Thursday, February 22, 2024

Soho theatre apologises after comedian ‘abused Jewish audience member’

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The Soho theatre is investigating a complaint about a comedian who allegedly abused a Jewish audience member who refused to applaud a Palestinian flag.

The central London comedy theatre apologised for “an incident … which has caused upset and hurt to members of audience attending and others”.

The incident reportedly took place on Saturday near the end of a one-hour Shtoom show by Paul Currie in front of an audience of 200 people at the central London theatre.

According to a witness who gave an account to the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA), Currie placed a Ukrainian and a Palestinian flag on the stage, and invited audience members to stand and applaud.

The witness, who asked to remain anonymous, told the CAA: “When we all sat down again, [Currie] looked towards a young man sitting in the second row and said: ‘You didn’t stand, why? Didn’t you enjoy my show?’

“The young man, who we discovered soon after was Israeli, replied: ‘I enjoyed your show until you brought out the Palestinian Authority flag.’”

The audience member claimed Currie told the man: “Get out of my show. Get the fuck out of here. Fuck off, get the fuck out of here.”

Other members of the audience allegedly joined in, shouting “Get out” and “Free Palestine” until the young man left, the witness said.

The witness and his friends also decided to leave the theatre. “It felt like we were welcome in the theatre as long as our identities [as] Jews weren’t known, and the minute our identities were known, we felt threatened,” they told the CAA.

In a statement posted on its website, the Soho theatre said: “We are sorry and saddened by an incident that took place at our venue at the end of a performance of Paul Currie: Shtoom on Saturday 10 February, which has caused upset and hurt to members of audience attending and others.

“We take this very seriously and are looking into the detail of what happened as thoroughly, as sensitively, and as quickly as we can. It is important to us that Soho theatre is a welcoming and inclusive place for all.”

A spokesperson for CAA said: “What the Jewish audience members have recounted is atrocious, and we are working with them and our lawyers to ensure that those who instigated and enabled it are held to account.

“These allegations are of deeply disturbing discriminatory abuse against Jews. Comedians are rightly given broad latitude, but hounding Jews out of theatres is reminiscent of humanity’s darkest days, and must have no place in central London in 2024.”

Currie has been approached for comment.

Meanwhile, police in Leeds are investigating death threats made to a Jewish chaplain and his family after the man travelled to Israel for reserve duty in the Israeli military after the 7 October attack by Hamas.

Rabbi Zecharia Deutsch, a chaplain at the University of Leeds, returned to campus last month.

Deutsch, his wife and two children are in hiding after receiving hundreds of calls and messages threatening murder and rape, and accusing him of genocide.

A spokesperson for West Yorkshire police said the force was investigating “threats made towards a male” and said that safeguarding measures had been put in place. “The report has been recorded as a hate crime offence and inquiries are ongoing,” it added.

In a statement, the University of Leeds said it was “deeply shocked and saddened” that Deutsch had “received threats to his safety and that of his family”.

It added: “We totally condemn the antisemitic abuse and threats directed towards the chaplain and his family – such attacks on any individual are unacceptable and will not be tolerated from members of the public or our university community.”

A spokesperson for University Jewish Chaplaincy, which employs Deutsch and other Jewish chaplains on university campuses, said: “We are deeply shocked and appalled by the despicable torrent of antisemitic hate and threats of violence being directed at Rabbi Zecharia Deutsch and his family … to find ourselves in this situation in the UK in 2024 marks a dark period for British Jews.”

The University of Leeds is also investigating the daubing of slogans on a building on campus that said “Free Palestine” and “IDF off campus”.

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