Megaphone used inside the Plymouth Theatre Royal to shout “Free, free Palestine” and “Israel is a stain on humanity”

TWO women were thrown out of the Theatre Royal after they disrupted a performance by an Israeli dance company, writes Keith Rossiter.

The women were greeted with cheers by protesters as they were evicted from the Plymouth theatre last night.

The pair, who had bought tickets to a show by the Batsheva Dance Company, stood up and shouted slogans soon after the performance began.

Margaret Sheffield, from Chudleigh Knighton, used a megaphone which she had hidden in her handbag.

She shouted “Free, free Palestine” and “Israel is a stain on humanity”, before she was thrown out.

Batsheva, a contemporary dance company, has been pursued by protesters during its UK tour.

Terry Gallogly from the group Don’t Dance with Israeli Apartheid, accused Israel of ethnic cleansing against the Palestinians.

Tensions have been increased by the conflict between Israel and Gaza, where both sides have rained rockets on each other’s citizens. After six days of fighting, a truce was in force yesterday.

But outside the Theatre Royal, around 40 protesters were in no mood for peace. They shouted at theatre-goers that their tickets were “covered in Palestinian blood”.

Dave Berkeley, a member of the Plymouth Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said: “The regime has relentlessly oppressed the Palestinians since 1948.”

He condemned the treatment of the 1.3million people of the Gaza Strip, on Israel’s Mediterranean coast. The Israelis were conducting an illegal blockade of the territory and bombing indiscriminately, he said.

He accepted that rockets were being fired from Gaza into Israeli communities, but said they were fired by splinter groups and not the Hamas government of the territory. “Israel is a racist and apartheid regime,” he said.

Kevin Treweeks, equalities officer for the union Unison, compared a cultural boycott of Israel with the sporting and trade boycott of apartheid-era South Africa. “In Israel you are treated completely differently if you are an Arab,” he said.

Amal Ghusain, a Palestinian who lives in Exeter, said: “I have nothing against dance or dancers, but these are being supported and financed by the Israel Government in order to beautify the face of the Israeli State. It is a State which indulges in constant war against its neighbours.”

The dance tour was scheduled to finish tonight.

Tonight’s performance will go ahead, in spite of pro-Palestinian protests.

A Theatre Royal spokeswoman said: “We strive to present for our audiences the broadest range of international quality theatre.

“Much of our contemporary dance programme is arranged through Dance Consortium, which is made up of venues from across the UK all sharing a passion for engaging people in dance from different parts of the world.

“In the past this has enabled us to bring to Plymouth companies who are leaders in the world of international contemporary dance including Alvin Ailey American Dance, Nederlands Dans Theater, the Dance Theatre of Harlem and Mark Morris Dance Group.

“It now means we are able to present Batsheva Ensemble, acknowledged as one of the most exciting contemporary dance companies in the world.

“We are aware of the potential for protests at venues on the Batsheva Ensemble UK tour.

“The Theatre Royal takes its duty of care to its patrons very seriously, and will be keeping ticket holders fully informed about any possible protest action, as well as reassuring them about the security protocols that are in place to ensure the smooth running of performances and safety of patrons and performers.”

Source: This is Plymouth

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