Judith Ornstein, one of the protest’s organisers, said: “How can we enjoy the theatre knowing there are creatives on stage and behind it whose union Equity has made them unsafe?”
Speaking of the “vile antisemitism and violence” that occurred at some of the anti-Israel rallies, Ms Ornstein said that “A union should protect and support its members. All its members.” She added that Paul Fleming, Equity’s General Secretary, “should have made that his priority.”
Ms Ornstein stated that the demonstrators called upon Mr Fleming and Equity President Maureen Beattie “to acknowledge how ill-judged and partisan their intervention has been, and also its role in escalating the upsurge in antisemitism in the UK”.
The open letter said that both Mr Fleming and Ms Beattie should “undertake antisemitism awareness training and rebuild bridges with those union members they have let down”.
In a video uploaded to Twitter by Ms Ornstein, the protesters can be seen outside Equity headquarters. Speaking to the camera, fellow demonstrator Dany Louise said: “It was very predictable that there would be a lot of antisemitism at that rally, and indeed there was. It was blatant, naked antisemitism on the streets of London. Equity was there, and Equity did not call it out, and we feel that this does a real disservice to its members who will not all agree with that position, and indeed, several have left as a result.”
In May, Dame Maureen Lipman, who was a member of Equity for 54 years before leaving after the union voiced its support for the anti-Israel demonstrations, warned Jewish members to “get the hell out”, adding: “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.”
The actress and columnist, Tracy-Ann Oberman, was another leading figure who criticised Equity, asking on Twitter: “How are UK Jewish performers and friends meant to feel safe?”
Demonstrators are seen in the video delivering the open letter to staff at Equity headquarters, before Ms Ornstein states how the anti-Israel demonstrations were “poisoned by antisemitism”. She said: “Paul Fleming should have known that five days before his call [urging Equity members to attend another anti-Israel rally], a convoy of cars displaying Palestine flags drove through Jewish areas of London. Through a megaphone, they shouted ‘f**k their mothers, rape their daughters’. Paul Fleming should have known that Jewish women had to lock themselves into their homes. Paul Fleming should have known the rallies were tainted.”
“We have done what we were going to do. We have seen Equity’s inequity. We don’t know what difference it will make but they need to know that we’re not going anywhere,” Ms Ornstein added.
Ms Louise gave an impassioned speech at the meeting, saying: “In the last few years, antisemitism has entered the national public discourse in a truly frightening and morally repugnant way. Where once it was the preserve of the far right, it has now become commonplace on the left as well. Shockingly, there has been widespread denial of this fact, with far too many people somehow casting it as yet another Jewish conspiracy theory. The denial itself has become another form of antisemitism, enthusiastically entertained by many who would otherwise call themselves part of the Community of the Good.”
She also rightly noted that the eleven examples “are indivisible from the Definition”, and that any “modified version” of the Definition is “no longer the…Definition”.