Row as Home Manchester cancels Palestinian arts event

exterior view of Home
Arts venue Home had been due to host the Voices of Resilience event [Google]

A row has developed after the cancellation of an event showcasing the work of Palestinian writers at a Manchester art venue.

Actors Maxine Peake and Kingsley Ben-Adir were among those due to perform at the Home theatre on 22 April.

The venue said the cancellation followed "recent publicity" after a letter from the Jewish Representative Council of Greater Manchester (JRCGM).

Event organiser Comma Press said it was "disappointed" by the cancellation.

On Monday, Home posted on the social media platform X (formerly Twitter) that it would be "celebrating Palestinian voices" at an event called Voices of Resilience.

The event was due to highlight work by Gazan writers including Atef Abu Saif, who is also the minister of culture at the Palestinian Authority.

The JRCGM later tweeted that it had written to the venue, saying "this event must be cancelled".

It criticised previous comments reportedly made by Abu Saif, including in 2014 when he was alleged to have said "Israel surpassed Hitler's massacres".

The JRCGM claimed he had defended Holocaust denial, although the Manchester-Palestinian academic and translator Mohammed Ghalayini, who was also due to read his poetry at the event, called on the organisation to "produce the full text rather than selectively quote without context to misrepresent".

Event organiser and Manchester publisher Comma Press, which has printed translations of Abu Saif's works, said it was "deeply concerned about the baseless and libellous allegations".

It said the claim of Holocaust denial was "utterly false" and it was considering legal action.

"Both Comma Press and the author absolutely refute the allegations of antisemitism," it added.

Palestinian Minister of Culture Atef Abu Saif
Atef Abu Saif has written five novels and became Palestinian minister of culture in 2019 [Getty Images]

On its website, Home issued a statement saying it was "a politically neutral space, committed to welcoming the full range of artist expression".

It said: "Our concern for the team at Home, our audiences and artists, and their safety is paramount. In the face of recent publicity around Voices of Resilience, we have cancelled this event."

Welcoming the decision, the JRCGM said: "We would like to make it very clear that in our letter we simply addressed our deep concerns about Home Theatre hosting the works of someone who is clearly antisemitic and has compared Jews to Nazis."

It said there was "absolutely no reason for Home Theatre to state they have 'safety concerns'", adding it believed giving a platform for Abu Saif's works would "seriously damage community cohesion".

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