LONDON: A theater in the British city of Manchester has been urged to reinstate a canceled cultural event in support of Palestinian literature by more than 300 actors and creatives.

HOME Manchester shelved the event, called “Voices of Resilience,” which was scheduled for April 22 and billed as a “celebration of Gazan writing,” after a complaint by the Jewish Representative Council of Greater Manchester.

The venue cited concerns over safety following “recent publicity” for the cancelation, after the JRGCM claimed that one of the participants, noted writer and Palestinian Culture Minister Atef Abu Saif, was an antisemite and a Holocaust denier.

The JRGCM also objected to use of the word “genocide” in promotional literature for the event in relation to Israel’s ongoing military operations in Gaza, which the enclave’s health authorities say has left more than 32,000 Palestinians dead.

Comma Press, which organized “Voices of Resilience” and has also published Abu Saif’s work, called the allegations against him “baseless and libellous” and has threatened legal action.

In an open letter, the signatories, including Academy Award-winning director and HOME patron Asif Kapadia, said HOME Manchester has “contributed to the silencing of Palestinian voices at a time when they most need to be heard.”

Signatories also include theater director Pooja Ghai, playwright Morgan Lloyd Malcolm, dramatist April De Angelis and actor Maxine Peake, who was due to give a reading at the event, alongside actor Kingsley Ben-Adir and author Kamila Shamsie.

The letter read: “As theatremakers, film-makers, artists and cultural workers, many of whom have had work staged at Home, we condemn this cowardly decision to silence the voices of Palestinians and to contribute to their erasure during an ongoing genocide.”

James Harker, a playwright who drafted the latter with support from Artists for Palestine UK, said: “HOME’s actions shame Manchester and they shame the arts world.”

In a statement on its website, HOME called itself “a politically neutral space, committed to welcoming the full range of artist expression. 

“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.

“HOME must always be mindful of our responsibility to those who visit and work here, and our purpose of supporting a wide variety of artists and the audiences who want to experience them remains unchanged.”

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